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Chang Hon Yen


Pinyin & Chinese characters Zhang Kangren, 张康仁
Variant Spellings & Other Names Kang Jen Chang,
Chang Kang-jen,
Chang Hong Yin
Harry Chang1
Hong Yen Chang
Other Chinese Names  
Detachment 1
LaFargue No. 10
Date of Birth 1860 (acc. to Chinese sources); 20 Dec. 1859.2
Place of Birth Xiangshan, Guangdong Province2
Age at Departure for U.S. 13 (Lunar Calendar)
Date of Death 4 Aug. 19262
Place of Death Berkeley, California2
Place(s) of residence in U.S. (1) c. Sep. 1872 – Dec. 1873: Northampton or Springfield, MA;
(2) Bridgeport, CT;
(3) 11 Imlay St., Hartford, CT.1
American Host Family/ies (1) Miss Martha Ely Matthews1;
(2) Rev. Guy B. Day;
(3) William B. and Virginia Thrall Smith.1,3
School(s), with dates Springfield Collegiate Institute, 1875-76;
Hartford Public High School, 1876–Sep. 1878;
Phillips Andover Academy, MA, 1878-79 (classical dept.), graduated 1879.4
Notable activities/ awards in school

Gave recitation of Cicero in Latin at year-end ceremonies at Springfield Collegiate Institute, June 1876.
Gave English oration: "The Influence of Greece beyond Greece" at commencement exercises, 1879.1

College/University, with dates

(1) Yale College ("Academical Department"), 1879-81;4
(2) Columbia College Law School, 1883-1886.1

Notable activities/ awards in College 1879 Member of Delta Kappa (Yale Freshman Society).5
Degree/Diploma Obtained, with date

LL.B. Columbia, 18866; Chang was singled out for mention by the school’s President who said he "had surmounted unusual difficulties in his two years’ course and fought successfully up to his diploma..."7; graduated with high honors.8
Awarded traditional law degree 法科进士 by Qing Government.9
1913 awarded B.A. by enrollment with Yale Class of 1883.10

First Assignment in China Placed in the Beiyang Naval Academy in Tianjin; however, as the navy was not to his liking he later obtained a release and left for Shanghai.
Later Positions

In 1882 Chang sailed for Honolulu where his brother, Chang Mow Keung, or "Mow Kong" (Mao Jiang 茂疆), was a partner in Wing Wo Chan & Co.  For about 8 months, 1883-1884, he worked as a clerk in the office of Judge A. S. Hartwell. On Hartwell's advice, and with his brother's financial support, Chang returned to the United States to study at Columbia College Law School in New York, and managed to enter it without an undergraduate degree.11 Chang was the first Chinese to graduate (Spring, 1886) from Columbia College Law School. "After finishing law school Hong Yen Chang cut off his queue". Then he joined Deady and Goodrich, a well-regarded New York law firm, where he worked for about a year.12

The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law 6 May 1882, prevented Chang from being admitted to the New York bar, for which citizenship was required, and this was forbidden to the Chinese. Nevertheless, with help from a prominent judge, Chang campaigned vigorously for his license. "Ultimately a special act was passed by the New York legislature removing the disability in Chang's case. Chang drafted the bill himself and argued in support of it before Governor Hill on April 26, 1887. The governor signed the bill and Chang was admitted to the New York bar at Poughkeepsie, May 17, 1888." He became the first Chinese licensed to practise law in the State of New York.13 On 11 Nov. 1887 he was granted a certificate of citizenship by the Court of Common Pleas of New York, and a passport from the U.S. State Department.14

As of June 1886, Chang was employed by the Chinese Consulate in New York City, at 26 West 9th St.15

In March 1888, Chang was an interpreter at the Chinese Consulate in New York.16

1889 March 28: Chang won his first case in Brooklyn on behalf of two Chinese plaintiffs—perhaps the first lawsuit won by a Chinese lawyer in the U.S.17

1889 July 26: Hawaii Chinese Passenger Manifest: "Hong Yen Cheng, age 28, lawyer, [born in] China, arrived from San Francisco on SS. Australia".18

1889 July 30: Chang obtained a Letter Patent of Denization from the Kingdom of Hawaii, where he was recognized as an American citizen.19

1889 Aug. 6: Chang applied to be admitted to the Bar of Hawaii, based on his law license from New York State and his letter of denization from the King of Hawaii.  Endorsed by a good reference from his former employer and mentor, Judge A. S. Hartwell, on 9 Aug. 1889, Chang became the first Chinese to be admitted to practice law in the Kingdom of Hawaii.20

1890 May 16: Chang hired an attorney to file a motion in the California Supreme Court that he be admitted to practice law in the State.21 His bid was rejected. The Court ruled that his certificate of naturalization from New York State was invalid because of a law enacted by Congress in 1875. The so-called "Page Bill", named for its sponsor, Rep. Horace F. Page of California, limited the right of naturalization "to aliens, being free white persons, and to persons of African nativity and to persons of African descent." As a "Mongolian" by descent, Chang was not eligible for naturalization, thus could not be deemed a U.S. citizen, and was therefore barred from practicing law in California.22

Chang remained in Honolulu practicing law until 1891. He left Honolulu in 1891 probably because his brother Mow Keung died that year.23

c. 1891-95: served as an advisor at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco.

1895-1907: employed at the San Francisco branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank of Japan.

1907: returned to China, became Accountant-General for the Treasury’s Shanghai branch; appointed to a chair at Nanjing Government University to teach international law and banking.24

1908: participated as an Attaché in the Official Party of the 1908 Special Mission to the U.S. and major European powers led by Tong Shao Yi (Tang Shaoyi 唐绍仪 III, 61); afterwards transferred to Chinese Legation in Washington, DC, serving until 1910.

1910-1913: Chinese Consul in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

1913 Mar. to Nov.: First Secretary at Chinese Legation in Washington.

After the US formally recognized the new Republic of China in May, 1913, and upon the departure home of Minister Zhang Yintang 张荫棠, Chang was chargé d’affaires at the Chinese Legation, Dec. 1913 - Mar. 1914.

1916-1917: director of Chinese naval students at Berkeley, CA. However, according to Chinese official sources, on 25 Sept. 1916, the Republic of China’s Ministry of the Navy issued an order appointing Chang as Director of Chinese Naval Cadets studying in Britain and in USA, and urging him to assume his post speedily and with due diligence.25

Retired around 1920.

Employment sector(s) Law; Banking & Government (Diplomatic Service)
Final rank, if in gov't service Consul General
Father's name Chang Shing Tung, merchant, d. 1870.26
Mother's name Maiden name “Yee”.26
Wife/wives Married Charlotte Ah Tye 余爱娣 (c. 1875-1972) 14 March 1897, in San Francisco in a Christian ceremony. Charlotte was born in La Porte, California; attended a Christian grammar school.27
Family relations w/ other CEM students Cousin of Tam Pak Chun 谭伯村, father of Tan Yew Fun (Tan Yaoxun 谭耀勋 I, 21)
Children's Names d: Ora Ivy, 1898-1929 (B.A. University of California 1924)
s: Oliver Carrington, 1900-1973 (B.S. University of California 1923)28

No direct descendants identified.
Lani Ah Tye Farkas, grandniece, provided important information about Chang in her book, Bury My Bones in America, cited in our Notes.
Rachelle Chong, grandniece, is a prominent Chinese American regulatory lawyer; she was the first Asian American Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and the first Asian American Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission.  She was the author of "Petitioning to Right a Historic Wrong", Los Angeles Lawyer, Sept. 2014, p. 44.


Chang became a Christian at some unknown date and was admitted to membership in the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, where he spent the summers of 1885 and 1886, working at a law office to gain practical experience.  When Chang began his law practice in New York, he was active in mission work among the Chinese there.29

Wrote an article published in the Christian Union, which was reproduced under the heading, "Justice in China," by the Dunkirk [NY] Observer-Journal, 11 Dec. 1888.

On 16 March, 2015, the Supreme Court of California granted Chang posthumous admission to the California Bar.  This decision was in response to a petition last year by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association of the UC Davis School of Law. "This is a historic moment for all Chinese Americans in California because a terrible wrong has been righted today by the California Supreme Court," said Rachelle Chong, a California lawyer and a grandniece of Hong Yen Chang.30      

Notes and Sources 1. Farkas (1998), "Chapter Eleven, A Chinese Diplomat's Wife", pp. 87-93 passim; "Appendix A", p. 150.  Much biographical information is based on this source. Further supplemental biographical data in Yale University Obituary Record of Graduates Deceased During the Year Ending July 9, 1927 (New Haven, Pubished by the University: 1927), pp. 109-110.

2. Yale University Obituary Record...(1927), p. 109.

3. Virginia Thrall Smith (1838-1903), a noted children’s advocate, administered the Hartford City Mission for many years, and founded the Newington Home for Crippled Children - see Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, http://www.cwhf.org/index.html.

4. Secondary schools and college: Rhoads (2011), p. 96, Table 7.2 (Springfield Collegiate Institute, Hartford Public High School); p. 100, Table 7.3 (Phillips Academy, Andover, MA); p. 116, Table 8.1 (Yale-Academical). 

5. The Yale Banner, 1879-80, p. 61.

6. Yale (1883 Book), p. 306.

7. "Young Lawyers Sent Forth", New York Times, 27 May 1886.

8. "A Christian Lawyer", Hartford Daily Courant, 7 Jan. 1889, p. 5.

9. Qian & Hu (2003), p. 252.

10. Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, 1701-1915 (New Haven: Published by the University, 1916), p. 183.

11. Daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 28 June 1888, p. 2; "A Chinese Lawyer", Honolulu Daily Bulletin, 9 Aug. 1889, p. 3; Hawaiian Gazette, 19 March 1889, p. 6.  Alfred Stedman Hartwell (1836-1912), was a Civil War veteran and an American lawyer appointed to the Supreme Court in the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1868. Over a long period until his death he held prominent positions in Hawaii, including Chief Justice, both before and after its annexation by the U.S.

12. "A Chinese Lawyer", New York Sun, 18 May 1888, p. 6.

13. Yale (1883 book), p. 266; "A Chinese Lawyer", New York Sun, 18 May 1888, p. 6; "An Important Decision", Sacramento Daily Record-Union, 22 May 1890, p. 3.

14. "Making Citizens of Mongolians", San Francisco Morning Call, 29 June 1890, p. 2.

15. Letter of 8 June 1886 to Dr. C. F. P. Bancroft, Principal of Phillips Andover Academy, on official letterhead of the Chinese Consulate. Copy kindly provided by Oscar Tang, former Chairman of Andover’s Board of Trustees and descendant of Won Bing Chung (Wen Bingzhong 温秉忠 II, 36).

16. "City and Suburban News", New York Times, 19 March 1888.  Chang was among the entire consulate staff, including Vice-Consul "Lew Yuk Lin" (Liu Yu Lin 刘玉麟 IV, 91), attending a performance of the opera Pearl of Pekin at the Bijou Opera House in NY.

17. "City and Suburban News", New York Times, 29 March 1889; cf. "Abbreviated Telegrams", Rochester [IA] Daily Republican, 29 March 1889, where the case was described as Chang's first.

18. Hawaii State Archives Digital Collections, http://archives1.dags.hawaii.gov/
gsdl/collect/indextoc/index/assoc/HASHccb1/699c8843.dir/doc.pdf  Digital copy kindly provided by CEM descendant, Reed Tang.

19. "Denization was a constitutional prerogative of the Office of the Monarch, whereby a foreigner had all the rights and privileges of a Hawaiian subject, but was not required to relinquish his allegiance to his native country as was required under naturalization. Denization was "dual citizenship," which was accompanied by an oath of allegiance to the Hawaiian Kingdom." Registry of Denizens in the Hawaiian Kingdom (circa 1840-1893), www.hawaiiankingdom.org/info-denizens.shtml. Thanks to Reed Tang for alerting us to this information.
20. "A Chinese Lawyer", Honolulu Daily Bulletin, 9 Aug. 1889, p. 3.

21. "West Coast Notes", Los Angeles Herald, May 17, 1890, p. 3.

22. "Not Eligible. A Mongolian Refused Admission to the Bar", San Francisco Morning Call, 18 May 1890, p. 3; "An Important Decision: Chinamen Cannot Practice Law in Our Courts", Sacramento Daily Record-Union, 22 May 1890, p. 3.

23. Daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 13 April 1898, p. 7; notice of probate of the last will and testament of C. Mow Keung, dated May 5, 1891, published in Hawaiian Gazette, 12 May 1891, p. 10.

24. Yale University Obituary Record...(1927), p. 110. Cf. Yale (1883 Book), p. 266, where he is said to have been "given a chair in Tien-tsin University, where he lectured upon international law."

25. Listed among Republic of China Government Gazette, Departmental Directives
中華民國-政府公報-命令-中華民國五年九月二十九日, 第二百六十五號. Digital copy of this source kindly provided by Reed Tang.

26. Yale University Obituary Record...(1927), p. 109.

27. Farkas (1998), p. 87.

28. Yale University Obituary Record...(1927), p. 110.

29. "A Chinese Lawyer", Hartford Daily Courant, 21 May 1887, p. 1; "A Christian Chinese Lawyer," Hartford Daily Courant, 7 Jan. 1889, p. 5.

30.  http://news.ucdavis.edu/search /news_detail.lasso?id=11177 (17 Mar. 2015).