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Tseng Poo


Yale University


Pinyin & Chinese characters Zeng Pu 曾溥
Variant Spellings & Other Names Elijah Thien Foh Laisun

Other Chinese Name(s) Zeng Zimu 曾子睦 or 曾子穆

Detachment 21

LaFargue No. 46

Date of Birth 4 October 18542

Place of Birth Shanghai

Age at Departure for US 18 (Western Calendar)3

Date of Death 7 December 1889 died suddenly while on a business trip to Hong Kong
Place of Death Hong Kong

Place(s) of Residence in US Bay St., Springfield, MA

American Host Family/ies Lived in his father’s house in Springfield.

School(s), with dates Elm Street School, Springfield, MA, 1872

Springfield High School, 1873.

Notable Activities/Awards in School October 1874: gave speech before Springfield High School science club on "the religious beliefs of the Chinese."4
College/University, with dates Entered Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, September 1874, passing entrance exams with distinction.4 Graduated Sheffield Scientific School with Class of 1877, though by then no longer connected with the CEM. Spent a year and half in Freiberg, Saxony (now Federal Republic of Germany), for postgraduate study of mining engineering.5
Notable Activities/Awards in College Elected Class Poet in second semester, 1874; belonged to the Glee Club.6

Degree/Diploma Obtained (date) Ph.B., Civil Engineering, Sheffield Scientific School, 1877

First Assignment in China  
Later Positions

1881: Listed as "E. Laisun, Assistant Engineer" in the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company 开平矿务局 in Tianjin.7

Mining Engineer.  Commissioned to open copper mines in Eastern Mongolia; offered post of chief engineer for government railroads, but declined.8

Employment Sector(s) Mining engineering.

Final Rank, if in Gov't Service  
Father's Name Tseng Laisun (Zeng Laishun) 曽来顺

Mother's Name Ruth Ati

Family Relations w/ other CEM Students Older brother of Spencer Laisun, i.e., Tseng Tuh Kun (Zeng Dugong 曽笃恭 I, 30).

Children's Names  
Other Tseng Laisun (1826-1895), the father of the brothers Elijah Laisun (Tseng Poo) and Spencer Laisun (Tseng Tuh Kun [Zeng Dugong 曽笃恭 I, 30]), was a native of Singapore, the son of a Chinese father with ancestral roots in the Chaozhou region of Guangdong. The boys’ mother, Ruth Ati (1825-1917), born in Java in the Dutch East Indies, was of Malay ethnicity.  Both parents received Christian baptism in their early years and were educated in English-speaking missionary schools.  All six of their children (three daughters and three sons) were taught to speak English. When the CEM’s preparatory school was opened in Shanghai in the winter of 1871, the father and his two sons served as the students’ first teachers of English.  In the summer of 1872 the entire family sailed with the 1st Detachment to the United States where Tseng Laisun was the Mission’s official Interpreter until his recall to China in December 1874.9

Notes and Sources

Principal source for biographical data on Tseng Poo and family: Rhoads (2005), supplemented by the author's unpublished update and correction of 29 March 2005.  Dates of birth and death as given in Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University Deceased during the Year ending in June, 1891, p. 67. 

1. Though included among the boys of the 2nd Detachment, Tseng Poo arrived in the U.S. on 12 September 1872 with the other members of his family, all of whom had traveled with the 1st Detachment. 

2. Rhoads (2005), 30.

3. Tseng Poo was 18 years old by Western reckoning when he departed China in 1872 with the 1st Detachment; he was 19 years old in 1873, the year of the 2nd Detachment’s departure for the U.S.

4. Rhoads (2005), 37.

5. Rhoads (2005), 38; 54.

6. Tseng Poo was reported to have lost or cut off his queue in his first year at the Sheffield Scientific School, resulting in his expulsion from the CEM. New York Times, 26 Aug. 1875, 2: “Mr. Laisun’s son, Elijah,…was dropped by the commission some time since for the loss of his queue, which some of his fellow-students cut off by way of ‘hazing’ him, although there was a rumor at the time, stoutly denied by his friends, that the act was done with Laisun’s connivance.”  (Cf. Article "A Chance Meeting," in Hartford Courant, 27 Aug 1900, p.3, which appears to place the blame for the closing of the whole Mission on this queue-cutting incident.)  Tseng remained at Yale and graduated in 1877, the first CEM student to receive a college degree. Rhoads (2005), 37-38, with update and correction of 29 March 2005.

7.  The 1881 Directory and Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, etc., p. 364. Data courtesy of Mr. Peter A. Crush of Hong Kong.  

8. Rhoads (2011), p. 200.

9. Rhoads (2005), 22-23; 28; 50.