In Memory of Aaron Swartz and my memory of raising Y generation kids

Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 - January 11, 2013)

He may not be as famous as Steve Jobs whom I've done a previous memorial post for when he passed away on Oct 5, 2011. In fact it's been over a year since Aaron passed away on Jan 11, 2013 as I only got to know him recently as explained partially at the end of an earlier post on the date 24 April 2014. Details about his life's work and achievements can be found at wikipedia here.

Aaron was born in the time period known as the Y generation, similar to all the children in our family ie. born roughly in the 1980s to the middle of the 90s. These are usually the children of Baby Boomers and people in early Gen X. Generation Y grew up with many world-changing events including the rise of mass communication and the Internet as described in a generation chart here. He grew up to become a computer programmer, probably a Geek with good programming skills and even hacking skills. This could be naturally so as his father Robert Swartz had the background of a computer programmer who started a software firm in Chicago, Illinois.

As I could relate to Steve Jobs as the founder of Apple Computers due to the experience of my early days in starting a business of supplying Apple compatibles to corporations in Malaysia, I am also able to relate to Aaron with a father in the software business as I had also ventured into the software business not long after the hardware business was set up. Besides the common business application programs like accounting or payroll that our team could source or develop, and then market and support, I knew our team had exceptional programming skills in the low level language of assembler to be able to produce what I called 'Geek like' products. The following are some press releases of our venture :



Now Aaron had hacking skills which I had seen in a couple of our top programmers who had incredible high IQ scores and therefore can understand and appreciate the calibre of Aarons computing skills. He was therefore involved in the development projects of a number of breakthrough products like the web feed format RSS that essentially is used to to publish frequently updated information for blog entries, news headlines etc. It was the project that he was  involved in with the organization of Creative Commons that I found his name while reading a website of archived books using the Creative Commons licence.

It was Aaron's later work focused on sociology, civil awareness and activism that eventually led him to serious trouble with the authorities for his act of downloading and distributing  information without authorisation. According to the wikipedia link of his life given above, he was charged by Federal prosecutors with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release. Two years later, two days after the prosecution denied his lawyer's second offer of a plea bargain, Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn, New York apartment, where he had hanged himself.

In January 2014 at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah, a documentary film made about his life had its world premier with the title, 'The Internet's Own Boy : The Story of Aaron Swartz'. The video below tells more about his life with interviews with his father and brother :

(Postdated development : As it sometimes happens, some published videos may later not be accessible for some reason. Click here for an alternative video.

We also get to hear from the writer and director of the documentary in the video below :

There seems to be some injustice by the American authorities exercising their legal powers in prosecuting this young man who seem to have not committed any criminal acts for his own personal gain!

I am aware of another case where a documentary was produced to show a similar abuse of power by the authorities in the US to prosecute a medical doctor. Watch the movie and be a judge of the case :

(Postdated development : As it sometimes happens, some published videos may later not be accessible for some reason. Click here for an alternative to the same video.)

Now on to the subject of our raising Y generation kids from my memory of it and starting with good advice from the Richard and Linda Eyre who visited Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in the previous month of April :

One can watch this video to understand what their book is about :

They also have a blog following the title of the book ie The Entitlement Trap and one can read this introductory post to know why parents say “Entitlement” is the biggest problem of this Generation of Kids.

The following is my recent facebook post :

Click at the like and comments icon section above to view the interactive comments and other stories shared that will be displayed in another page.

My last comment above in the facebook post on 'striking a creative optimal balance' is probably the best description of how I had tried to raise a family, not 1 or 2 kids but 6 together with my dear wife who sacrificed much for all of us. The foundation of having the M culture was a plus as playfully described in our Christmas Story of 2013 and more seriously in a spiritual post of the Next Generation. We balanced hard work with fun and play, pains with humor and laughter with mindful thoughts and firmness in our planning but heartfelt patience and forgiveness when plans fail. A paradox of opposites to be balanced as the cherished prayer of General Douglas MacArthur, a famous war hero in the USA :

Build me a son, O God, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know thee - and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men. One who will reach into the future, yet, never forgets the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never takes himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember  the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength,

Then I, his father, will dare whisper, "I have not lived in vain!"

But there is a challenge for the Y generation to attain such a balance. They are the generation that have become soft from a time like in the computer era where hardware dominance gave way to software supremacy, creating a world wide web that figuratively captures the hearts and minds of the next generation. This virtual world can blur the divide between what is good and bad, and users expect lifes blemishes can be easily removed with instagram!

We have to watch out for this whether we're old or very young as it can come at a time of our lowest moments in life. I remember when I was very young, my father had retired and was given a round the world trip by the government, with my mother accompanying. At home being the youngest without them, I was boycotted by my youngest sister, next oldest to me, who teamed up with our sister-in-law to leave me out from their fun and games at home. Tears swelled in my eyes as I walked out of the house to the empty land next door and just sat there by myself, filled with lots of self pity till it was late and past dinner time! Out in the darkness, my only brother in the home came out to me and extended his hand of compassion with a soothing voice to tell me, let's go back home and have dinner! I just rose up and never remembered anything more about my sadness. However I've never forgotten that single event of self-pitiness in my life and took a different course to quite the opposite thereafter to create a balance in my life of self reliance.

I believe there is no single formula or exercise to optimally develop the brain and mind of a child. The Y generation kids enjoy incredible sensations of the computer and the internet but the truth is ....

I should know that as I was one of those pioneers who brought in the first PCs into the country to help every office have one with the vision that every home would also have one too. I had also exposed them early to our children with mindfulness to be aware that how it is used is more important than what it can do. I was always careful to share with others that you cannot replace good human judgement and experience with computers in business in the same way it cannot replace good guidance and lessons from parents to the Y generation kids. The computer was invented as an extension of the brain to facilitate repetition of productive tasks in the beginning and later on after perfecting the task of data processing and management shifted to facilitate data or idea creation instead. This is the part that we have to be careful for the brain is neutral to good and bad but if it is overexposed to routines that mould the brain towards certain negative ideas, beliefs or emotions, it could be hard to undo them just like undoing alcoholism or drug addiction that hits modern societies. Are more people finding it harder to sleep early or enough in this internet era to even require sleeping pills?

When our computer business shifted more towards the software industry, I learnt even more about how content is more important than just the fact that computer softwares could churn out educational programs that could be tirelessly repetitive intended to create smarter kids. See how did our oldest boy fare in response to one of the first educational programs locally designed for children :

See how he responds to his mistakes from an accurate repeated response from the computer to say, "You are Wrong!" I'm glad that later in life he did get an A in his A levels for music composition where he extensively used music software to assist him. I am sure he never would have expected that with the advent of Youtube and Facebook, his voluntary missionary service for the Church in the UK would result in him singing on the internet media as the general authorities of the Church themselves made their presence in Facebook.

Today the workings of my brain or mind has been extended to the computer in my blog writings by way that all that I think of or write about is always linked to diverse past experiences or even my past writings which I will create links to them when relevant. After posting the above video, I am inspired to share again a passage of my previous post with its corresponding acknowledgement of its source from a Life Coach in Singapore named Evelyn Lim with her Abundance Tapestry website. It is a computer support dialogue about installing the most importance force of life in the human computer :

A customer ran into some computer problems and called the help desk for assistance. Here was how the conversation went….

Tech Support: Yes, how can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running ?

Customer: Let’s see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However,you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?

Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error – Program not run on external components.” What should I do?

Tech Support: Don’t worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer: So, what should I do?

Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer: Okay, done.

Tech Support: Now, copy them to the “My Heart” directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

Customer: Thank you, God.

God/Tech Support: You’re Welcome, Anytime.

— Anonymous

So it seems that raising Y Generations kids is a test of the ability of parents to provide a HEART filled with love that is soft or soothing balanced with a MIND capable of teaching correct principles, even the hard truths of life. Individuals are supposedly to be built with these two components to live a balanced life. It is interesting to note that somehow parents of children come naturally in a pair of a Male and Female parents who have a tendency to possess these apparently opposite traits. 

Put in Y Generation simplistic computer terms, the male could perhaps be providing the mindful focus of developing the hardware thoughts of a child while the female could be the one providing the heartfelt influential software feelings to be of a compliment. This may be an overly simplistic model to explain parenthood but add a spiritual component that can fill the heart and mind to direct it may sufficiently make the model sophisticated enough to be worth contemplating. This is what I did when I started a series of writings entitled 'My Heart and Mind' that has covered intricate details that can be said to be simplified but yet challenging to be fully understood or applied. Don't forget to click 'Next' at the bottom of each  page to advance to the next page of thoughts I have shared in the website I had referred to.

A married couple, both law professors from Yale and accomplished writers, where the wife Amy Chua became known as the 'Tiger Mom' for her book entitled 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' recently came out with a controversial new book that makes sweeping like conclusions of different groups of people in America to explain why one group does better than the other. Their book has a simplified title of 'The Triple Package.' I bought it at a timely moment when my thoughts were focused on the subject of raising Y generation kids, not knowing that it would have anything to do with raising children. It is really their observation of how 3 qualities have created groups of people in the United States who have become more successful than other groups despite all the challenges or downturn of the economy that the country has been facing. Some of these groups named  include the Jews, Mormons, Asian Americans and others. You may like to click the link given above that has a video of the couple giving detailed explanation of the 3 qualities emphasized in the book.

It seems that these groups show a superiority attribute yet possess an insecurity trait which gives them the extra drive to succeed. They call the third quality 'impulse control' that can be seen as a strength of these successful groups of people or culture. Being a Mormon and also an Asian though not American, I can totally relate to what they have independently observed as qualities in our culture, religion or race that apparently has been recognized today as producing a more successful group of people in America. Furthermore with reference to my own writings of my Heart and Mind mentioned earlier that relates to the Body Mind and Spirit of Man, I could explain how the 3 qualities have come about in the context of the ancient philosophy of the Body Mind and Spirit. I believe the Superiority with Inferiority qualities come from having a Spirit that is strong and the Body that is weak with the Mind trained to handle the task of emotional or impulse control as the writers call it.

It seems that raising children has become more sophisticated as each generation of time goes by! Indeed X generation parents may have to do more than what their predecessor parents had to do to raise successful children the same way the Y generation will have to follow suit to tackle the Z generation of their own creation! It is timely as this post comes to its natural ending as Mother's day befalls us. Let us therefore move to focus about the contribution of the female motherhood aspect of family roles in this next post. 

Click here to read the answer to the question below presented in an interesting cartoon style by Tim Urban :

Family History Part 4 - Chinese History and the Family Tree

The last blog post or Family History Part 3 before this post can be viewed here, which will contain reference to Part 1 to read how it all began. This may be useful to read as this post, at this time of writing, has just started and will take time to be filled with more content of discoveries and stories. This post has the objective of connecting our family history to important events, persons and culture learnt from studying China's history.

The journey to trace one's family tree especially for one with Chinese ancestry can be quite a daunting task. The video clip below is a good example of what you can face :

For a version in Cantonese click here.

However if you're one filled with a hindsight of spiritual guidance and adventure with a foresight of the best is yet to be, you will surely keep on persisting. What used to be rather a boring task of data-mining work becomes a journey of learning not only of finding out who your ancestors are but you also soon begin to immerse yourself into the world they lived in. Knowledge of the geo-politics and culture of their time begin to seep into your inquiring mind to even cause a transformation in you from what the spiritualist author Gary Zukav calls a 'five-sensory human' to become a 'multi-sensory human'.

Seeking our family tree inevitably leads to a discovery of the history or origin of our people or a race and culture that existed long before we were born. I was born in the country of Malaysia as a 2nd generation born Chinese very much influenced by Western culture and the English language as my father was one who climbed up from poverty to become a self made man due to the opportunities of a British education in a local school and later tertiary education in the UK. That local school, Penang Free School, was the first English-medium school in South East Asia and is the oldest recorded school in the country. I on the other hand was transferred from a local 'Pasar Road' primary school to a Catholic school at St. John's primary and continued later to the secondary or middle school of St. John's Institution run by the La Salle brothers as recorded here.

Though a Chinese, being raised in the English-medium in a country that later changed the national education system to Malay-medium(change explained here. ) with restrictions for it's citizens to visit China due to the threat of communism in the post 2nd world war era, I grew up with no contacts in China and very little knowledge about my family Chinese ancestry until I was in my twenties. I had no appreciation nor understanding of what being a Hakka meant as though I knew my father was of Hakka descent, he couldn't speak the dialect and I only learnt Hokkien as both my parents spoke it as they were born in the island of Penang where the inhabitants were made of primarily Hokkien speaking people. Being born in Kuala Lumpur I also learnt the Cantonese dialect as that was what most Chinese people spoke to each other in unlike the southern state of Johore who like Singaporeans speak mainly Mandarin to each other if they don't use English. But my knowledge or ties to China was still limited.

I thought I would narrow the gap by sending our first two girls, being the 3rd generation born Chinese in Malaysia of our family tree, early to Chinese schools for their elementary education where they would learn Mandarin. Ironically, our oldest daughter Fei in her early teens remarked one day that she felt she was not a Chinese but an American! I figured out that speaking English at home with my inherited western culture from the British in Malaysia together with her mom's from Singapore and our close friendships to American expat Church members in KL may have caused this! I read later in her blog writings that it was only during the 3 years working in Beijing, after her studies in the US, that she achieved self-actualization that she was indeed a Chinese and accepted her Chinese name as Fei, short for Fei Min, instead of Faye! My second daughter Su short for Su Min didn't have a problem of misplaced identity to be an American when young or at least she never expressed it to me. She studied in the US too and also visited Hainan island in China helping to trace her family history on her mom's side.

Marrying a wife from Singapore who was fluent in English as well as Mandarin and was also a member of our Church interested in family history work provided a real boost for discovering my own Chinese ancestry as well as hers.

Photo taken in April 1990 in our Taiwan trip recorded here.

The story of how she already got involved with helping me find my roots early during our courtship days to continue till after we bore 6 children in our marriage is comprehensively covered here. Her own account of miracles she experienced in doing family history work for her own ancestors in a journey of journeys covering Hawaii, Salt Lake City and Seattle can be read here.

After her passing to what we call the Spirit world in our church, like of other religions, I believe a connection continued between us in the spiritual sense. It started with me continuing to mind talk to her when I'm exercising around the running tracks near our home in Singapore with early concerns for the younger boys continuing their life and education on the island state without their mother. Maybe it's the same way I relate to God or my Heavenly Father also. I know he already knows my heart and mind so I often just mentally converse casually to him like as if he was close by, believing in his omniscience and omnipresence. I tend to do that with my wife too who knows me closely as well and has shown me unconditional love during her lifetime with me. With her presence now in the spirit world, I believe she even knows more about me now than I know of myself so I do talk to her in consultation of different subjects at times and I believe I do receive a response from her or an inspiration at times. The difference I believe compared to deity is that she may not have an omnipresence ability and we may only connect on special occasions only or when there is a matter of great importance to relate to.  In a blog post of April 2014 on the disappearance MH370, a quick read of it reminds me that it was a year ago when this post was initiated and the intention was to cover my reading of the few books I had acquired that relates to my family history.

The same post also covered my Body Mind Spirit multi-sensory approach in communication, writing or solving mysteries or problems of life. In the one year that ensued, I must say I have been busy with this triple base approach in how my time was spent, continuing my focus attention to write and unravel the knot in my mind that I felt I had to undo. It concerned the history and politics of my own country of Malaysia that seem related to the MH370 incident, the history and politics of China as the country of my ancestry also linked to the MH370 incident as the plane was heading to Beijing with many mainland Chinese passengers. A year later after a long time of reading, pondering and doing things of life that I need to do, as I was about to begin to unravel the knot, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew who is also of the same Hakka ancestry of our family, passes away which caused me to meditate on his life and write about the history and politics of Singapore. This is a country where about 1.7 million Malaysians primarily of Chinese descent followed him to live and built an economy on an island that Malaysia ousted from the Federation in 1965 just two years after they first joined it due to political differences. My wife being a Singaporean and having her copy of his book with me, I wrote a letter in the form of a blog post to her on her birthday on April 4 believing she would have a chance to meet this great man in the spirit world!

It is a big task I'm attempting and the presentation flow starts with information from my personal family history research. From there it leads to historical and political information of the countries involved in my family history derived from my extensive reading of relevant books and writings especially with regards to the History of China, Malaysia and Singapore with good references to internet researched videos or studies by authentic sources or qualified individuals. It is hoped that readers may get the"Ah ha" Eureka effect after reading my completed posts and especially after I have loosened the 'Gordian Knot' of my mind or what others commonly call the writer's block!

On the part of this blog post for Family History covering Chinese History as well, this is how the knot was loosened. While I had already visited Medan Sumatra to find the book of my Great Grand father Tjoeng Yong Hian which provided detailed information about him and his life, it had little that revealed more fully about the state of China during his lifetime. I had felt inadequate to know or feel of the politics, freedom and harmony of China at that time. In a trip a year later to Melbourne Australia, I had a reunion with the college girls that I studied with before leaving for Australia. As recorded in this post of the trip, Peter Chen the husband of one of the girls informed me of the writer Han Suyin who wrote many books about the history of the Chinese Hakka people. I went home searching for her books at the local bookstores both in Singapore and Malaysia but couldn't find any. The main reason was that these were pretty old books that were no longer republished for sale.  I went online to find that these books are available sold as 2nd hand books in the US and ordered a number of them to be delivered to the home of our family friend Anthony Seow in Utah so that he could bring them to me in one of his frequent trips to Kuala Lumpur. In April 2015, he did make a trip to Kuala Lumpur and passed the books to me!

Post development pic :

I later met Tony in Orem Utah when I was visiting in Aug 2015!

History of China

A brief history of China is well covered by this brief video below :

The source of this video with a good chronological list of the dynasties can be found here.

Little did I expect that from my personal search of my family history, I would very quickly catch up with China's recent history from the last Qing Dynasty. This came from not only from my reading of the books I had obtained but also from my increased number of trips to mainland China with the following discoveries made when I followed my Hakka ancestry trail as shared in my personal travelogue journal.

Here is a nice short video that gives us a good scenario of what was the political environment of China during the the time after the Qing Dynasty ended :

From the video I learnt about the Wuchang uprising.  Reading more information about it from this searched wikipedia link, I learnt that the initiation of railways in China was the cause of it that lead to the Xinhai revolution that was a revolution that overthrew China's last imperial dynasty (the Qing dynasty)

Again the railway topic had a connection to my great grandfather as shared in this part of my travelogue journal mentioned above. As a writer and a researcher, I have used the term  'multi-sensory human' mentioned at the start of this post to describe myself. I used it when I wrote about my breakthrough in the world of social media with my writings as found in this post. I tend to have my radar always alert to detect wave connections that provide meanings or inspirations that others may not detect and therefore may miss out on anything these new meanings or inspirations can provide. Take for instance, after writing this paragraph, I was inspired to open my storage cabinet to take the photo below :

This is my collection of German trains and tracks that I have kept as my precious Big Boy toys that probably made me choose my author name in blogger that never changed since I started over a decade ago as "Dad the KL City Kid"! You can read more about how this title suits me in my Superman post here.

Ah Memories from the Good Ole days videoed on the eve of the New Millennium!

Meanwhile, as my written history of China lags behind, our family history has advanced greatly in this next post.

The 'next post' mentioned above is what I considered to contain 'spiritual' information as compared to what is normally 'temporal' information that is more commonly written in the world. As a metaphor explained in this article, the spiritual information in the Book of Mormon were referred to as information written on 'the small plates' or 'these plates' while the temporal information were written on 'the large plates' or 'the other plates.' I now like to refer to my 'other plates' here on the history of a Hakka leader named Ye Jianying shared in my journal post here.

In my journal post link shared above, I wrote a paragraph that expresses my feelings after learning about Ye Jianying to share my thoughts below :

"I was surprised that this man from my China home province was always present in all the major events of China's negotiation with the US leaders, yet his name was quite unknown to the world, or at least to me. Other leaders like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, are far better known and as the above photos portray, whether it was the visit of President Nixon or his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to China to start peace talks with the United States.  Reading the wiki link given above of Ye Jianying, it is due to internal politics of the communist party where "His policies deemed too soft, Ye and his local cadres were soon replaced by Lin Biao's, and a much harsher policy was implemented, with Ye's political career effectively over."

How did China become modernized?

My trips into China in 2015 had satisfied my inquiries about my family history which began in the early 80s. After my latest ground travel tours into various parts of Southern China, my interest turned to an inquiry as to how did China became modernized? From the period of feudal warlords to Emperors and dynasties ruling the country, to end up becoming a communist country which later transformed itself to become a world economic power second only to the United States today, my mind turned to being interested in the political history of this nation with thousands of years of well preserved history of the past.

I thought a good start would be from what I learnt, going through 4 halls of history of Ye Jianying in the Hakka country of Meixian in the Guandong Province of China. I would do a quick research of the life of Ye Jianying and his contemporaries. Next was to find out what was the climate of the country at that time in terms of the country's politics and economy, the feelings of the people and the atmosphere of the countries outside China that had an interest in China?

Ye Jianying (28 April 1897 – 22 October 1986) born into a wealthy Christian Hakka merchant family in Mei County, Guangdong China

Zhou Enlai (5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) born in Huai'an, Jiangsu, Qing China into family of scholar-officials

Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) Born the son of a wealthy farmer in Shaoshan, Hunan

Nie Rongzhen (December 29, 1899 – May 14, 1992)   born in Jiangjin County in Sichuan as son of a wealthy family

Ye Ting  (September 10, 1896 – April 8, 1946), born in Huiyang, Guangdong

Zhu De (1 December 1886 – 6 July 1976) Born poor in 1886 in Sichuan, Zhu was adopted by a wealthy uncle at age nine.

Deng Xiaopeng (22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997) Born into a peasant background in Guang'an, Sichuan province

Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) Born in the village of Cuiheng, Xiangshan County (now Zhongshan City), Guangdong Province.

Chiang Kai-shek (October 31, 1887 – April 5, 1975) born in Xikou, a town in Fenghua, Zhejiang to prosperous family of salt merchants

From the list of leaders named above, not including Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, who represented the part of China's brief history of becoming The Republic of China or led by the Kuomintang(KMT) party, they form the early leaders of the Communist Party of China. The KMT was the ruling party in mainland China from 1928 until its retreat to Taiwan in 1949 after being defeated by the Communist Party of China (CPC) during the Chinese Civil War. We can find the names of the leaders from the above list in this wikipedia link that describes the role they played in the generations of Chinese Leadership of mainland China since 1949 under the CPC.

To answer the question above of "How did China become Modernized?" my personal readings of books and research basically covered the time frame below. (Source : Stevan Harrell, University of Washington)

1644-1911: The Qing Dynasty. Rulers were Manchus:

1840-42: The Opium War. British force China to "open" on unequal terms.
1850-64: Taiping Rebellion. Christian-inspired uprising against the Qing
1898: Failed reforms
1900: Boxer rebellion against foreign influence
1905: Examination system "suspended"
1911: Republican Revolution (Xinhai Revolution)
The period of modernizing reforms
1840-1911: The late Qing Dynasty

1862: Expansion of the treaty port system
1868: Meiji Restoration in Japan
1870s: The high point of "statecraft"
1895: Japan defeats China, takes Taiwan
1898: Emperor's reforms fail, conservatives take over
1900: Boxer rebellion brings foreign retribution
1911-1949 The Republic of China
1912-1916: Presidency of Yuan Shikai
1916-27: Warlord Era
1919: The May Fourth demonstration
1921: Communist Party founded
1927-37: Guomindang unifies part of China; capital at Nanjing
1927: Communists defeated, retreat to the countryside
1931: Japanese take Manchuria
1935-36: The Long March
1937: Japanese invade North China, WWII begins here, not in Poland
1945: US atom bombs bring Japanese surrender
1945-49 Guomindang-Communist Civil War
1949: Guomindang defeated, retreats to Taiwan
The period of high socialism
1949: People's Republic founded
1947-52: Land reform
1954-56: Agriculture collectivized
1956: Industry socialized
1957: Anti-Rightist campaign
1958: Great Leap Forward and People's Communes
1959-61: Famine
1962: Retreat from communal to collective production
1966-69: Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
1966-76: The "Cultural Revolution Decade"
1969-78: Youth to the countryside
1972: Nixon visits Beijing
1976: Mao Zedong dies
1978: Official reform policy announced
The period of Reform
1979-82: Dismantling of collective agricultural production
1979: Beginning of the Birth Planning Program
1984: New constitution allows some freedom of religious practice
1985: Urban private enterprise allowed
Late 1980s: collapse of restrictions on migration to cities
1989: Student movement, culminating in Tian'anmen massacre
1993: China's Olympic bid fails
1994: Recentralization of finances
1990s: Rise of urban consumer society
1990s: Nationalism replaces revolution as national goal
1997-2003: Regime headed by General Secretary Jiang Zemin
1998: Major floods bring turn toward environmental protection
2001: China's Olympic bid succeeds
2002-2012: Regime headed by General Secretary Hu Jintao
2008: Tibetan uprisings, earthquake, Olympics. What a year!
2009: Uyghur uprisings
2012- Regime headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping

To be updated and continued here.

Revisiting the 'Last Train Ride' location on the KTM railway tracks in Singapore

Just as the KTM railroad in Singapore was closed, our family activity on 31st July 2011 was covered by STOMP, a SPH Singapore Press Holdings website :

Amidst the crowd of people who came to see the railway tracks for the last time before the authorities would remove them, Mom's creative brother, Uncle Yen Wei brought his custom built aluminium cart to be assembled on the tracks to provide a 'Last Train Ride' for the kids!

At last the aluminium cart, with Ray in red on it, was tested to see how it would roll on the railroad track pulled by a human engine. 

Once it was proven to be successful and safe, the younger kids could be put on the cart too.

Here is Ray, overdoing it, to show it is even safe to sleep on the railroad itself!

When the children of other families saw how fun and safe it was, they all wanted to have a ride too!

Thanks to Uncle Yen Wei, we all had a memorable and fun family day!

Here is a video of the 'Last Train Ride' :

Coming close to 3 years after the above event, I joined a multinational group of people on a Saturday morning, in the month of April 2014, to hike on the old railroad tracks again :  

As can be seen, the SLA or Singapore Land Authority has designated the land where the KTM Malaysian trains once use to run on to be for recreational use.

The group starts off from the West Coast from the Jurong area, alighting from the Jurong East MRT station, to head to the direction of Bukit Timah Road area.

We would essentially hike along the old 1932-1990 old railway trail(the purple line above) to join the newer railway trail of 1932-2011(the green line) that runs through Bukit Timah.

Right at the early part of the trail from the Jurong East MRT station, the hikers could already see parts of Singapore that most have never seen before like the vegetable and fruit gardens near the HDB flats

With irrigation/drainage ditches covered with flowering water lilies

Soon we walked under a bridge though an under pass...

 ...coming out on the other side.

We climbed up to the top of a bridge to a road that enters the AYE highway.

This is the view looking up to the bridge from below

This is the view from Google Map street view on the top which can be accessed by clicking here.  

The photo above was taken on the day of our hike and notice the coconut tree matches the tree seen in the Google Map street view of the earlier photo.

This is the view from Google Map street view by moving a little bit further to the front and zooming closer toward the German Centre building as can be accessed here. Notice the view is similar to the photo taken on the day of the hike posted above.

We started to walk towards the green grassy area off the AYE

 There were open wide space terrain following slightly hidden old rail tracks from the 1930s

Soon the trail begins to look more like the Malaysian jungle trails

With obstacles to go over or under

The steel iron rails remain very visible with fallen trees on them along the way

Parts of the rails were covered in mud and water, especially in tunnels, but it was still useful to walk on them. It was tricky trying to balance ourselves walking on the narrow rail with water on both sides and we used a branch we broke off earlier to serve as a walking stick.

More obstacles to maneuver around

Then the terrain turned to bushy grass with light undergrowth

The trail eventually meets up with the 

Soon we join up to the newer railroad trail that ran from 1932 all the way to 2011 at the Bukit Timah area. As you can see, only some parts of the railway tracks are kept intact.

This starts from the old Bukit Timah train station...

... to the railway bridge nearby.

The google map photo above shows how far the group had hiked as shown by the red arrow assuming where 'The crow flies' as they say. This map without the red arrow can be viewed here.

From the bridge, I can see Rifle Range Road.

Rifle Range Road is off the busy Dunearn Road that the railway bridge passes

So you see how the railway track is nicely cut off after the bridge.

Half the group including myself walked down after this bridge to Dunearn Road where with just one bus #961, it would take me back right to the bus stop in front of our home. The marvel of Singapore's efficient public transport system without the need for the old railway system.

A month later in May 2014 on a Wesak day public holiday, the trail from the direction of Dairy Farm Road toward the city is attempted without a guide but  with a high spirit of adventure and surprises

With signs to help, one would think it would be helpful

There was actually a tarred road to begin with so all seems well until...

... someone decided lets take the small path off the tarred road!

Suddenly there was a shout 'Bike' and everyone had to squeeze to the side to make way for a mountain biker sharing the narrow trail!
As we got further along the trail, someone shouted 'Monkeys' and was pointing up to a tree branch!

We looked up and saw one....

...and a few more above us!

There was a notice board to show that we were at the Dairy Farm Pass entrance with a map of bike trails.

 The trail soon came out to a wide field

 There were some small granite hills in the area
We met more bikers in groups now

We went closer to explore a granite hill

 A slope of the hill was practically a vertical wall straight up to the top! No way anyone could climb up I thought!

Little did I know some of the hikers were prepared with ropes and hooks!

Up she went, securing each part of the rope with a hook to the ring embedded on the rock

All the way to the top until she could be at the center of the wall in abseiling position like when we were in Pahang caves in Malaysia last December except we slid downwards from the top while this woman scaled all the way to the top!

We let the climbers continue while we found another notice board with a map to figure our way our of the nature reserve area and head closer to civilization to follow the old KTM rails tracks back to the city

We saw some lovely red 'Jambu' fruits on a tree but being close to the old railway tracks by the housing estate but it looked reserved and not for public consumption!

The Rail Mall landmark was passed where over 3 years ago we had the now famous 'Last Train Ride'! journalized at the start of this post.

The railway sleepers were still there but only preserved in parts where there is a railway bridge

For the rest of the way, it would be a clear path without any tracks and families would enjoy a pleasant hike...
... with the ability to walk safely into the city without running into cars as the old tracks would go under the highways and avoid noise and pollution of the heavy traffic above!

 Yes even dogs could be let free to run along the old train tracks without fear of any dangerous vehicles!

Cyclists too could transverse the city state island without any danger of heavy vehicles and pollution.

The nice part is that hikers on foot could always get out of the old rail tracks at any railway bridge to find the nearest bus stop to head home without any further walking!