Like many people, amateur actress Amy Pam Mei-king had little idea of Tse Tsan-tai's exploits and achievements. But joining the cast of The Nameless Tomb and Martyrs on an Uphill Road, two historical plays staged by the Amity Drama Club, gave her a crash course on the birth of Chinese nationalism. 'People unfamiliar with history know about Sun Yat-sen. Those who have studied modern Chinese history might know of Yeung Kui-wan, but few know about Tse Tsan-tai [below],' says Pam, who works in television. But she has learned that Tse was something of a Renaissance man; not only did he play a pivotal role in the emergence of modern China, he was also a founder of the South China Morning Post and designed airships. Christened John See, he was born in 1872 in the town of Grafton, in northern New South Wales, where his father Tse Yet-choong (also known as John See) was a leading merchant. When he was 15, Tse and his father, who was in close contact with some defeated Taiping rebel leaders, moved to Hong Kong with the idea of using it as a base to overthrow the corrupt Manchu government. Tse met like-minded patriot Yeung (Yang Quyun) and the pair went on to form a reform association, Furen Wenshe, in 1892. The association later merged with Sun Yat-sen's Xingzhong Hui (Revive China Society), with Yeung elected as the first chairman. Thanks to his network among the intelligentsia and upper-classes, Tse was involved in co-ordination and fund-raising for the first abortive Guangzhou uprising in 1895. Sun and Yeung were exiled from Hong Kong and Tse helped Yeung to escape to South Africa. When Yeung was murdered in Central in 1901 following the failure of a second uprising, Tse helped arrange for his comrade to be buried at the Hong Kong Cemetery and even designed his grave. Tse withdrew from almost all revolutionary activity following the collapse of the third Guangzhou uprising in 1903, but he never lost his ideals. Instead, using a HK$1 million fund from his father, he collaborated with British editor Alfred Cunningham to found the South China Morning Post as a vehicle to support the nationalist movement. A prolific writer on subjects ranging from the origins of typhoons to Chinese painting, he also recorded his experiences of insurrection to overthrow the Qing dynasty in a series of articles in the Post, which were eventually published as a book, The Chinese Republic: Secret History of the Revolution. Fascinated by the stories about Tse, Pam went to some trouble to track down Tse's grave in the Hong Kong Chinese Christian Cemetery in Pok Fu Lam. 'It seemed so unreal when I visited his grave for the first time because he was more like a fictional character to me,' says the actress, who wrote about it in a blog. The article prompted an e-mail from Joy See, a granddaughter of Tse's younger brother, Tse Tsi-shau, now based in Beijing, who gave her additional background on her ancestor, Pam says. 'It isn't just the people who are shouting out loud at the front who are great heroes,' she says. 'There are many people who have made huge contributions by being the backup.'