Han Suyin, , was the pen name of Elizabeth Comber, born Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chow. She was a Chinese-born Eurasian author of several books on modern China, novels set in East Asia, and autobiographical works, and graduated as a physician from Peking Universit.
JOHOR BARU: (the STAR) Writer Han Suyin may be known around the world for her novel A Many Splendoured Thing but some folk in Johor still remember her as the doctor at a clinic in Jalan Ibrahim here.
Dr Alice Loh, 84, who took over Han's clinic after she left the country, said the writer had moved to Johor Baru from Hong Kong after marrying Leon F. Comber, who was serving as a British officer in the Malayan Special Branch in 1952.
Han's popularity among her patients shot up shortly after her novel was adapted into an Oscar-winning film, recalled Dr Loh.
“Everyone wanted to be her patient so they could boast about how they were being treated by the famous Dr Han Suyin. Although I did not know her well, I remembered that she had striking features due to her mixed parentage and was popular, especially among the male patients,” she laughed.
The Eurasian writer, whose real name was Elizabeth Comber, died at the age of 95 in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Friday.
Besides being the author of several books on modern China and autobiographical novels, Han, who was born in Henan, China, had studied medicine in Brussels and trained as a physician in London.
It was while she was practising medicine in Hong Kong that she met and fell in love with Australian war correspondent Ian Morrison, which formed the basis for her novel.
Dr Loh said prior to taking over Han's clinic, she had also been tutored by Han while studying medicine in Hong Kong.
“I studied there in the 1940s and I remembered that my dormitory was right above her room. I could always hear her typing for hours but it was only later that I realised that she was writing her famous novel,” she said.
Expressing her sadness over Han's passing last Friday, Dr Loh described Han as a “charismatic woman”, who had contributed so much through her writing.
Retired nurse, Tham Poh Choo, 83, remembers Han, with whom she had worked in the 1950s while serving at the General Hospital here.
“Dr Han was a pleasant and friendly lady but the nurses never really had the opportunity to speak to her or any of the doctors,” she said.
In addition to being a brilliant writer, Tham recalled Han as a “hardworking woman”, whose dedication to her job made her popular among her patients.
Han, who was married three times, is survived by two daughters.
By DESIREE TRESA GASPER