Rewi Alley book republished for the next generation

15 May 2017

Thirty years after Rewi Alley’s death, a new edition of a biography of his life has been printed in a bid to introduce his achievements to younger generations of New Zealanders.

The book, published by the Christchurch China Sister Cities Committee and supported by the Rewi Alley 120th Anniversary Commemoration Committee Canterbury, is a refreshed, hardcover edition of Alley’s biography, released 120 years after his birth.

Written by his niece Philippa Reynolds in 1997, it details the life of the New Zealand-born writer, educator and political activist who dedicated 60 years to humanitarian causes in China. 

Bernard Duncan, (left), Chair of the Christchurch China Sister Cities committee

Bernard Duncan, (left), Chair of the Christchurch China Sister Cities committee and Dave Adamson, Vice Chair of the Rewi Alley 120th Anniversary Commemorative Committee Canterbury, with a copy of the Rewi Alley book they gifted to Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, and the plate they received in return.

Bernard Duncan, chair of the Christchurch China Sister Cities committee and Dave Adamson, Vice Chair of the Rewi Alley 120th Anniversary Commemoration Committee Canterbury, presented a copy of the book last week to Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

“Thirty years have gone by since Rewi passed away. The need to introduce him and his achievements to younger generations of New Zealanders and Chinese was a key motivator to republish this biography. This is a man who is known and revered widely throughout China, but largely unknown in New Zealand. We’ve visited regions in China where he had worked in the 1930’s and the local people still talk about him and pay their respects at a memorial in their town.

“This new edition of the book is a major refresh of the original written by his niece Philippa Reynolds in 1997. It is printed in hard cover and contains many more photographs, most many of them in colour, and most importantly is in both English and Mandarin. We hope this book will be a fitting memento of his legacy.”

Alley was a prolific writer about 20th century China, translated dozens of books, and wrote extensively about the Communist revolution. He was one of the 20th century’s foremost humanitarians and was a key figure in the establishment of the Chinese Industrial Cooperative movement, which was largely set up by him to promote grassroots industrial and economic development in China.

Mr Duncan said the Christchurch China Sister Cities Committee had published the book with a vision that it would find a home in schools, libraries and universities.

“We hope it can be used by language students and others as a textbook where young people can learn the story of Rewi Alley's achievements and his legacy, his educational philosophy, summed up as ‘Hands and Minds together - Create and Analyse’ and his great love of the Chinese people.”

The team leading commemorations for the 120th anniversary of Alley’s birth had also worked with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to develop an NCEA unit standard in high schools, which would include reading the Rewi Alley book. The book will also be used in a schools competition. Contestants would need to write an essay in their own words about Rewi Alley.

Official commemorative events to mark 120 years since Alley’s birth will also take place in Christchurch in December, including a symposium featuring guest speakers from China.

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