Yong Yew Kim1 : Portrait of a Teacher, Principal and Songwriter
by Shue Tuck Wong
Yong Yew Kim
Yong Yew Kim served with distinction
for over half a century as teacher and principal of the Seremban Anglo-Chinese
School (ACS). He contributed significantly to the growth of ACS and the Wesley
Church, to the founding of the
Career and Songwriting
Yew Kim was born on May 23, 1900 in
Malacca, and died on July 20th, 1990 in Seremban. He was the son of Yoong Shin Sen and Chung
Chiu Ying, Chinese immigrants from “Moi Yan”, Kwantung Province,
While Yew Kim was teaching at ACS,
both his younger brothers went abroad to study in
The subjects that Yew Kim taught at ACS were mainly mathematics (made up of algebra, geometry and trigonometry) and bookkeeping (elementary accountancy). His responsibility was mainly to prepare senior students to sit for the Overseas Senior Cambridge School Certificate Examinations, for British Commonwealth Students. He was a conscientious, hardworking, patient and understanding teacher. As I recall, when he taught math, he brought to class his own repertoire of teaching aids, viz., the big wooden protractor, the yard long bamboo ruler, a long string and a small box of white and coloured chalk. He drew triangles, parallelograms, rhomboids, using his bamboo ruler. When he drew a circle, he would tie the string to a piece of chalk and ask a student to hold one end of it and press it against the blackboard, and he would raise his arm and swing the string around to draw the circle. He was very meticulous and would go into great detail to explain how the various kinds of angles--their sizes and shapes—were formed and what theorems were suitable for solving each kind of problem. Most of his detailed explanations were directed at the average or slower learners. Brighter students sometimes thought he was too patient and generous with his time in explaining problems to the class. Occasionally brighter students might not even pay attention to his teaching, and they would start doing other homework or read a storybook while he taught. When he caught such students not paying attention to his teaching or his explanations, he would pause and say, “Class, pay attention.” If the students concerned did not look up, he would repeat it again. When they looked up, he would smile at them and continue teaching. Rarely did he ever lose his temper or raise his voice and scold the student who was not paying attention while he was teaching.
In connection with Yew Kim’s
teaching, mention might be made of what Stanley Padman, former ACS Old Student
and the late Principal of Telok Anson High School,
Yew Kim in his career was more than
a math teacher. He was also a gifted
poet. He started writing poems in his
twenties and thirties. For instance, he
wrote a poem in memory of his younger brother, Yew Moyne, who was killed by the
Japanese during World War II in
Yew Kim wrote not only poems but also numerous songs that portray Christian principles and his personal ideals. His most well-known song was “Our School Song”2, which he composed in 1941. The song contained three verses written to the music of Adam Geibel’s 1904 song “March with the Heroes”. It quickly became a hit with the ACS students and became the school’s anthem. The words of the song stress love for others, care for others, sorrow and worthiness of lessons learned. They were a testimony of Yew Kim’s personal beliefs and ideals; namely, living for justice and universal peace, truth and honesty, forming lasting friendships and challenging “the hard right” against “the easy wrong”. Indeed, the refrain best sums up the heart of his message:
Bright hope of the future, Ever ‘gainst the wrong,
May we bring thee honour In life’s battle long!
other songs connected with ACS are: “The Seremban ACS Old Students’ Song”,
1949, and “Our Alma Mater Song,” 1951.
The former came about as the result of the formation of the ACS Old
Students’ Association in 1949. The Old
Students’ Association Committee felt that ACS Old Students needed a song of
their own. Yew Kim responded to their
need and penned the words of this song, while A.P. Chin of the
“Our Alma Mater Song” was originally
intended for the Old Students of the Seremban ACS. The ACS Old Students’ Association did not
adopt this song because it could also be used alike by the Old Students of all students, whether coeducational,
boys’ or girls’ schools, and also vernacular schools where English was
taught. As a result of the ACS Old
Students’ Association having its own Old Students’ Song, “Our Alma Mater Song”
then became the song of Old Students of all
schools. Yew Kim, therefore, decided to
dedicate it to all Old Students in
the hope of inspiring “a sense of loyalty and gratitude to their own Alma Mater
as well as a spirit of oneness among themselves, which will be a first step
towards a common citizenship in
The “Flag of Malaya” song followed in 1952. Once again, Yew Kim wrote the lyrics while choosing the tune “Lest We Forget” by G.F. Blanchard. He intentionally designed it for schools to sing on Federation Day. The lyrics espouse such values as pledge of loyalty, happiness to live in unity, fairness and justice among all nations, cherishing liberty, understanding freedom and striving for peace. On July 30, 1952, the ACS school choir first performed the “Flag of Malaya”, and the next month they sang it again—together with “Our School Song”—as part of a fundraiser for the Seremban Gurney Memorial Library. (Straits Times, 2 August, 1952, p. 5)
The “31st August 1957”
song was written in English in 1957 and was published in the ACS magazine The Silent Signpost, 1957—the Year of
Independence for Malaya—after
When the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed on 8th August 1967, Yew Kim decided to write
an ASEAN song for the region and dedicated it to the original five members,
Following the rationale of the
“Peace Song”, Yew Kim wrote “Common School Song” aimed at schools outside
ASEAN. He made changes to the first line
in the first verse and the second line of the second verse to allow harmonization
with the names of the non-ASEAN countries.
The song in three verses stressed goodwill, everlasting friendship,
sharing remembrances and sorrows at home and afar. This song was translated into Bahasa
In 1941 - 1942, Yew Kim was elected
When ACS reopened in 1947 during the
British Military period, Yew Kim returned as a teacher and as a staff member
under Reverend Paul H. Schmucker (the Eleventh ACS Principal, 1947-48). One serious problem they encountered was the
imminent shortage of classroom space and the overflow of numerous overage
students. To remedy the situation,
Schmucker and Yew Kim decided to set-up additional classes. They split ACS into two sections: a morning
section for regular students and an afternoon section for overage students and
those who could not enroll in the regular English schools. The afternoon section came to be known as the
Around this time the American Methodist Mission donated some funds to help with the classroom space shortage. Yew Kim added a single storey section of ten classrooms to the new building. However the funds were insufficient to complete the project. Thanks to the ACS teachers, who donated ten percent of their salary, and to additional public support and help from the local government, Yew Kim’s vision for the new building was well on its way.
When Paul H. Schmucker left for
Yew Kim was particularly passionate about his involvement with the activities of the Old Students’ Association. In 1949 he introduced a special section in The Silent Signpost dedicated to news about them. It featured them by name, profiling their activities and any awards they achieved after leaving ACS.
Following Reverend Ingerson’s return
In May 1955, Yew Kim retired from ACS. At his retirement party, hosted by the teaching staff, the Old Students’ and Present Students’ Associations, Mr. Ngui Choon Jin spoke on behalf of the ACS teachers and called it a “double occasion” since that very same day was also Yew Kim’s 55th birthday! Just as Yew Kim finished his dinner, he was surprised to hear from Mr. Choon Jin again. Mr. Choon Jin announced that Yew Kim was reemployed by ACS because it needed him to shepherd the completion of the new building.
Yew Kim finally retired in December 1955, after Mr. Choon Jin took over as the Thirteenth Principal of ACS (1955-61).
Personality and Legacy
Yew Kim was an amiable, warm, affectionate and compassionate gentleman. He was rather quiet and generally private, and had a kind disposition. He was not aggressive nor belligerent or pushy in conversation. Many of his colleagues and friends found him easy to get along with socially as he was quite witty and possessed a good sense of humour!
In his behaviour, he was highly moral and ethical. He had his own ideals and moral code of conduct. For example, in education, character development was more important than earning good grades. He affirmed this on the Principal’s Page in the school magazine, saying, “Subscribing to this view will make the world a much happier place to live than it is at present.” (The Silent Signpost, 1952)
Besides being a regular teacher and staff member of ACS, he was a faithful Sunday School teacher and a treasurer of the Wesley Church. He was a devout and highly dedicated Methodist. And he was also an ardent believer in Norman Vincent Peale’s famous book The Power of Positive Thinking. Being an optimist, he often recognized people’s finer qualities rather than to begrudge them. In particular, he showed great kindness and magnanimity towards the newer and younger staff members of ACS. He encouraged their teaching forays and their participation in intramural school sports and social events.
Yew Kim was highly intelligent and naturally gifted, both in literary and quantitative skills. His humanistic interests were broad and multifaceted. He had a good understanding of English Literature and loved to read poetry. Indeed, he fine-tuned most of his mathematic skills and literary accomplishments through years of disciplined self study and the sheer love of learning. It is almost certain that if given the extra opportunity to pursue a university degree, Yew Kim would have become an outstanding scholar and perhaps even a professor.
Yew Kim was a good family man. He married his wife, Cheong Chin Kian,
through a matchmaker in “Moi Yan”,
Few others had greater affection and
aspiration for the life of the Wesley Church than Yew Kim. Upon his retirement, he spent his golden
years translating Christian hymns into Bahasa
These words demonstrate that Yew Kim was not only a devout Christian but also a loyal patriot and an ardent believer of multiethnic harmony in a unified one Malaysia—an ideal that Dato Najib Tun Razak had been advocating for the one Malaysia since 2009! Through his poems, songs and translated hymns into the Malay language, Yew Kim greatly enhanced and enriched not only the cultural life of Seremban but also the whole social fabric of Malaysian society.
It is interesting to note that in Mandarin Yew Kim (You Jing) means “to have a view or scenery”. The Chinese character for Jing is a compound of two words, the sun and the capital. In the Chinese system of writing, it is represented by the sun over the capital. When the sun is above the capital, it provides a commanding view of everything in its vicinity. In a way, Yew Kim who served at ACS for over half a century, now himself holds a commanding view at the very entrance of the primary building that he diligently built. His name Jing reflects his multifaceted talents as portrayed in his poems, songs and translated hymns. Indeed, his name befits his legacy! He was truly a remarkable and extraordinary person who transformed ACS from a beacon, with its “shades of gleaming light”, into a star shining bright over the Sungei Ujong Landscape of Seremban!
Our School Song
ACS we thank thee: Thou, O beacon bright
That amidst the darkness sheds its gleaming light!
Bountiful the knowledge Thou hast to bestow,
Greatest of thy lessons: Love for others show!
Bright hope of the future, Ever ‘gainst the wrong,
May we bring thee honour In life’s battle long!
On they grounds in cheerful study, happy play
We, all nations’ children, Meet from day to day!
Form we lasting friendships That do bid us all
Share each other’s sorrow, Heed each other’s call!
When at last we leave thee, O’er the world to roam,
E’er shall we remember Thee, our second home!
Well imbued thy precepts, Wheresoe’er we be,
We’ll reflect they teachings, Worthy be of thee!
The author is much indebted to Dr. Yoong Yee Phiow, Yoong Yee Loke and Yoong Yee Chit for their assistance in providing family history information. He is also thankful to former ACS students and friends who have given information on Yew Kim’s songs and translated hymns. They include: S.T. Peter Lim, Thong Kok Chaw, Heng Pooi Lim, Kenneth Kulasingham and Han Chiang Lim. In preparing this paper, earlier drafts were reviewed by Sophia Wong and Christina Wong. Any errors are the responsibility of the author.