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The CEM Staff: Three Notable Figures Print E-mail

Veteran “Boy Student", Translator, News Media Pioneer, Community Leader
   One other member of the CEM staff merits our attention in part because, like his old schoolmate Yung Wing, he was a living link between the CEM and its original inspiration.  Born in  Macao around 1826, Wong Shing (Huang Sheng 黄胜, 字“平甫”), studied at the Morrison Education Society School, first in Macao, then in Hong Kong.16  In 1847, together with Yung Wing and Wong Fun (Huang Kuan 黄宽), he was brought by their teacher the Rev. Dr. Samuel Brown to the U.S. to receive further education, but for health reasons, he withdrew after a few months and settled in Hong Kong.  Twenty-five years later, he virtually re-enacted his youthful experience as an America-bound student, though this time, as an adult guardian, for in 1873 he was given the task of escorting the Second Detachment of CEM boys to Hartford.
   With respect to his duties at the CEM, beyond the information that in 1878 he held the position of Secretary, the record is incomplete and chronologically baffling.  It is not known where and how he spent the years 1874-1876.  According to Robyn (1996), 149, he and Kwong Ki Chiu both served as translators and interpreters, 1876-79.  He and his three sons were in Hartford 1878-9, when they were received as accredited members of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, where the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell ― a strong supporter of Yung Wing and the CEM ― was the Minister.  Moreover, between 1878 and 1879, his footprints seemed to defy the laws of physics.  As late as April 18, 1879, he was still numbered among the CEM staff.17  Yet, during the previous summer, he had apparently been reassigned to the post of Interpreter for the Chinese Legation in Washington.18 This reappointment may have been induced by diplomatic requirements. In August 1878, Chen Lanbin 陈兰彬, the former original Commissioner of the CEM, returned to America, accompanied by three newly-appointed consuls-general and support staff.  Having been appointed China’s first Minister to the U.S. back in 1875, Chen now came to take up his post, and present his diplomatic credentials.  When his party arrived at Hartford for a temporary stay before proceeding to Washington, the local paper reported that “The delegation includes…Wong Shing, the interpreter with his three sons.”19 This language gives the impression that he had already been reassigned as interpreter for the Legation.  Finally, in late September, 1879, he was relieved of his duties at both the Legation and the Educational Mission.   By one account, he went on to be the Vice-consul at San Francisco, where he also engaged in Christian work among the Chinese on the West Coast whilst his three sons attended school in Hartford.20  However, by 1883, he had returned to Hong Kong, leaving his sons behind in America.21

   Wong’s tenure with the CEM appears to have been rather sporadic, and can in fact be viewed as an interlude in his main careers in Hong Kong and China.  Settling in the British colony in 1848, he worked for the China Mail newspaper, whose proprietor, Andrew Shortrede, had offered to finance the college education of the three Morrison alumni.  There he learned the printing trade as well as editing and translating.  As a convert who had been baptized during his sojourn in America, Wong continued his Christian activities in Hong Kong.  Around 1853 he was employed by the London Missionary Society to manage its printing facility at the LMS’s Anglo-Chinese College (Ying Wa College) 英华书院 and to help with producing its Chinese Serial  (Xiaer Guanzhen) 《遐迩贯珍》 — the first Chinese-English periodical to be published in Hong Kong.  Before the arrival of the Confucian scholar Wang Tao王韬 (1828-1897) from Shanghai, he assisted the principal of the College, the Rev. Dr. James Legge (1815-1897), the famous sinologist, in translating and publishing the classical texts of Chinese pedagogy (The Chinese Classics, published 1861-1872).  In or about 1860, under a printing arrangement made with the founder of The Hongkong Daily Press, he and Wu Tingfang  (伍廷芳) together created the Chung Ngoi San Po (Zhongwai Xinbao) 《中外新报》.  It was the first Chinese newspaper in Hong Kong wholly produced with Chinese finance and management, and it continued with a good reputation until 1919.22  In 1871, he pooled capital with Wang, Wu and others to purchase the LMS press with ancillary materials, which were no longer in use, and they formed a printing house, Zhonghua Yinwu Zongju 中华印务总局, to publish books in both Chinese and Western languages.  In 1872, Wong personally delivered two sets of movable type that the Bureau for Foreign Affairs (the Zongli Yamen 总理衙门) in Beijing had purchased from their firm, and also set up for the Bureau their first modern press.  It was likely at this time that he acceded to a request to serve as interpreter for the CEM.  Perhaps partly for the sake of old friendship with Yung Wing, he agreed to this career change and relocation to America. 

   Besides his abilities in printing and translation, Wong’s early interest in Western science and technology was soon to prove its value.  After the well-known reformist author and intellectual Wang Tao fled to Hong Kong in 1862, he and Wong Shing met through their acquaintance with Dr. Legge, and they collaborated in translating many Western works on applied science and technical subjects.  It was Wong who supplied the English texts and some translations of his own, which Wang modified and polished for the press.  When they presented a copy of a treatise on firearms to Viceroy Li Hongzhang 李鴻章 and his official Ding Richang 丁日昌,their approval of it was such that in 1864 Wong was invited to teach English at the government-run Tongwen Language Institute 同文馆 in Shanghai.  Following a three-year stint there he returned to Hong Kong.  In 1872, he collaborated again with Wu Tingfang and Wang Tao to start the Chinese paper, Wah Tze Yat Pao (Huazi Ribao) 《华字日报》, which continued until 1946, with a stoppage during the war years.  While Wong Shing was away in America, in 1874 Wang Tao began publishing from their own press the famous Tsun Wan Yat Pao (Xunhuan Ribao) 《循环日报》, which remained in business until 1947.  Wang’s editorials demonstrated to Chinese readers at large the power of the press by speaking up for their interests in Hong Kong and by attacking the Qing regime’s incompetence and corruption and advocating political reform.

   After the years spent as a pupil in the Morrison Education Society School in Hong Kong, Wong Shing made his home there, declining Chinese Government offers of high positions.  Instead, perhaps due to his combination of a Chinese identity with a Western Christian outlook, he settled permanently in the Anglo-Chinese arena.  His bilingual abilities and moral fibre were publicly recognized by Rev. James Legge during a public meeting on foreign missions held in London.  It was told that he declined the offer of employment by the Chief Justice of Hong Kong as an interpreter for the Supreme Court on a salary of 120 dollars a month, in favour of staying with the LMS on only 30 dollars a month.23  Based on his reputation for integrity, in 1858, Wong became the first Chinese juror ever appointed in the Colony, and subsequently a Justice of the Peace.  Adept in business and socially well-connected, by his forties, Wong was already well-known to the local Chinese.  He was one of the donors and founders of the Po Leung Kook 保良局 — Hong Kong's first Chinese-run agency for the protection of girls at risk, and Tung Wah Hospital 东华医院 — Hong Kong’s first Chinese-built and managed hospital — and served as its Board Chairman, 1886-7.  In his post-CEM years, he became one of the pillars of the Chinese community and was deemed qualified to represent their interests to the colonial authorities.  He became a British subject in 1883 and the following year, was appointed by the Governor to the Legislative Council—the second Chinese (after Wu Tingfang) to be so nominated—serving until 1889.  It must be noted that Wong was thought to be too compliant with government policies to be an effective voice for Chinese interests.  He died in Hong Kong in 1902.