Text Size S M L
Print E-mail

Wong Kai Kah


1. 1878: Member, "Orientals" baseball team, LaFargue Collection 2. Age 19, circa 1878, LaFargue Collection 3. Circa 1879-81, Yale Book 1883 4. Yale Book 1883


Pinyin & Chinese characters Huang Kaijia  黄开甲

Variant Spellings & Other Names Kie Kah Wong
“Breezy Jack”

Other Chinese Name(s) 黄子元

Detachment 1

LaFargue No. 17

Date of Birth 13 March 18601

Place of Birth Chenping, Guangdong Province (Chinese sources); Shanghai, in Yale records.1

Age at Departure for US 13 (Lunar Calendar)

Date of Death 25 January 19061

Place of Death Yokohama, Japan1; see "Other" below for details.

Place(s) of Residence in US Hartford, CT

American Host Family/ies David Bartlett

School(s), with dates Jan. 1875: West Middle Public School, Hartford [Robyn (1996), p. 29];

Hartford Public High School, Class of 1879

Notable Activities/Awards in School 1877: 2nd prize in Reading and Declamation at HPHS [Hartford Catalogue (1941), p. 66];

Member of The Orientals, the CEM baseball team;

At the Class of 1879 graduation exercises April 17, Wong was one of ten students appointed to give an oration (Hartford Daily Courant, 4 Mar. 1879, p. 2).  Wong gave a speech on the life of the eminent French Minister of Finances, Jean Baptiste Colbert, and received hearty applause as well as a basket of flowers.

College/University, with dates Yale College, 1879-81

Notable Activities/Awards in College 1879 Member of Freshman (secret) Society, Kappa Sigma Epsilon (The Yale Banner, 1879-80, p. 60).

Degree/Diploma Obtained (date) B.A. with enrollment, Yale Class of 1883 awarded 1904, in response to petitions by members of the class and Yale alumni of St. Louis.1

First Assignment in China Translator at Shanghai Water Conservancy Bureau

Later Positions

No later than 1882, Wong and Tseng Tu Kun(Zeng Dugong 曾笃恭 I, 30) had opened a translation agency.  In 1884, he was listed under his alias "Wong Tsz Yuan" 黄子元 as a partner in the firm "Laisun & Co., Public Translators and Interpreters. House and Land Brokers" 繙譯華洋公事館 at 31 Nankin Road, Shanghai.5

Date unknown: Chief translator for The North China Herald newspaper (NCH, "30th January. A Loss to His Country", 1906.2.2, p. 227).

Translator for English on personal staff of high official Sheng Xuanhuai 盛宣怀 (Managing Director of China Merchants Steam Navigation Co. and Government Telegraph Administration);

1898 Aug.  Secretary of Imperial Railway Administration (NCH, 1898.8.8, pp. 257-8);

Commissioner of Hankow-Canton Railway1;

1902 Feb.  Second Secretary to the special embassy, headed by Prince Tsai Chen, sent to attend the coronation of King Edward VII in June ("The Special Embassy to London," NCH, 1902.2.26, p. 392);

Returned to China via the U.S. to attend the Washington Conference; first met President Theodore Roosevelt at this time and was entertained by him at lunch; also made his first return visit to Hartford2;

Decorated by the Emperor upon arriving home.1

1903 As China's Vice-commissioner at the Louisana Purchase Exposition, Wong brought his family to St. Louis to take charge of constructing the Chinese exhibit, with Mrs. Wong planning the interior decorations of the Chinese building and supervising the work until its completion in September.1

1904 as Assistant Imperial Commissioner, accompanied Prince Pu Lun 溥伦 to the U.S. to St. Louis Exposition and afterwards on a visit Washington and other cities; attended the Yale commencement that year;1

1905 Returned to America as a Member of the Chinese delegation at the Portsmouth Peace Conference, New Hampshire, which concluded the Russo-Japanese War;

Was trade commissioner at Yokohama, Japan.1

Employment Sector(s) Private Sector: Translation, Journalism; Government: Administration; Diplomatic Service

Final Rank, if in Gov't Service Daotai 道台 "promoted to brevet fourth rank of metropolitan court director" 京卿1 Wong "held the rank of a Metropolitan Officer of the 4th grade, with the brevet 2nd rank red button and peacock's feather"; was also decorated by the Emperor of Japan and by several European sovereigns (North China Herald, 2 Feb. 1906, p. 227). 

Father's Name 黄岳川 (worked in Customs Services at Shantou 汕头)

Mother's Name

Wife/wives Li Su Tsung of Shanghai, m. 1 Feb. 1887

Family Relations w/ other CEM Students  
Children's Names s: Vung Lung, b. 22 Jan. 1888, whose own first child was named "Gilbert Bartlett (b. 31 Dec. 1907 in Boston); d: Jung Ying, b. 22 Jan. 1891; d: Jung Yuk, 25 Dec. 1894; s: Vung Tsin, 20 Dec. 1897.

Descendants Tang Agnes  鄧慧嫻


‘…had such a gift of eloquence that, as one of his fellow students at Hartford put it, “he could make a fine speech when shaken from a sound slumber without a moment’s notice.”3

Wong's long letter of 28 Jan. 1882 to his former American host, Mrs. Fannie Bartlett, contains a detailed and vivid account of the treatment that his group of CEM returnees received upon their arrival in Shanghai. This vital piece of historical material about the initial fate of the recalled students is posted on the Thomas LaFargue Collection webpage at http://content.libraries.wsu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/5983/id/82. 

Wong sat on the panel of judges for a debate held in Chinese YMCA in Shanghai, 1 May 1901.  Conducted in English, it was on the motion: "Resolved, that the Boxer Uprising will be for the ultimate good of China."4  Also on the panel was New Shan Chow (Niu Shangzhou 牛尚周 I, 12).

1901 Oct.  At the dinner celebration of Yale's bi-centennial, Wong gave "a very enthusiastic, and very witty speech on 'Yale in the Eighties'" to Yale members of the American College Club in Shanghai (North China Herald, 23 Oct. 1901, pp. 791f).  

Wong's tragic death, at the prime of his career, resulted from a distressing freak accident.  At the end of 1905, suffering from "nervous exhaustion", Wong was advised by his physician to recuperate in a health resort in Japan.  On 24 January, after entering a bathroom he was overcome by charcoal fumes, fell against the stove, overturning it and was badly burned.  In his weakened condition, Wong did not recover from his treatment at Yokohama General Hospital and died after twenty hours of great suffering.1

Notes and Sources

1. Yale (1883 Book), 244-248, passim. Most of the data taken from this source.

2. Huang (2002),  17.

3. LaFargue (1987), 90-91.

4. "A Debate on the Results of the Boxer Uprising", North China Herald, 8 May 1901, p. 904.

5.  See "New England News-Boston and Vicinity," Worcester Daily Spy (MA), 8 March, 1883 (copy courtesy of CEM descendant Reed Tang).  See also, 1884 Desk Hong List for Shanghai, and the Northern and River Ports, p. 16.