Student Profiles

In this core section of the site, we present basic biographical information on each of the 120 students of the Chinese Educational Mission. Hitherto such information has appeared in different books and articles with varying degrees of detail and coverage and diverse modes of presentation.  The Profiles have been designed to gather as much of this scattered data as could be recovered from our sources, and to display it in a standardized format.

Profiles of individual students can be accessed by clicking on individual names in either of two Directories:

1) The “LaFargue Directory” lists the students' names in alphabetical order by surname according to the spelling system employed in the full list of CEM students found in LaFargue (1987), 173-176.  Because it seems to reflect the students’ own preferred spelling of their names we have adopted the “LaFargue spelling” as our standard throughout the web site.

(2) The “Pinyin Directory” lists the students' surnames in alphabetical order by surname according to the Romanized alphabet Pinyin zimu 拼音字母, the system officially adopted by the Chinese Government for educational purposes in 1958 and currently employed worldwide.  Pinyin spelling closely represents the pronunciation of Putonghua 普通话 or “common spoken language,” the present-day version of “Mandarin” Chinese.

In both Directories the students’ names are followed by the name in the alternative spelling, Chinese characters, Detachment number (Roman), and the number (Arabic) assigned to the student in the list published in LaFargue’s book.  Example:

LaFargue Directory:
Jeme Tien Yau
 Zhan Tianyou詹天佑 I, 15 
Pinyin Directory Zhan Tianyou
 Jeme Tien Yau詹天佑I, 15

At the top of each profile are links permitting the reader to return to the Directory. Clicking on the "Back" button will also return to the point of origin in the Directory.  

Sources of Information

We have derived data from sources that we believe are substantially reliable.  Some important sources, such as lists of the students’ names, including places and years of birth, are contemporary with the years of the CEM; others are of later date and include recent publications and web pages. For those students who became prominent in government following the CEM much information is known; for many others, regrettably, relatively little can be recovered, especially for those who engaged in private business and those who died at an early age.  With regard to those working in government, while we have endeavored to provide all available data on their positions, we have not attempted to list all their official rankings and titles as these were extremely intricate during the Qing era and are difficult to trace and to translate into English.  Where no data have been entered under a specific category, it is because none were available to us.

Historical Context

We have presented the data in the Student Profiles for the most part "as is," without any editorial comment.  Where the information or terminology may seem offensive or unacceptable to the modern reader, we trust that visitors to this site will take into account the historical context of what they find here. For example, prejudice against racial and ethnic minorities was common and widespread in the nineteenth century, and certain expressions of the time can be offensive by present-day social standards.  It is certain that the CEM students were exposed to such attitudes and that racial epithets were sometimes directed against them and their own kind.  In fact, however, some of the terms that offend modern ears (e.g., “coolie,” “chinaman,” “chinee,” “celestial,” “Mongolian,” and the like) may not have carried the same sting but were a more casually accepted part of the daily repartee in classrooms, and on the playing fields and the streets.

Given this social reality, even some of the Chinese students' nicknames (whether imposed on them by their American peers, or invented by themselves) reflect this nineteenth-century prejudice against racial and ethnic minorities in general.  Despite their demeaning character, we have included the few such insulting nicknames (such as "Old Jew" and "Africanus Sue") because they are part of the historical record of their experiences.

Lunar Calendar

We give the age of the students under Age at Departure for U.S. according to the traditional Chinese reckoning by the lunar calendar.  In this system age is regarded as the sum of calendar years of a person’s life: one’s age (sui 岁) advances with the beginning of each new calendar year.  The Western method expresses age (“years old”) by counting the number of full years of life: one’s age advances with the return of each birthday anniversary.  Because the Chinese count includes the year of birth as its first year, age by Chinese reckoning will always be greater than by the Western count.

The Chinese sources that we have relied upon normally provide only the students' years of birth and their ages at departure from China.  Where we know only these figures, we have entered the roughly equivalent year of birth by the Western calendar under Date of Birth.  The student's age entered under Age at Departure for US has been calculated accordingly, with a note in parenthesis that the reckoning was based on the lunar calendar.  However, whenever the student's date of birth by the Western calendar is also known, we record it and his age by Western count.

Feedback Requested

These Profiles, though compiled from the best available sources, are by no means complete or completely accurate.  We welcome new findings and more accurate data.  If you have any questions about any of the Profiles, or can provide additional or different information about any student(s), we would like to hear from you. Please click on CONTACT US and use the contact form to send us a message.  For larger items, please see RESOURCES – "Submissions".