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Tong Shao Yi


1. 1872: about 12 years old, prior to departure for U.S.  3. c. March 1912  4. c. 1928  5. c. 1929-30


Pinyin & Chinese characters Tang Shaoyi 唐绍仪

Variant Spellings & Other Names Sin Ye Tong
American nickname: “Ajax”1

Other Chinese Name(s) Tang Shaochuan 唐少川

Detachment 3

LaFargue No. 61

Date of Birth 2 January 1862

Place of Birth Xiangshan (Zhongshan), Guangdong

Age at Departure for US 14 (Lunar Calendar), 12 (Western Calendar)2

Date of Death 30 September 1938 (assassinated)

Place of Death Shanghai

Place(s) of Residence in US (1) Springfield, MA
(2) Hartford, CT

American Host Family/ies (1) Eugene C. & Harriet B. (Hubbard) Gardner, Springfield, MA
(2) William B. & Virginia (Thrall) Smith, Hartford, CT.

School(s), with dates Hooker Street Grammar School, Springfield, MA 1877-18783
Hartford Public High School, Hartford, CT 1879-1880

Notable Activities/Awards in School Graduated with honors. "He was also very athletic in both Springfield and Hartford, becoming proficient in baseball, boxing, rifle marksmanship, and horseback riding."3

College/University, with dates Columbia University (1880-1881)4

Notable Activities/Awards in College  
Degree/Diploma Obtained (date) No degree; returned to China on termination of CEM in summer, 1881.

First Assignment in China Subordinate clerical work, government offices.

Later Positions

1883, Spring: accompanied German diplomat, Paul Georg von Möllendorff (1847-1901) who had been sent, on Li Hung Chang's recommendation, as an advisor to the Korean court in order to organize a customs service on the plan of the Chinese customs; in the Fall, Tong served as a teacher in an English language school started by von Möllendorff;5

1884: gained approbation of Yuan Shikai 袁世凯, the Imperial Resident in Korea and garrison commander in Seoul;

1885: with Yuan Shikai at Tianjin at signing of Tianjin Convention with Japan; in Korea as Yuan’s deputy, handled Chinese commercial and political interests at Renchuan (Inchon) 仁川;

1896 December – 1898: Consul General in Seoul, with collateral responsibility for Longshan 龙山 and Yuanshan (Wonsan) 元山.6

1898: recalled to China, became secretary to Yuan at headquarters of Newly Created Army; appointed managing director of Northern Railways;

1899: chief political adviser to Yuan in Shandong and head of provincial trade bureau;

1900 June: in Tianjin during Boxer siege and handled the chaotic aftermath and foreign claims for reparation throughout Chihli Province;

1901: appointed Customs daotai 道台 (chief magistrate and customs superintendent) at Tianjin;

1903-04: Superintendent of Beiyang University 北洋大学 (now Tianjin University);

1904 September: appointed special commissioner for Tibetan affairs; made Minister to Court of St. James’s for negotiations with British in Calcutta;

1905 November: appointed Acting Junior Vice President of Board of Foreign Affairs;

1906 April: signed agreement with British recognizing Chinese suzerainty over Tibet; Associate Controller General of new revenue council in Imperial Maritime Customs and Director General of Peking-Hankow and Nanking-Shanghai railways; worked to suppress opium trade; December, appointed Senior Vice President of Board of Posts and Communications, taking over from Yuan Shikai control of the Telegraphs, Railways and China Merchants Steam Navigation Co.;

1905-1907: in control of all negotiations to secure foreign loans for development of railways and mines;

1907 March: signed agreement with British for construction of Canton-Kowloon railway, but was impeached by ultra-conservative political enemies; April, resigned all metropolitan posts; appointed Governor of Fengtien 奉天 (modern Liaoning 辽宁 ); negotiated with Willard Straight, U.S. Consul General in Mukden (modern Shenyang 沈阳), for currency reform, establishment of new bank in Manchuria and construction of railroad to compete with Japanese South Manchurian railway;

1908-09: headed Special Embassy to convey thanks to the U.S. for reimbursing part of Boxer Indemnity (Nov, 1908), and to make an official tour of inspection to Japan and seven European capitals: London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg and Brussels (Feb - Jun, 1909); failed in efforts to secure American and German assistance in countering Japanese and Russian encroachments in Manchuria;

1909: lost post as Governor of Fengtien upon retirement of Yuan Shikai, following deaths of Guangxu 光绪 Emperor and Empress Dowager in previous year;

1910: appointed Expectant Vice President of Board of Communications, but resigned early in 1911;

1911: with outbreak of revolution and reinstatement of Yuan Shikai as supreme military commander of imperial forces, Tong replaced Sheng Xuanhuai 盛宣怀 as President of Board of Communications; made Minister of Communications in Yuan’s cabinet; December, appointed by Yuan as head of imperial delegation to negotiate peace with revolutionary delegates at Shanghai; supported abdication of Xuantong 宣统 Emperor;

1912 March: appointed Premier when Yuan was elected President of Republic; clashed with Yuan over conditions governing negotiation of foreign loans and basic political principles; June: resigned premiership when Yuan ignored the provisional constitution; retired to Tianjin;

1916: joined opposition to Yuan’s dissolution of the National Assembly and proclamation of his new “dynasty”; supported Sun Yat-sen’s political regime in south China;

1917: named Minister of Finance to Canton government, but did not formally assume office;

1919: left Canton for Shanghai for peace talks with northern representatives, but retired to Xiangshan 香山 (modern Zhongshan 中山, Guangdong 广东) in October;

During 1920s: refused several offers to return to government offices;

1929: named by Chiang Kai-shek “superior adviser” to National Government at Nanking, but ignored the appointment;

During 1930s: continued to support semi-independence of southern political groups;

1931: assumed position of head of Zhongshan district, planned Zhongshan Port project to improve local economy;

1934: political status untenable due to warlordism in Canton, retired to French concession at Shanghai;

30 September 1938: assassinated at his home in Shanghai on rumors he was negotiating with Japanese then in control of north China.7

Employment Sector(s) Government

Final Rank, if in Gov't Service Premier of Republic of China (highest rank, but not final)

Father's Name Tang Yongda 唐永大 a.k.a. Tang Juchuan 唐巨川: tea merchant in Shanghai8

Mother's Name  
Wife/wives Zhang 张氏 d. 1900 ; Tan9 谭氏; Zheng 郑氏10 d. 1911; 吴氏 Wu Wei-chao, m. 1 June 1913, in Shanghai11.

Family Relations w/ other CEM Students Probably related to other CEM students of surname Tong, especially Tong Yuen Chan (Tang Yuanzhan 唐元湛 II, 53) and Tong Chi Yao (Tang Zhiyao 唐致尧 III, 73), said to be natives of Tang Jia 唐家, Tong shao Yi's birthplace in Xiangshan Xian 香山县, Guangdong ⼴东; possibly also related to Tong Wing Ho (Tang Ronghao 唐榮浩IV, 105) and Tong Wing Chun (Tang Rongjun 唐榮俊IV, 106), both of Guangzhou 广州, Guangdong.    First cousin of Liang Yu Ho (Liang Ruhao 梁如浩III, 62), a.k.a. M. T. Liang. Tong's sixth daughter Mabel Tong (Tang Baoquan 唐宝琄) married P. T. “Pete” Liang (Liang Baochang 梁宝暢), third son of Liang Yu Ho.12

Children's Names Sons: (1) Tang Liu (Lewis) 唐榴;
(2) Tang Dong 唐棟;
(3) Tang Zhu 唐柱;
(4) Tang Liang 唐梁;
(5) Tang Li 唐櫟;
(6) Tang Jian 唐楗.

Daughters (third "Emily," fourth, and seventh died young):
(1) Tang Baozhu (Elsie) 唐寶珠;
(2) Tang Baozhang (Isabel) 唐寶璋;
(5) Tang Baoyue (May/Mei 梅) 唐寶玥;
(6) Tang Baoquan (Mabel) 唐寶琄;
(8) Tang Baomei (Edith, or “Mimi”) 唐寶玫;
(9) Tang Baolian 唐寶璉;
(10) Tang Baoyun 唐寶玧;
(11) Tang Baorong 唐寶瑢;
(12) Tang Baoshen 唐寶珅;
(13) Tang Baoshan (Irene) 唐寶珊.13

Descendants 3rd generation: 15 grand-children, including grandsons Peter Tonglao 唐平; Bobby Liang 梁观耀; granddaughter Patricia Koo Tsien 顾菊珍

Other Before joining the CEM, Tong had studied English when living in Shanghai with his father.8

In 1886, while serving as Secretary at the Chinese Legation in Seoul, Tong excavated a stone monument said to have been erected in A.D. 660 at the site of the last capital of the ancient Kingdom of Baekje (or: Paekche 百濟; Japanese: Kudara), commemorating its destruction by the combined armies of Tang China and the Kingdom of Silla.  The monument had been lost since the 11th century when Tong rediscovered it and was able to make a rubbing of its text.  But it was reburied on site after a storm ravaged the area and convinced the local population that "spirit" forces preferred it to remain hidden underground.  For a narrative of this incident and the monument’s Chinese text see unsigned article, “A Celebrated Monument / Marking the Fall of Pak-Je”, in The Korea Review, A Monthly Magazine, edited by Homer B. Hulbert, A.M., F.R.G.S. (Seoul: Methodist Publishing House, 1902), pp. 102-107.  (Source courtesy Reed Tang.)

Notes and Sources 1.  LaFargue (1987), p. 130; Qian & Hu (2003), p. 81; Qian & Hu (2004), p. 93.  On "Ajax" cf. "Connecticut's Role in China's Republic", in Hartford Courant Magazine, Sunday, 27 April 1947, p. D5: "…nicknamed 'Ajax' by Hartford schoolfellows owing to the size of his biceps and his readiness to fight when boys called him 'Chinese girl' in his pigtail and satin gown."  (Source courtesy Reed Tang.)

2. Some Chinese sources give Tong’s age upon arrival in the U.S. as 12 sui 岁 (birth in 癸亥 year Tongzhi 2 or 1863). A recent biographical study of Tong’s life and career, Zhuhai (1998), states Tong’s date of birth was ‭ ‬辛酉‭ ‬year, Xianfeng 11.12.3, or 2 January 1862. Reckoning by this date, on the day of the Third Detachment’s departure from Shanghai, Tongzhi 13.8.10, or 20 September 1874, Tong was 14‭ ‬sui, or 12 years old. For date of Third Detachment’s departure, see Rhoads (2011), p. 39.

3.  Hinners (1999), p. 6; years at Hooker School, Rhoads (2011), p. 91, Table 7.1; at HPHS: p. 96, Table 7.2; athletics:  Hinners (1999), p. 7.
4.  “New York University” in Boorman and Howard (1967), Vol. III, p. 233.

5. Horace H. Allen, comp., A Chronological Index: some of the chief events in the foreign intercourse of Korea from the beginning of the Christian era to the twentieth century. ([Seoul:] Press of Methodist publishing house, 1901), pp. 12, 13.  Source kindly supplied by Reed Tang.

6. Diplomatic Postings (1985), p. 79.

7. Hinners (1999), pp. 46-47.

8. Zhang Xiaohui, “Tang Shaoyi: the First Cabinet Prime Minister of the Republic” in Celebrities (2001), p. 67.

9.  The second wife of Tong Shao Yi, née Tan 谭, is identified in the sources as qie 妾, meaning any woman taken as a man’s unmarried spouse, subordinate to his principal wife, but installed in a second household with sufficient maintenance for her and her offspring by her husband.

10. The compilers of Zhuhai (1998) identify Tong’s third wife, née 郑 Zheng, as of Korean ancestry.  According to The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Adviser, 24 Nov. 1910, p. 4, she died in Beijing, 11 Nov. 1910. (Source courtesy Reed Tang.)

11. The North China Herald, June 7, 1913, p. 748.  According to this report, the father of Wu Wei-chao was said to be "Mr. Wu, comprador of Messrs. Melchers & Co." (Source courtesy Reed Tang.)  Description of Tong's marriage to "20-year-old Wu Vi-jau, the daughter of a Chinese business executive" in Hinners (1999), pp. 38-39; wedding photograph, dated "June 1st 1913", reproduced on p. 40.

12. Hinners (1999), p. 102.

13. Western names for the daughters of Tong Shao Yi are based upon Hinners (1999), pp. 102-3, and a list of the names of seven of his children written by Tong on a print of a photograph, taken in September 1908 in the courtyard of Tong's home in Tianjin, showing his children posed together with the children of Yung Kwai (Rong Kui 容揆 II, 34). The print of this photograph, originally presented to E. C. Gardner and signed 16 Jan. 1909, is now in the Yung Kwai Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.