Wye Mun looks over a list of names Peik Lin had given him from her conversation with Rachel. This list of names contains all the people who had been at Tyersall Park for the tan huas blooming.
Wye Mun is frustrated he doesn't know who these people are.
We learn about Wye Mun's immigrant background and his need to prove himself in Singaporean society. These names remind him that all he's done in his career has not "leveled the playing field" (2.16.3).
A bit about the family: His son, Peik Wing, married well. His other son, Peik Ting (or P.T.) is a young playboy. Wye Mun focuses his energy on his daughter, the smartest, most attractive, most like him (way to toot your own horn, Wye Mun).
He wants Peik Lin to "make a truly brilliant match, linking the Gohs with one of Singapore's blue-blooded families" (2.16.4). Ah, do we detect some motivation here?
Sensing that Peik Lin is on to something, he declares it is time to visit Dr. Gu to "dig deeper" (2.16.4).
Who is this Dr. Gu?
Wye Mun met him when Dr. Gu had resisted selling his land to Wye Mun's company, instead convincing Wye Mun to change his entire business plan, resulting in greater success. The two forged a kinship, Wye Mun "enthralled by Dr. Gu's encyclopedic knowledge of Singapore history, his acute analysis of the financial markets, and his wonderful Longjing tea" (2.16.6).
On their way to Dr. Gu's, Peik Lin and Wye Mun talk about the value of Dr. Gu's land now and the shares of HSBC he owns.
According to Wye Mun, Dr. Gu is worth "hundreds of millions" (2.16.13).
Dr. Gu is unassuming "in a brown polyester short-sleeved shirt […] and a pair of dark green pajama bottoms" (2.16.14).
We get a peek at Dr. Gu's tea ritual, narrated by Wye Mun with old Chinese proverbs.
Dr. Gu cuts through the proverbs and explains the practicality behind the ritual: rinsing the tea leaves, warming the pot and cups, and coaxing the flavor out of the tea.
In what seems a familiar style, Dr. Gu and Wye Mun argue about politicians and prosperity:
Wye Mun says the government has turned Singapore into "one of the most prosperous countries in the world" (2.16.24).
Dr. Gu says "prosperity is nothing but an illusion" and "it'll be the downfall of Asia" (2.16.25 and 2.16.29).
He cites his own kids and grandkids' frivolous wasting of his money.
What they agree upon: kids should work for their money.
Finally, Dr. Gu pours the tea and asks why Wye Mun is really there.
Who is James Young?
Even Dr. Gu hasn't heard this name in a long time and says his info is outdated. He delves into what he knowns (btw, we are riveted, too):
1. It's believed that they're descended from royal court physicians back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE).
2. Sir James Young was the first Western-educated neurologist in Singapore. NBD. He was saving lives in World War II during the Japanese occupation.
3. Dr. Gu knew James Young during WWII in an underground medical clinic he set up for the poor after the war.
4. Young married Shang Su Yi, who is "so unfathomably rich it would make your eyes water" (2.16.61). That's pretty darn rich.
5. She is the daughter of Shang Loong Ma, a wealthy Peking banker who moved to Singapore before the Qing dynasty fell (late 1800s at the latest). Her father "controlled all the shipping lines from the Dutch East Indies to Siam" and was "behind uniting the early Hokkein banks in the thirties" (2.16.63).
6. There's more!
7. Her brother Alfred Shang lives in England but is still a silent influencer in Asia.
8. Her eldest daughter (Felicity) married Harry Leong, a "kingmaker" in the Singapore government (2.16.71).
To put it simply: this family is the "center of power" (2.16.73).
Dr. Gu warns Peik Lin that all "treasure comes with a price" (2.16.75).
After Peik Lin and her father leave, Wye Mun suggests invited Nick and Rachel to dinner.
Alone, Dr. Gu remembers when James Young saved him from Japanese officers during the war. He had seen him during medical trainings and lied that Dr. Gu was just a farm boy who wasn't worth killing.
Months later, Dr. Gu saw Young at a meeting and thanked him for saving his life.
"Nonsense—you would have done the same for me," Young says simply (2.16.83).
After this memory, Dr. Gu regrets saying so much about the Young money and not enough about what a great man he was.