Light and Shade

Sketches from an Uncommon Life


Solomon Matthew Bard

ISBN : 978-962-209-949-4


March 2009

364 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$275.00

Solomon Matthew Bard’s life has been an extraordinary story of a peripatetic youth, of incident and adventure, and of varied enthusiasms pursued with great energy to a very high level.

Illustrated with a large number of photos, some remarkable survivals, this collection of autobiographical essays tells of Dr Bard’s childhood in Eastern Siberia, with a fascinating detour to Moscow and the Crimea while Russia was still in post-revolutionary turmoil. He moved on to Harbin for high school where the musical talent that is a strong thread running through this story began to blossom. As did so many Russian émigrés, he moved to Shanghai in the mid 1930s and spent his last school years there at the ‘Eton of China’. Good fortune and his usual determination saw him move again to study medicine at the University of Hong Kong. Typhoons and epidemics were just precursors of the trauma of Japanese invasion in which the author served as a medical officer in the Volunteers. His just-learnt medical skills were most valuable and much tested in his years as a prisoner-of-war in the Sham Shui Po camp.

After the war and a few years in the UK, he came back to Hong Kong. He founded the medical service at the University, and also created and led orchestras for both Western and Chinese music. While music continued to be an outlet for his remarkable energies, another activity—archaeology—came to the fore, and in these essays he describes both pioneering local digs and his worldwide travels to archaeological sites.

The reader will be swept along by the wide variety of experiences recounted, but above all by the zest, curiosity and capacity for enthusiasm that those fortunate enough to know the author cherish and admire.

Solomon Matthew Bard was born in Russia, but lived most of his working life in Hong Kong. He studied music but, setting it aside as a career, graduated in medicine from the University of Hong Kong in 1939. During the Second World War he served in the Hong Kong Volunteers Field Ambulance Unit and when Hong Kong fell was imprisoned by the Japanese. After the war he was director of the Student Health Service at HKU, then from 1976 to 1983 executive officer of the Antiquities and Monuments Office. He occasionally conducted the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and was the full-time assistant music director of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra from 1983 to 1987.

“This delightful book opens the door on the life of a remarkably talented and versatile man who has developed, embellished and shared these talents with many in Hong Kong and elsewhere.” —Robin Hutcheon, former editor of South China Morning Post

“A fascinating series of insights into a remarkable life. There is something for everyone, be they interested in medicine, music, military affairs, archaeology or simply human nature making the most of every opportunity while overcoming difficulties and disappointments along the way. The astonishing Solomon Bard has led an incredibly varied life in interesting times and places; these essays portray this wonderfully.” —Lt Col TC Villiers, Commanding Officer of the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) 1983–86

“This book makes most enjoyable reading. Dr Bard’s life is indeed uncommon—full of adventure and rich in experience and humanity. He is a gifted narrator: descriptions of early years in Russia and Shanghai are fascinating; the fall of Hong Kong and the prisoner-of-war camp moving; the Easter Islands and Machu Picchu enlightening. His important contributions to the development of student health, music and archaeology in Hong Kong are understated. The love of family and friends, and of life, comes across clearly. The many photographs embellish this splendid autobiography.” —Sir David Todd, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Hong Kong