In 1997 Philippa Reynolds, daughter of Pip Alley, Rewi’s younger brother, wrote a book as she put it “to make the story of Rewi Alley known to the younger generation and to the wider general public”, and to answer the questions “Who was Rewi Alley? Why was he famous? What did he do?”
Philippa could not remember a time she was not aware that she “had a special uncle in China” and was grateful that the Christchurch Gansu Friendly Relations Committee (CGFRC) gave her the opportunity to write the book as part of the celebrations marking the Rewi Alley centennial.
In 2017 the Christchurch City Council’s successor to the CGFRC, the Christchurch China Sister Cities Committee (CCSCC) resolved to reprint Philippa’s book to mark the 120th anniversary of Rewi’s birth. The reprint is in the original English with a Mandarin translation to ensure its appeal to a very much wider audience. Many extra photos, most in colour, have been added, as well as quotes from President Xin Jinping and Prime Minister Bill English. Modern printing methods, too, ensure that the photographs are presented with greater clarity.
The book tells the fascinating story of Rewi Alley from his birth in 1897 at Springfield, Canterbury, his family background, his schooling in Amberley and Christchurch, his exploits in World War I, his farming venture and subsequent travel to Shanghai. It describes the rest of Rewi’s life he spent in China with only brief and infrequent trips back to New Zealand: a life spent in the pursuit of contributing to China’s growth, from his work during World War I, establishing a technical school on the edge of the Gobi Desert, the Gung Ho movement, and latterly his time in Beijing, all of which were material in forging friendly relations between China and New Zealand. His story is entwined with the history of New Zealand’s relations with China in the 20th century. It is a story told from his family’s perspective by those who knew him all his life.