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Liang Tun Yen


1. At 17 years (LaFargue Collection)  2. 1905 CEM Reunion (LaFargue Collection)


Pinyin & Chinese characters Liang Dunyan  梁敦彦

Variant Spellings & Other Names Tun Liang Yen

Other Chinese Name(s) 字: 朝璋,别字: 崧生

Detachment 1

LaFargue No. 11

Date Of Birth Nov. 4, 1858

Place of Birth Shunde 顺德 District, Leiliu Town 勒流镇, Longyan Village 龙眼乡, Guangdong Province

Age at Departure for US 15 (Lunar Calendar); 13 (Western Calendar, by birthdate)

Date of Death May 11, 1924, of pneumonia

Place of Death Beijing

Place(s) of Residence in US Hartford, CT;
New Haven, CT, while student at Yale:

1878-79 Freshman yr: 126 High Street (Yale Banner, v. 35 [1878], p. 32)
1879-80 Sophomore yr: 48 College Street (Yale Banner, v. 36 [1879], p. 29)
1880-81 Junior yr: 85 North Middle College, "Old Brick Row" (Yale Banner, v. 37 [1880], p. 29)

American Host Family/ies Prof. David Bartlett; was taught English by Mary Bartlett, the eldest daughter.

School(s), with dates Hartford West Middle Grammar School, CT;

Hartford Public High School, CT, May 18, 1874 – April 18, 1878

Notable Activities/Awards in School

1878 Second place winner of annual Declamation Prize at Hartford Public High School, with prize money of $5.00.1

Recalled by his home tutor, Mary Bartlett, as “a boy of much promise and of very original ideas.” Something of an athlete at high school, he played some football but was especially fond of baseball. He was catcher for the class team (Hartford Courant, 25 April, 1907, p. 15).

Baseball pitcher (south-paw) in school & on The Orientals, the CEM boys’ baseball team

Gave a graduation speech, “The Northern Bear” – a strong indictment of Russian foreign policy – which was highly praised

College/University, with dates Yale, 1878-1881

Notable Activities/Awards in College

1878 Member of Freshman Baseball Team (so noted in his Yale Obituary, but not in the Yale News April 1879 articles about the team)

Member of Kappa Sigma Epsilon Freshman (secret) Society (The Yale Banner, 1878-79, p. 59)

1880 Member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Junior Society

Degree/Diploma Obtained (date) 1907 July 12: B.A., with enrolment, class of 1882 (Yale); LL.D. (Hons.) from Yale, 21 June, 1911

First Assignment in China Taught English in Government Telegraph College in Tianjin for about 1 yr.

Later Positions

Qing period: Aug. 1883 returned to Guangzhou to serve as secretary and advisor to Governor-General Zhang Zhidong 张之洞 (Dec. 1883-1909);

1886 followed Zhang to Wuzhang; 1900 during Boxer Rebellion, maintained good relations with foreign consuls to secure peace in the Yangtze region;

1903 Mar.  Appointed a director of the Shanghai-Soochow-Nanking Railway (North China Herald, 1903.3.12, p. 489)

1904 Apr.  Promoted to Customs Daotai (江汉关道) at Hankou; Sep.  Transferred to post of Maritime Customs Daotai of Tianjin (津海关道); shortly after, also appointed Director of Beijing-Fengtian Railway (京奉铁路总办);

1904-07 President of Beiyang University (北洋大学), Tianjin;

1906 Appointed Chief Commissioner to inquire into causes of the Nanjing massacre, successfully resolving diplomatic rupture with France.

1907 Apr. Concurrently, Comptroller General of Imperial Maritime Customs;

1907 Spring: appointed Minister to the U.S. to succeed Sir Chentung Liang Cheng (Liang Pixu 梁丕旭 IV, 118); but, instead of being sent to the post, he was retained for appointment to the Board of Foreign Affairs ("Sir Chentung’s Successor," New York Times, 24 Apr. 1907, p. 5);

1908 July - July 1909: as Assistant Secretary, Board of Foreign Affairs (Waiwubu 外务部), Liang met with U.S. Minister to China, William Rockhill, to finalize the partial return of the Boxer Indemnity funds, to be used for sending Chinese students to American post-secondary institutions.  He took part in devising the plan to set up the Bureau of Educational Mission to the United States 游美学务处 for administering the scheme, and Tsinghua College 清华学堂, the preparatory school for preparing students to study in the U.S.2;

1908 Summer: Empress Dowager Cixi wished to send Liang as Special Ambassador on Mission to thank the U.S. for the partial Remission of the Boxer Indemnity, but Liang declined (North China Herald, 1 Aug. 1908, p. 295);

1908 Aug. 31: "Liang Tun Yen, assistant secretary of the Board of Foreign Affairs, is the leading candidate for the post [Minister for China] at Washington in succession to Wu Ting Fang" (Montreal Gazette, 1 Sep. 1908, p. 13);

1908 Oct.: Appointed to commission to welcome the official visit of the Second Squadron of the U.S. Battleship Fleet World Cruise ("The Great White Fleet") at Amoy, 29 Oct 1908 - 5 Nov 1908;

1908 Dec.: Acting President, then President (Jan. 24, 1909) of Board of Foreign Affairs (North China Herald, 1909-01-30, p. 239) and Imperial Counselor;
1910 July resigned for health reasons;

1910 Aug. Appointed Minister-at-Large for Europe & America to negotiate an Arbitration treaty and revision of China’s Customs Tariff;

1911 May: Reappointed President, Board of Foreign Affairs and Imperial Advisor of Imperial Privy Council;
Nov.: Appointed Minister of State (for Foreign Affairs) in Yuan Shikai's 袁世凯 cabinet (Far Eastern Review, Nov. 1911, p. 193).

Republican period: 1914 Minister of Communications in Yuan Shikai’s  administration;

1917 July 1-12: Minister of Foreign Affairs during the short-lived restoration of Emperor Xuantong 宣统 (Puyi 溥仪). When the Royalist coup led by General Zhang Xun failed, Liang and other Royalists took refuge at the Dutch Legation. Some months later, he was pardoned.5;

1922 June 14: Reappointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and also Acting Premier of the New Central Government ("The Chinese Cabinet," The Register [Adelaide, S. Australia], 16 June, 1922, p. 7).

Employment Sector(s) Government: various ministries and departments

Final Rank, if in Gov't Service Qing era: Shangshu 尚书; Republic: 1914-16 Minister of Communications; Qing restoration: Minister of Foreign Affairs

Father's Name Liang Li Fung 梁文锐 (号励峰), a businessman
Mother's Name Ms. Zheng of Xiangshan

Wife/wives (1) 1883 Ms. Len of Sah Fu (d. 1885);
(2) 1889 Ms. Pan of Panyu

Family Relations w/ other CEM Students A daughter m. 2nd son of Jeme Tien Yau (Zhan Tianyou 詹天佑 I, 15)

Children's Names

From second wife:
2 sons: Che Hwo and Che Chiang
1 daughter: Ai San

Descendants Liang Shiping [ 梁世平] (g/s)


Studied at Government Central School (aka Victoria College), Hong Kong, before being selected for the CEM.3

In the fall of 1909, Liang invited Mary Bartlett's younger sisters, Margaret and Louise, to spend about a year in China as "governesses" to  his two ons, apparently to prepare them for school in America. "They will live in a palace, receive a generous income, and hold their positions as long as they wish." (Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Nov. 1909, p. 5).  In Nov. 1910, Liang brought his wife and three children to the United States and visited Hartford to pay his respects to his former teacher Mary and friends and to leave his younger son in the home of Martin Welles, one of his best friends at Hartford Public High School and at Yale.  Though the visit was billed as a private one for health reasons, he was accompanied by ex-CEM colleague Tong Kwo On (Tang Guoan 唐国安 II, 49) as his personal secretary.  At the time Tong was a Vice-director of the joint Foreign Ministry-Education Ministry department charged with the selection of students to be educated in U.S. with reimbursed Boxer Indemnity funds. Observers speculated that Liang also had sensitive government business to deal with during this trip (New York Times, 11 Nov. 1910, p. 1; Hartford Courant, 29 Nov. 1910, p. 11).

1913 Oct. - Liang served as the first chairman of the Western Returned Scholars Association (WRSA) 欧美同学会 est. in Peking.

Awards, Qing period -

The Baoxing medal (宝星); Order of the Double Dragon, 1st Class (双龙章);3

1905 - The Red Eagle, awarded by the German Kaiser3

Awards, Republican period -

Order of Luxuriant Grain (Jiahe Zhang 嘉禾章), 1st Class;4

Notes and Sources

Information about Liang was drawn from LaFargue (1987) and an anon. biographical sketch, 2-paged typescript document now in LaFargue (Pullman).  This data has been emended when necessary with material from historical newspapers and recent Chinese publications.

1. Hartford Catalogue (1941), p. 66. 

2.  Michael H. Hunt, "The American Remission of the Boxer Indemnity: A Reappraisal," The Journal of Asian Studies, 31: 3 (May, 1972), p. 554. 

3. Who’s Who (1917; 1978), 88.

4.  "Returned American Students Decorated," North China Herald, 1908.8.4, p. 267.

5.  See "Chinese Yale Graduate a Refugee," Philadelphia Inquirer, 30 Aug. 1917, p. 7.