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Tsai Shou Kee


1. Circa 1876, LaFargue Collection 2. 1878: Member "Orientals" baseball team 3. Yale Class Book 4. Yale Class Book


Pinyin & Chinese characters Cai Shaoji  蔡绍基

Variant Spellings & Other Names Tsai Chen Chi
Tsai Shen Shi
Tsoy Sin Kee
Shou Ki Tsai
"Old Jew"

Other Chinese Name(s) 蔡述堂

Detachment 1

LaFargue No. 1

Date of Birth 9 Oct. 1860 in Yale records.1

Place of Birth 香山县北岭村 Beiling Village, Xiangshan District, Guangdong Province

Age at Departure for US 13 or 14 (Lunar Calendar)

Date of Death 23 May 1933

Place of Death Tianjin

Place(s) of Residence in US Hartford, CT

American Host Family/ies David Bartlett

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

Hartford Public High School (1875-1879)

Notable Activities/Awards in School Member of The Orientals, the CEM baseball team.

At the Class of 1879 graduation exercises April 17, Tsai was one of ten students appointed to give an oration (Hartford Daily Courant, Mar. 4, 1879, p. 2).  He gave an impassioned speech on “The Opium Trade” attacking the British trade policies towards China, which was very well received.

College/University, with dates Yale College (1879-1881)

Notable Activities/Awards in College 1879 Member of Kappa Sigma Epsilon Freshman (secret) Society (Yale Banner, 1879-80, p. 60).
Degree/Diploma Obtained (date)  
First Assignment in China Assistant translator for the Daotai at Tianjin.

Later Positions

A clerk for the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company and translator for the Great Northern Telegraph Company, Shanghai.  Next, taught English in a night school.1

Short-term translator for governor Sheng Xuanhuai 盛宣怀;

1886 employed as a private secretary by Yuan Shikai 袁世凯, Chinese Resident in Korea;

1889 given rank of magistrate; 1893 became associate-director of the Chien-p'ing gold mine; 1894 lost all his possessions during Sino-Japanese War and forced to make a new start.1

Returned to China after the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95);

1897 Involved in administration of Beiyang School 北洋二等学堂 in Tianjin;5

Around 1898 was involved in establishing the Zhongxi College 中西学堂  in Tianjin which in 1903 became Beiyang University 北洋大学 of which Tsai became its first president, Aug. 1902-June 1903 and again, 1908-1910;

1897-1900 Tsai was the first and only Chinese member of the British Municipal Extension Council in Tianjin; During the Boxer uprising (1900) he again suffered great loss of property; 1902 again served under Yuan Shikai as Director of Beiyang Bureau of Foreign Affairs, Tianjin; 1903 appointed director of foreign affairs in Tientsin, and also adjunct commissioner of customs.1

1907-1910 succeeded Liang Yu Ho (Liang Ruhao 梁如浩 III, 62) as Customs Commissioner at Tianjin; Chief of Customs at Newchwang in South Manchuria.

Also acted as judge for civil and criminal cases; Transferred to Tianjin to be customs daotai there, with additional duties of aide-de-camp to the viceroy of Chihli Province and commissioner of Coast Defense.1

1911 called to Peking by Imperial Government to be senior deputy vice president of the Board of Foreign Affairs, serving until the abdication of the Emperor.

1912 declined the governorship of Mukden, 1913 also declined post of Chinese Minister to the United States.1

Employment Sector(s) Government; Educational Administration

Final Rank, if in Gov't Service  
Father's Name 蔡雨琴  (〈北岭徐氏宗谱〉卷之五〈世纪录〉, 肇修堂本)6 
Mother's Name  


"Tsai has been twice married, his first wife having died in 1902."2
Tsai married a younger sister of Xu Run 徐润, the prominent entrepreneur who was tasked to recruit boys for the CEM. Tsai and Xu were from the same village.6
Family Relations w/ other CEM Students Tsai's eldest daughter, Annie Cai Guiqing 蔡桂卿 married  Wu Qifen 吴其芬, the younger brother of Woo Kee Tsao (Wu Qizao  吴其藻 IV, 100): "Annie, born 1888...married, 1907, to Wu Kie Fun, M.D. (Imperial Medical School, Tientsin)"3
Children's Names As of 1910, seven by first wife: 1) Bartlett Kuohua, son b. 1886-1903; 2) Kuo Tsao, son, b. Jan. 2, 1887: attended Andover Academy, 1903, entered Cornell, 1905, graduated (Mech. Eng.), 1909 and took graduate course in electrical engineering at Columbia; 3) Annie, b. 1888; 4) Lily, b. 1890; 5) Kuo Pao, b. 1891, attended Andover, 1906, entered Yale (Sheffield Scientific School, class of 1912), M.A. Columbia 1913; 6) Daisy, b. 1893; 7) Charles Kuo Chun, b. 1902; 8) son by second wife.
Tsai's eldest daughter, Annie Cai Guiqing 蔡桂卿 married  Wu Qifen 吴其芬, the younger brother of Woo Kee Tsao (Wu Qizao  吴其藻 IV, 100): "Annie, born 1888...married, 1907, to Wu Kie Fun, M.D. (Imperial Medical School, Tientsin)"3

Subsequently, Tsai had another eight children.1


(Descendants data is incomplete)

GGD: Mrs. Diana Crozier Gazdik. Her grandmother, Lucy Tsai (1912-1995), was born to a mistress of Tsai Shou Kee, known only as Grace.  Mrs. Gazdik's other great-grandfather was Chang Tso-lin (Zhang Zuolin 张作霖), the warlord of Manchuria nicknamed "Old Marshall"; her grandfather, Chang Hsueh-tseng, 1911-2004 (M.A. Princeton 1942), was a younger brother of Chang Hsueh-liang (Zhang Xueliang 张学良), the "Young Marshall," who ordered the kidnapping of Nationalist chief Chiang Kai-shek 蒋介石 during the Xi'an Incident in 1936.7

Alfred Tsai

Other German medal - The Red Eagle, awarded by the Kaiser4
Notes and Sources

1. Hartford Public High School Class of 1879 50th Reunion Yearbook, undated; sourced from www.rootsweb.com/~cthartfo/(cache); reformatted with obvious textual errors corrected by Bruce Chan, accessed on 12 August. 2006.

2. Yale (1883 Book), 285.

3. Yale (1883 Book), 287.

4.  "Returned American Students Decorated," North China Herald, 1905.8.4, p. 267.

5.  Data based on a letter that Tsai wrote on 13 Dec. 1897 to Sheng Xuanhuai 盛宣怀 reporting on practical matters relating to the Beiyang School; digitized copy provided by Reed Tang.

6. Digital pages from the Xu family lineage book, courtesy of Reed Tang. The marriage is also noted by Xu Run 徐润 in Xu Yuzhai Zixu Nianpu 〈徐愚斋自叙年谱〉 (Autobiographical Chronicle of Xu Yuzhai). Documents of Recent Chinese History Series, No. 51 (Taipei: Wenhai Publishing, 1978).  See also on this website: History chapter: Origins of the Chinese Educational Mission, p. 2.

7. Thanks to Mrs. Gazdik for the information. See also obituary of Hsueh Tseng Chang in Town Topics (Princeton weekly newspaper), Vol. LVIII, No. 52, Dec. 29, 2004, Web edition http://www.towntopics.com/dec2904/obits.html (15/05/2012)