Low Kwok Sui


1919 CEM Reunion, LaFargue Collection


Pinyin & Chinese characters Luo Guorui  罗国瑞

Variant Spellings & Other Names K.S. Low1
Low Koh Sui
“Cockshit” (nickname coined in America)

Other Chinese Name(s) 罗嶽生; "字岳生" in some Chinese sources

Detachment 1

LaFargue No. 4

Date of Birth 1861

Place of Birth Boluo Village 博罗乡, Huizhou 惠州 District, Guangdong Province

Age at Departure for US 12 (Lunar Calendar)

Date of Death  
Place of Death Shanghai

Place(s) of Residence in US 1) Bridgeport, CT;
2) West Haven, CT;
3) Troy, NY

American Host Family/ies 1) Rev. Guy B. Day, who ran a school;2
2) Mr. & Mrs. Luther H. Northrop, who operated the Seaside Institute for Boys.
School(s), with dates 1872-73: Rev. Day’s school, Golden Hill Institute, Bridgeport, CT;2
1873-75: Seaside Institute for Boys, West Haven, CT;
c.1875-78: Hillhouse High School, New Haven, CT.

Notable Activities/Awards in School  
College/University, with dates 1878-81: Rensselaer Polytechnic, Troy, NY3

Notable Activities/Awards in College  
Degree/Diploma Obtained (date)  
First Assignment in China Assigned to Shanghai Water Conservancy Bureau

Later Positions

For 15 years since repatriation, Low was employed as a surveyor, teacher, mining assayer and translator4;

1896 Nov. - Hired by Governor-General Zhang Zidong 张之洞 as Translator for the Hanyang Ironworks 汉阳铁厂;

1898 Mar. - Wanted by Sheng Xuanhuai 盛宣怀 for preliminary survey for the Yue-Han Railway 粤汉铁路;

1899 Sept 8 - When work began on the Ping-Li Railway 萍醴铁路, Low was assistant engineer to the American chief; line opened Dec. 1903;
Also involved in designing the linked Ping-Tan Railway 萍潭铁路;

1903 - Appointed the head of the national railway investigative body named 全国铁路审查委员会 responsible for railway planning across China;

1906 Oct. - appointed chief engineer of Chiangkan-Husheh line of Zhejiang Railway 浙江省铁路; it was "the second railway in the history of China that is being constructed with Chinese capital and under a Chinese engineer, the first being... the Peking-Kalgan Railway" (North China Herald, Oct. 26, 1906, p. 209);
1906 late autumn - Resigned due to conflict with senior management;

1906 - offered position of chief engineer by the Dian-Shu Railway Co. 滇蜀铁路 in Yunnan 云南 at the salary of 1,000 Taels (gold) p.m., but Low was on bereavement leave for his father’s death and declined;

?1907- Surveyed for the Ji-Chang Line 吉长铁路 from Jilin 吉林 to Changchun 长春 in Manchuria;
1907 - Low exposed the deliberate overestimation of costs by the Japanese engineer on this line, thereby saving the Chinese Government money;

1908 Feb. - Ordered by the Waiwubu (Bureau of Foreign Affairs) to study the mineral deposits and trade conditions of the Three Eastern Provinces of Manchuria ("Taotai K.S. Low," North China Herald, 28 Feb. 1908, p. 521);

1908 Spring - Appointed Managing Director, Southern Section, of the Jin-Pu Railway (Tianjin to Puhe) 津浦铁路; Low censured the British chief engineer for exceeding his authority, and for condoning his assistant’s bad behaviour and indolence which caused delay in the project;

1909 - Perhaps Low’s outspoken manner and unbending attitude provoked an anonymous poison-pen letter accusing him of being lazy and addicted to opium, and of embezzlement.  An investigation by the Ministry found him innocent, but faulted him for his management style and being alienated from the local authorities, so he was dismissed in Dec.;

1910 Aug. - Sent by Ministry of Posts and Communications 交通部 to survey for the Dian-Gui Railway (Yunnan 云南to Guangxi 广西) 滇桂铁路;

1914 - Appointed by the Ministry of Communications as director of 路电材料研究会 the task force for research on railway telephone equipment. His mandate was to make radical recommendations without regard to sentiment or criticism, but he was dismissed in 1916. On 16 Oct., Low filed an appeal to the Ping Zheng Yuan 平政院: the adjudicating body for cases of misconduct and litigation involving government officials, but the outcome is not known;

1915 Aug. - Succeeded Guan Genglin 关赓麟, in unspecified position5;

1916 Aug. 20 - On "dismissal list" of Ministry of Communications (华字日报, 21 Aug. 1916, p. 4);

1922 Nov. 11 - Appointed by the Shanghai Chinese Chamber of Commerce 上海总商会 as its consultative member on the 浚浦顾问局 (a consulting body to the agency in charge of maintaining waterways of the Huangpu 黄浦 River). Low was selected since his university training included water resources management.  He succeeded Tong Yuen Chan (Tang Yuanzhan 唐元湛 II, 53) upon Tong's death6;

1925 Feb. - Low resigned, pleading old age.7

Employment Sector(s) Government: Mainly railway development

Final Rank, if in Gov't Service


Qing period: Daotai 道台 (identified by the press in 1908), though final rank is not known.  Also received the Peacock Feather 孔雀花翎 - a badge of honour awarded for outstanding service to the nation;8  
Republican period: 1915 - Awarded title of "Shang Dafu" 上大夫, an ancient high official rank reinstated by President Yuan Shi Kai.9

Father's Name Not known; was engaged in Christian evangelism in Hong Kong for many years; d. 80 sui.8  
Mother's Name  
Wife/wives Not known; Low married around 1885.10
Family Relations w/ other CEM Students  
Children's Names 4 sons, 3 daughters; eldest d. died of scarlet fever, Spring 1905.10
Other Later in life, Low renewed contact with his American host family, Mrs. Luther Northrop and her son Willy. Four of his letters to them were translated into Chinese by Kao Tsunglu 高宗鲁.  Hearing of her death, Low wrote to "Dear Willy" on 15 May, 1909 in these approximate terms: "I have known Mrs. Northrop for many years.  She always treated me like family: it is beyond words to express my gratitude to her. Please accept my deepest condolences." - Letter #22 in Kao (1986), pp. 49-50.

Notes and Sources

1.  Low wrote that since returning to China, he had adopted "K. S. Low" as his English signature, in his letter dated 20 Oct. 1907, Shanghai, to his American host, Mrs. Northrop; see Letter #19 in Kao (1986), p. 46.

2.  Source for host families and schools: Rhoads (2011), pp. 51; 72; 90-92.

3.  Rhoads (2011), pp. 116, 132f.

4.  As listed by Low in his letter of 2 Aug. 1906 to Mrs. Northrop.  He lamented that he couldn’t use his engineering training in the jobs given him during those early years.  He said that he finally entered the railways sector in 1896: see Letter #14 in Kao (1986), pp. 37-39.

5.  Guan had been a managing director of several major railways, dismissed in 1915 for unknown reasons (The Chinese Mail [Hong Kong] 华字日报, 31 Aug. 1915, p. 4).

6. 《上海工商社团志》第三篇上海总商会-第六章经济活动,第五节争取苏州河治理主 on "上海通" web page: http://www.shtong.gov.cn/node2/node2245/node4538/node56987/node57003/node57005/userobject1ai45391.html  (24 Aug. 2012).

7.  Career details, 1896-1925, derived chiefly from the article: "罗国瑞:中国铁路建设的先驱" by 严艺超 & 罗煜明 in the 2010-10-17 issue of 《东江时报》: "惠州文史" @ http://e.hznews.com/paper/djsb/20101017/A0607/.

8.  Mentioned in his letter of 20 October 1907 to Mrs. Northrop: Letter #19 in Kao (1986), p. 45.

9.  Reported in 华字日报, 5 Mar. 1914, p. 4.

10.  Low’s letter of 2 Aug 1906 to Mrs. Northrop (cited in note 4 above) informed her of his marriage but did not provide his wife’s name, nor the names of his five children.  A subsequent letter to her revealed that his eldest son, "Lo Yung Tsong" was a 1st year Science student at St. John’s University, Shanghai: see Letter #19, dated 20 Oct 1907, Kao (1986), p. 46.