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The CEM Staff: Three Notable Figures Print E-mail


Teacher, Interpreter, Linguist, News Media Activist

   Tseng’s successor as Interpreter, Kwong Ki Chiu (Kuang Qizhao 邝其照), had also taught English at the CEM preparatory school in Shanghai.2  Born probably in 1841 (other sources: 1836, 1843 and 1845), in a village in Xinning 新宁 (now known as Taishan 台山) District, Kwong attended the Government Central College in Hong Kong (modern Queen’s College), where English was the chief language of instruction.  This might have provided him with a good grounding in the language and cultural knowledge that was to become so vital to his future career.3  At some unspecified time, Kwong served as the principal of a primary school.  He is also said to have made a living selling Chinese herbal medicines for a few years in Hong Kong, and later in Melbourne, Australia, where he acquired wealth and fluency in English.4

   Upon his return from Australia, Kwong worked as a translator in the Bureau of Foreign Affairs in Shanghai.  There he made contact with Yung Wing and collaborated with him in running the first Chinese-financed and operated newspaper named Huibao 《汇报》. After the paper was sold, he was employed by the Educational Commission's Preparatory School.  It is noteworthy that no less than three of his young relatives secured places in the CEM.  He is said to be the fifth uncle of Kwong Pin Kong (Kuang Bingguang 邝炳光  IV, 93), and of the brothers, Kwong Young Kong (Kuang Rongguang 邝荣光 I, 8) and Kwong Kwok Kong (Kuang Guoguang 邝国光 IV, 92).5 His first overseas assignment with the Mission occurred in 1874 when, together with Qi Zhaoxi 祁兆熙, he accompanied the Third Detachment of 30 boys in their journey to America.  He returned by way of Europe and, presumably, continued teaching at the CEM prep school.  In 1875, accompanied by his wife, he escorted the Fourth Detachment; but this time, he stayed on as the Mission’s Interpreter.  Kwong was also appointed  secretary and translator of the Chinese Dictionary Commission in the U.S.  No other information is currently available about this body, but whatever its function was, there were few Chinese more qualified for this responsibility, for Kwong was among the earliest Chinese lexicographers to compile an English-Chinese dictionary: in 1868 his pioneer work was published in Hong Kong as 《字典集成》, which in 1875 was updated and enlarged as the English Chinese Dictionary 《华英字典集成》.

   While in Hartford, Kwong suffered a string of personal tragedies: first, his young wife Shaoqin died of an illness in September 1877; secondly, about the middle of 1879, both his parents died.  Obeying the government rule that forbade an official to hold office during bereavement for a parent, he resigned his post to mourn for 27 months.  During this interval, he applied his energies to lexicography and completed his massive work, A Dictionary of English Phrases With Illustrative Sentences, published in 1881 by A. S. Barnes & Co. in New York, San Francisco, Chicago; by Sampson Low Marston & Co. in London; and by Lane Crawford & Co. in Yokohama.6 This was no ordinary dictionary, but a groundbreaking reference tool, for it gave the meaning of over six thousand English phrases, with examples of their usage, explained common idioms, proverbs, foreign European expressions, and Chinese maxims. It also provided a historical survey of the Chinese dynasties, as well as sketches of the lives of Confucius and Jesus Christ.  This first edition carried the signed testimonials of 13 eminent educators, including Presidents Charles H. Eliot of Harvard, and Noah Porter, Jr. of Yale, as well as English professors from the top universities of the day.  That such a comprehensive work on their native tongue should have come from a “Chinaman” excited widespread wonder from the English-speaking critics.  The Shanghai edition was later supplemented with Chinese translations.  Widely used in the country for many decades, Kwong’s Dictionary may well have been the earliest book in English to be written and published by a Chinese in America.7

   Like Tseng, Kwong Ki Chiu stepped beyond the confines of his job at the CEM to participate in the affairs of his temporary country of residence.  Described as “a very likeable gentleman and a man, apparently, of wealth,” he made many friends with Americans.  Though it is unclear how he obtained the audience, soon after his arrival in America, despite his junior rank, Kwong called upon President Grant “to pay his respects” (Alexandria Gazette, 17 Nov. 1874).  He then entered Hartford’s leading social and intellectual circle to which Yung Wing belonged, and which included Joseph R. Hawley, the former Republican Governor of Connecticut and owner of the Hartford Courant, the Rev. Joseph Twichell and the famous author, Mark Twain.8  Using his social and bilingual skills, Kwong often negotiated ethnic and national barriers to bring Americans of both sexes and his Chinese CEM colleagues together for social gatherings.  Also, when compiling his Dictionary of English Phrases Kwong secured the help of three Americans to advise him on the intricacies of American idioms and colloquialisms: Rev. C.S. Sylvester, Moses C. Welch, and E.J. Edwards, a journalist and magazine editor.9 However, in the late 1870s, Kwong was deeply troubled by the agitation against Chinese immigrants and by the violent attacks on Chinese residents  in the western states.  When Congress was under intense pressure by the anti-Chinese elements to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, he wrote a series of letters to the New York Herald to protest the bill and persuade the politicians to vote it down.10 In fact, during the heated Senate debates on the bill, Senator Joseph R. Hawley of Connecticut defended the rights of the Chinese, referring to Kwong as his personal friend.11 Exploiting the right of free speech in America, Kwong joined his voice with those of Chen, Yung and the Chinese Government in standing up for his compatriots.

   After the departure of the CEM in the fall of 1881, Kwong stayed on in Hartford with his young son who had been born there five years earlier, and continued to develop pedagogical material for Chinese learners of English.  His output of language-learning publications was nothing short of prolific.  The following year appeared Kwong’s Educational Series, in English and Chinese, First, Second and Third Conversation Book. Designed for Use in Schools, concurrently published in Shanghai, London and San Francisco.12  By the time he returned to his homeland, he had completed a greatly enlarged edition of his bilingual dictionary, which was issued in 1887 with a double title-page: 《華英字典集成, 光绪十三年重鐫》/An English and Chinese Dictionary, Compiled from the Latest and Best Authorities, and Containing all Words in Common Use, with Many Examples of their Use…, and again published simultaneously in Shanghai, London, Hong Kong and San Francisco.  As cited on the English title-page of this dictionary, by that time, he had also published a Manual of Correspondence and Social Usages, Comprehensive Geography and other educational books.

   The global publishing arrangements for his books show that Kwong was a shrewd businessman who operated with an international perspective.  Moreover, Kwong’s subsequent career shows how he combined this with his commitment to education and wider social issues.  Perhaps with the idea of later going into publishing, he learned the technique of electrotype printing from William H. Lockwood & Sons, a printing firm in Hartford.13 By early 1883, Kwong had returned to China with his son.  In October 1884, amidst the dispute with France over the status of Vietnam (which had led to the Sino-French War of 1884-1885) he was appointed deputy of the local bureau of foreign affairs under the reformist Governor-general Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 in Canton.14 With Zhang’s blessing, in 1886, he founded Canton News (Guangbao) 《广报》, the first native-owned and run Chinese newspaper in the province.15  In 1891, the paper was closed down by by Zhang’s successor for exposing officials’ misconduct.  Perhaps to avoid further trouble from the authorities, he moved to the Anglo-French concession of Shamian 沙面 and, with British sponsorship, the paper was restarted with the title Chinese and Western Daily (Zhongxi Ribao) 《中西日报》.  According to Wu Zhicheng’s article (cited in note 2 below), in 1895, after the inception of the Revive China Society (Xingzhonghui) 兴中会, Sun Yat-sen published an article in the newly restarted daily, calling for the establishment of an agricultural college. Wu also stated that in 1900 the paper was shut down by the foreign authorities in Shamian for publishing news of a Boxer victory and that Kwong died in early years of the Republican era.  The truth is, what became of Kwong since 1890 is quite unclear.  News of his death at the age of 50 was carried in the Hong Kong press on 27 June, 1891 and republished on page 4 of the North China Herald on July 3rd.