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Dr David Lee Ka-yan, of Siu Ming Visits Guangzhou fame, ascribes his success to Buddhist philosophy

Reporters: Raymond Tse

It is another busy day for Dr. Lee Ka-yan in his clinic. After a morning of consultations, the paediatrician is carefully applying make-up to his face; foundation to smooth out the complexion and blusher to provide some contouring.

Since becoming an unlikely internet sensation, Lee is used to being photographed and interviewed by the media. He is clearly enjoying every minute of his fame and wants to appear his best for Varsity’s photoshoot. “It is normal for people to make themselves look good,” he says.

Lee, with his oval shaped glasses, blue physician’s garb and a stethoscope hanging around his neck, looks like a friendly avuncular doctor. But there is no mistaking his sense of drama as he poses and gestures for the camera.

Although he has been singing children’s songs on TVB shows for 17 years, Lee’s breakout moment came when his song Siu Ming Visits Guangzhou and its accompanying music video became a YouTube hit at the end of 2010.

The song is about a boy called Siu Ming, who many suspect is Lee’s alter ego, who takes a trip to visit his relatives in Guangzhou. The video shows Lee taking a high-speed train, visiting famous Guangzhou landmarks, tucking into dim sum and rapping Cantonese tongue-twisters. Lee says that through the Siu Ming series, he wants people, especially young people, to learn more about the mainland.

The song has spawned many spoofs, including one by famous local stand-up comic Jim Chim and an X-rated version by some members of the Hong Kong Golden Forum online discussion site. In the comments beneath the video of Lee’s version on YouTube there are messages of appreciation as well as posts mocking Lee and poking fun at him. Not that such ridicule and send-ups of his work are likely to bother Lee.

Lee’s life philosophy is influenced by the Buddhist ideas of karma and fate. Everything happens for a reason, from a complex web of causes and conditions. For his part, Lee believes in going along with fate and not thinking too much about the future. “Nobody knows how long Siu Ming will be famous for,” he says. “The important thing is to produce work from the heart.”

This attitude has helped him to weather the disappointments in life. One unforgettable disappointment was failing his music examination in Form One because he did not know how to read the score. Perhaps the most impressive failure happened in his last year at university. He failed his final examination and had to defer his graduation for a year.

His academic life was not all a series of disappointments. Lee enjoyed his school years at St. Paul’s Co-Educational School. He was always ranked sixth or seventh place in his class but he never pushed himself to be top of the class. Since he knew that everyone has their limits, his results did not bother him.