Run Run Shaw's legacy will live on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 5:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 5:33am

Respect is not a word readily reserved for Hong Kong's hard-nosed tycoons. Sir Run Run Shaw was an exception, though. The father of our city's film industry and founder of TVB, the world's largest Chinese-language television producer, was in equal measure a great philanthropist who gave generously to causes here and on the mainland. As much as he will be fondly remembered for entertaining, his name will also live on for his contribution to education, health care and the sciences.

Shaw was a legend in the movie-making industry. Shanghai-born, he and his brothers spread their craft from mainland China throughout Southeast Asia, building cinemas to show their ground-breaking films. He went out on his own in 1959, moving from Singapore to Hong Kong to create an entertainment empire in Clear Water Bay that came to be known as the Hollywood of the East. His passion, drive and entrepreneurism led to Hong Kong's golden age of cinema.

Over a quarter of a century, his Shaw Brothers studios produced more than 1,000 titles, from melodramas to historical epics, ghost stories and the genre that put our city on the international movie map, kung fu. Shaw Brothers lost its shine in the 1970s, although by then Shaw had shifted his focus to the global Chinese-language television market with TVB.

His ethic for hard work brought success and wealth. That allowed him to live the high life and he mixed with the famous and powerful in the movie and business worlds. But his was not a life purely of self-indulgence; he also recognised the need to help humanity. He became an advocate for the work of the Red Cross, helped set up the Community Chest, was a guiding light for the Arts Festival and through his Sir Run Run Shaw Charitable Trust and Shaw Foundation, gave generously to improve and promote education, medical and welfare services, science and technology, and the arts.

Shaw's passing does not mean the end of an era. His name lives on in thousands of buildings here and on the mainland, where schools, libraries, medical facilities and cultural centres bearing his Chinese name, Yifu, are in every province. The Shaw Prize awards, dubbed Asia's Nobel prizes, are handed out for ground-breaking work in astronomy, life sciences and medicine, and mathematics. Through cinema and television, he gave immeasurable enjoyment. But his philanthropic work is his lasting monument, to be admired, celebrated and held up as an inspiration for others of means to emulate.