The spirit of “blood-red and iron-grey” is instilled in every Lingnanian. When Prof Zhong Nanshan, the world-renowned respiratory disease specialist, who, on receiving a Doctor of Science honoris causa in 2021, spoke of his studies at Lingnan affiliated primary and secondary schools in Guangzhou, he said that the attitude -- to be courageous and determined -- and Lingnan’s whole-person education approach have influenced him ever since. “I still remember the Lingnan tradition of the ‘red and grey lions’ and ‘Lingnan cattle’ -- the former refers to the spirit of the students moving bravely forward, and the latter to the spirit of hard work.”

Indeed, “red”, “grey”, “mountain” and “river” are key elements on Lingnan’s campus, emblem and even in its spirit. What do they actually mean, and what is their origin?

Back in the early 1900s, Lingnan established their permanent campus, Hong Lok (Kangle), now in Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, on the southern shore of the Pearl River, adjacent to Phoenix Village, where there were originally fields, woods, graveyards, and wasteland. Two boulevards, 3,400 feet long and 2,500 feet apart. Running from east to west, formed the main boundaries between the campus and neighbouring villages.

When George Weidman Groff, a horticulturist from Pennsylvania State University, arrived in 1908, he planted many trees, and so the campus soon became colourful.

That same year, an outstanding student named Szto Wai graduated, who could easily have found well-paid employment in the public service, however this mild-mannered young man was determined to pursue a career in education, and stayed on at the college, training under the supervision of Henry Graybill, Principal of the Middle School.

Szto Wai, an exceptionally talented painter, taught Fine Arts in the Middle School for a time, and he designed the Lingnan school emblem of the panoramic north view from the campus.

The emblem was formally adopted by Lingnan University and its branch schools in 1911, and each symbol of the mountain, water, trees and winding path in it has its own meaning.

White Cloud Mountain rises magnificently to the south of the Five Ridge Mountains, representing high ideals in life. Christianity and the Christian spirit were the original guiding principle and foundation of Lingnan University and its affiliated schools. The founders took the Christian humanist vision as the highest ideal of education. In the words of second century BC Chinese historian Sima Qian “One looks up at a mountain in awe.” As a mountain may symbolise a person held in high esteem, Lingnanians were inspired by Christian teaching, and this is the significance of White Cloud Mountain as seen from the campus.

The Pearl River is the convergence of the tributary waters of the East, West and North Rivers, indicating the long history and heritage of Lingnan University. According to one of Lingnan's school songs “The inculcation of Lingnan education is like the Pearl River; it flows continuously and eternally.” (Leung Tak-soh). Lingnan University was founded over a century ago, and its graduates have spread throughout the world, their affection for their alma mater never fading with the passage of time.

The tree expresses a career, and litchee trees bear fruit every summer; Christian lives and work are also fruitful. Psalm 1:2-3 says: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord... He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in season and whose leaf does not wither,” and this is the guiding purpose of Lingnanians, in keeping with their motto: Education for Service.

The path represents the future, and a Christian education opens a bright future for students starting on life's journey. All students, whether they are from poor or wealthy families, whether they are intelligent or less so, are assured of a bright future as they follow this path. Some will float down the Pearl River and travel across oceans, and wherever they live, all Lingnan graduates will follow their own path and survive.

The panoramic view of the campus in the school emblem reminds alumni and friends of Lingnan of their loyalty wherever they may be, and its red and grey colours help to nourish this sentiment, as the “blood-red and iron-grey” stand for loyalty and steadfastness.

Indeed, the red and grey reflect the Lingnan characteristic, motivating force which inspires students to lay the foundations for a splendid future.

Reference: A Phoenix of South China: The Story of Lingnan (University) College Sun Yat-sen University (Chief Editor: Sui-ming Lee)

To be continued…