The CEM Staff: Three Notable Figures

   Most accounts of the CEM have spotlighted Yung Wing as “the father of China’s foreign-educated students”, noting particularly his conflicts with the antagonistic Commissioners, Chen Lanbin (陈兰彬) and Wu Zideng (吴子登), and his failure to save the “boy students” from being recalled by the Qing Government.  Furthermore, because of China’s need to establish diplomatic representation in America, soon after the inception of the CEM, Chen and Yung were given that extra task.  In 1875 Chen and Yung were appointed China’s first Minister and Associate Minister, respectively, to the United States, conjointly to Spain and to her then colonial possessions, Cuba and Peru.  Unfortunately, the prominence of the Commissioners has tended to obscure the lesser staff on the Mission and it is the aim of this essay to bring them into view and to highlight their contributions.
   Among the second rank of the CEM staff, three men were especially remarkable in their own ways.  Each was fluent in English, having received a Western education, and every one of them played a significant part in East-West interactions beyond their official duties with the Mission.

Teacher, Interpreter, Cultural Bridge-builder

   Tseng Laisun (Zeng Laishun 曾来顺; "Laisun" often rendered as 兰生; official name: Hengzhong 恒忠), the Mission’s official interpreter from 1872 to December 1874, was born in Singapore to a Chinese father of ChaoZhou 潮州 background and a Malay mother.1   After their deaths, the young Tseng came under the care of American missionaries who gave him a Western education and converted him to Christianity.  In 1843 he was brought to America for further schooling, including attendance at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, from 1846 to 1848.  Though unable to finish his studies for lack of funds, Tseng was well-furnished with Western learning and highly articulate in English.  Repatriating to China, he much improved his competence in Chinese and initially undertook missionary work and teaching in mission schools, but later went into business, and became very affluent.  Changing direction in the next decade, Tseng entered government service: valued for his Western education, in 1866 the reform-minded Viceroy Zuo Zongtang 左宗棠 hired Tseng to teach English and to provide translation services at the Fuzhou Navy Yard School, where Tseng taught until 1871.  Years earlier, in Shanghai he had come into contact with Yung Wing and his skills in teaching English later secured for him a place in the CEM.  In fact, he and Yung together had deliberated on the plan to send boys to study in America as a strategy for strengthening China.  He and two of his sons — Elijah Laisun (Tseng Poo)(Zeng Pu 曾溥 II, 46) and Spencer Laisun (Tseng Tuh Kun)(Zeng Dugong 曽笃恭 I, 30) — were the first tutors of English at the CEM preparatory school in Shanghai.  (Though several years older than the “boy students”, they were nonetheless also part of the CEM student body.)

   Tseng’s whole family — his wife Ruth Ati (of a similar Indo-Chinese ancestry), three sons and two daughters — accompanied him to New England and quickly entered the social life of their community.  Instead of settling in Hartford, he took up residence in Springfield where he purchased a house and also played host to CEM student, New Shan Chow (Niu Shangzhou 牛尚周 I, 12).  Partly due to his physical distance from Yung and Chen, Tseng filled a larger role than that of interpreter, being frequently addressed, incorrectly, as “Commissioner” by outsiders, and becoming the public image of the CEM wherever he travelled.  Thus, perhaps owing to his fluency in English and his experience of the wider world, Tseng occasionally assisted in diplomatic affairs.  In late 1873 or early 1874, he and another CEM staff member were quietly sent by the Qing Government to investigate the miserable conditions of the Chinese workers in Cuba.  His report laid the ground for Chen Lanbin’s subsequent investigation and eventual success in pressuring Spain to stop the traffic of Chinese coolies to Cuba.

   Taking advantage of a rather light workload at the CEM, Tseng participated energetically in American society.  He resumed contact with his retired missionary teachers and with his former professor at Hamilton College, whose governors thought so well of this former student that in June 1873 they conferred on him an honorary Master of Arts.  The activity he most often pursued was giving talks to Americans, often for a fee, in a wide variety of venues across many communities in the northeast.  His lectures on Chinese culture and on Christian themes were always well-attended.  Thanks to his Western education and Christian identity, Tseng succeeded in virtually breaching the wall separating whites from “orientals” in those days.  Warmly embraced by the Springfield elites with whom he socialized, he was even invited to join the local Freemasons’ lodge, which at that time was all white.  Nonetheless, Tseng retained his native traits in attire and in his persistent efforts to interpret Chinese culture to Americans.  Through such activities, undertaken on his own initiative, Tseng in effect assumed the role of a cultural ambassador for his country, promoting good-will and understanding between Chinese and Americans.

   In December 1874, Tseng’s tenure at the CEM ended abruptly when the Chinese Government recalled him for an urgent assignment.  He returned by way of England.  According to The Springfield Republican, he was making plans to place some of the advanced students at the Fuzhou Naval School for further studies in the national schools of England.1 The London and China Telegraph of 25 January, 1875 (p. 81) reported that he was scouting out schools that might be suitable for sending Chinese students over in the future.  For the rest of his career, Tseng remained in China serving as the chief private English Secretary for Viceroy Li Hongzhang 李鸿章 and assisting in the latter’s numerous negotiations with various foreign powers.

Teacher, Interpreter, Linguist, News Media Activist

   Tseng’s successor as Interpreter, Kwong Ki Chiu (Kuang Qizhao 邝其照), had also taught English at the CEM preparatory school in Shanghai.2  Born probably in 1841 (other sources: 1836, 1843 and 1845), in a village in Xinning 新宁 (now known as Taishan 台山) District, Kwong attended the Government Central College in Hong Kong (modern Queen’s College), where English was the chief language of instruction.  This might have provided him with a good grounding in the language and cultural knowledge that was to become so vital to his future career.3  At some unspecified time, Kwong served as the principal of a primary school.  He is also said to have made a living selling Chinese herbal medicines for a few years in Hong Kong, and later in Melbourne, Australia, where he acquired wealth and fluency in English.4

   Upon his return from Australia, Kwong worked as a translator in the Bureau of Foreign Affairs in Shanghai.  There he made contact with Yung Wing and collaborated with him in running the first Chinese-financed and operated newspaper named Huibao 《汇报》. After the paper was sold, he was employed by the Educational Commission's Preparatory School.  It is noteworthy that no less than three of his young relatives secured places in the CEM.  He is said to be the fifth uncle of Kwong Pin Kong (Kuang Bingguang 邝炳光  IV, 93), and of the brothers, Kwong Young Kong (Kuang Rongguang 邝荣光 I, 8) and Kwong Kwok Kong (Kuang Guoguang 邝国光 IV, 92).5 His first overseas assignment with the Mission occurred in 1874 when, together with Qi Zhaoxi 祁兆熙, he accompanied the Third Detachment of 30 boys in their journey to America.  He returned by way of Europe and, presumably, continued teaching at the CEM prep school.  In 1875, accompanied by his wife, he escorted the Fourth Detachment; but this time, he stayed on as the Mission’s Interpreter.  Kwong was also appointed  secretary and translator of the Chinese Dictionary Commission in the U.S.  No other information is currently available about this body, but whatever its function was, there were few Chinese more qualified for this responsibility, for Kwong was among the earliest Chinese lexicographers to compile an English-Chinese dictionary: in 1868 his pioneer work was published in Hong Kong as 《字典集成》, which in 1875 was updated and enlarged as the English Chinese Dictionary 《华英字典集成》.

   While in Hartford, Kwong suffered a string of personal tragedies: first, his young wife Shaoqin died of an illness in September 1877; secondly, about the middle of 1879, both his parents died.  Obeying the government rule that forbade an official to hold office during bereavement for a parent, he resigned his post to mourn for 27 months.  During this interval, he applied his energies to lexicography and completed his massive work, A Dictionary of English Phrases With Illustrative Sentences, published in 1881 by A. S. Barnes & Co. in New York, San Francisco, Chicago; by Sampson Low Marston & Co. in London; and by Lane Crawford & Co. in Yokohama.6 This was no ordinary dictionary, but a groundbreaking reference tool, for it gave the meaning of over six thousand English phrases, with examples of their usage, explained common idioms, proverbs, foreign European expressions, and Chinese maxims. It also provided a historical survey of the Chinese dynasties, as well as sketches of the lives of Confucius and Jesus Christ.  This first edition carried the signed testimonials of 13 eminent educators, including Presidents Charles H. Eliot of Harvard, and Noah Porter, Jr. of Yale, as well as English professors from the top universities of the day.  That such a comprehensive work on their native tongue should have come from a “Chinaman” excited widespread wonder from the English-speaking critics.  The Shanghai edition was later supplemented with Chinese translations.  Widely used in the country for many decades, Kwong’s Dictionary may well have been the earliest book in English to be written and published by a Chinese in America.7

   Like Tseng, Kwong Ki Chiu stepped beyond the confines of his job at the CEM to participate in the affairs of his temporary country of residence.  Described as “a very likeable gentleman and a man, apparently, of wealth,” he made many friends with Americans.  Though it is unclear how he obtained the audience, soon after his arrival in America, despite his junior rank, Kwong called upon President Grant “to pay his respects” (Alexandria Gazette, 17 Nov. 1874).  He then entered Hartford’s leading social and intellectual circle to which Yung Wing belonged, and which included Joseph R. Hawley, the former Republican Governor of Connecticut and owner of the Hartford Courant, the Rev. Joseph Twichell and the famous author, Mark Twain.8  Using his social and bilingual skills, Kwong often negotiated ethnic and national barriers to bring Americans of both sexes and his Chinese CEM colleagues together for social gatherings.  Also, when compiling his Dictionary of English Phrases Kwong secured the help of three Americans to advise him on the intricacies of American idioms and colloquialisms: Rev. C.S. Sylvester, Moses C. Welch, and E.J. Edwards, a journalist and magazine editor.9 However, in the late 1870s, Kwong was deeply troubled by the agitation against Chinese immigrants and by the violent attacks on Chinese residents  in the western states.  When Congress was under intense pressure by the anti-Chinese elements to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, he wrote a series of letters to the New York Herald to protest the bill and persuade the politicians to vote it down.10 In fact, during the heated Senate debates on the bill, Senator Joseph R. Hawley of Connecticut defended the rights of the Chinese, referring to Kwong as his personal friend.11 Exploiting the right of free speech in America, Kwong joined his voice with those of Chen, Yung and the Chinese Government in standing up for his compatriots.

   After the departure of the CEM in the fall of 1881, Kwong stayed on in Hartford with his young son who had been born there five years earlier, and continued to develop pedagogical material for Chinese learners of English.  His output of language-learning publications was nothing short of prolific.  The following year appeared Kwong’s Educational Series, in English and Chinese, First, Second and Third Conversation Book. Designed for Use in Schools, concurrently published in Shanghai, London and San Francisco.12  By the time he returned to his homeland, he had completed a greatly enlarged edition of his bilingual dictionary, which was issued in 1887 with a double title-page: 《華英字典集成, 光绪十三年重鐫》/An English and Chinese Dictionary, Compiled from the Latest and Best Authorities, and Containing all Words in Common Use, with Many Examples of their Use…, and again published simultaneously in Shanghai, London, Hong Kong and San Francisco.  As cited on the English title-page of this dictionary, by that time, he had also published a Manual of Correspondence and Social Usages, Comprehensive Geography and other educational books.

   The global publishing arrangements for his books show that Kwong was a shrewd businessman who operated with an international perspective.  Moreover, Kwong’s subsequent career shows how he combined this with his commitment to education and wider social issues.  Perhaps with the idea of later going into publishing, he learned the technique of electrotype printing from William H. Lockwood & Sons, a printing firm in Hartford.13 By early 1883, Kwong had returned to China with his son.  In October 1884, amidst the dispute with France over the status of Vietnam (which had led to the Sino-French War of 1884-1885) he was appointed deputy of the local bureau of foreign affairs under the reformist Governor-general Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 in Canton.14 With Zhang’s blessing, in 1886, he founded Canton News (Guangbao) 《广报》, the first native-owned and run Chinese newspaper in the province.15  In 1891, the paper was closed down by by Zhang’s successor for exposing officials’ misconduct.  Perhaps to avoid further trouble from the authorities, he moved to the Anglo-French concession of Shamian 沙面 and, with British sponsorship, the paper was restarted with the title Chinese and Western Daily (Zhongxi Ribao) 《中西日报》.  According to Wu Zhicheng’s article (cited in note 2 below), in 1895, after the inception of the Revive China Society (Xingzhonghui) 兴中会, Sun Yat-sen published an article in the newly restarted daily, calling for the establishment of an agricultural college. Wu also stated that in 1900 the paper was shut down by the foreign authorities in Shamian for publishing news of a Boxer victory and that Kwong died in early years of the Republican era.  The truth is, what became of Kwong since 1890 is quite unclear.  News of his death at the age of 50 was carried in the Hong Kong press on 27 June, 1891 and republished on page 4 of the North China Herald on July 3rd.

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.

The Faith Factor

   Aside from their similar pursuits in intercultural exchange, these three CEM officers shared a common attachment to Christianity. Tseng Laisun and Wong Shing had both converted to Christianity long before their association with the CEM.  Tseng’s entire family joined the South Congregational Church in Springfield; while Wong Shing together with his three sons joined the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford.

   Although Kwong Ki Chiu and his family were not known to have joined a local church,  there are several clues as to their possible religious affiliation.  Firstly, when his wife died in September 1877, she was given a Christian funeral and buried in Hartford.24  Even though Kwong was a man of some wealth and it was customary to ship the body of the deceased (both men and women) back to the native village to be interred according to the Chinese rites, Kwong chose to do otherwise.  Was his decision based on Christian belief?  Secondly, together with Yung Wing, Kwong Ki Chiu was alleged by some opponents of the CEM to have “enticed the students” into the Christian religion.25 However, although there is no clear evidence to support this charge, it is possible that Kwong’s conduct in regard to the students gave rise to such a perception by critics of the Mission.  One other clue may be found in Kwong’s biographical sketches of the lives of Confucius and Jesus appended to his Dictionary of English Phrases.  While he made it clear that the Chinese sage was only a moral teacher and not the founder of a religion, in his account of Jesus, Kwong cited many passages from the New Testament that proclaim Jesus’s divinity as if he accepted them at face value.  The mere fact of treating Jesus as a deity, with a higher status than Confucius, would have been considered heresy by a traditional Chinese scholar.  These various choices that he made strongly suggest that Kwong, if not an avowed believer, was at least highly sympathetic to Christianity.

   Moreover, soon after the closing of the CEM in July 1881, we can find more direct evidence of Kwong's personal beliefs.  After the death of his wife in September 1877, Kwong and their infant son were given support and a home in the house of Jay and Julia Filley, a devout church-going couple in Hartford.  After the death of Mrs. Filley, Kwong wrote a moving eulogy, "Tribute to a Good Woman", carried by the Hartford Daily Times of 16 September, 1881.  Besides conveying profound gratitude for her very generous hospitality, he added the following remarks about her faith: "Her church membership covers a period of about fifty years, during which her loving service of the Master has been uniform and known of all.  She died after an illness of about six weeks, departing in the peace and comfort of the Christian hope."  The use of such biblical language strongly implies Kwong's identification with Christian views of life and death.
Different Treatments

   As is well-known, the “boy students” were expressly forbidden to convert from Confucianism to Christianity during their stay abroad.  It is also common knowledge that one of the causes for the termination of the Mission was the alarm felt in China at the number of students who had embraced the Christian faith.  Nonetheless, the Chinese Government’s attitude toward the religious status of its officers in the Mission was more lenient and flexible.  Thus, while in America, even the more conservative officers were willing to attend Yung Wing’s Christian wedding to an American lady as well as several funerals for their CEM colleagues and students where Christian clergy were officiating at the services. Furthermore, besides Yung Wing and Tseng Laisun, there were: W. H. Kellogg (Yung’s brother-in-law), employed in Hartford as Assistant Secretary when Wong Shing was Secretary of the CEM (see Note 18), and D. W. Bartlett (an uncle of Yung’s wife), from September 1878 the American Secretary for the Chinese Legation in Washington.  All of these men were baptized Christians—yet that did not prevent them from being hired and entrusted with serving the Chinese Government.26  The overall evidence would indicate that the Chinese authorities were willing to employ Chinese Christians on American soil, provided that they observed the Chinese rites and proprieties and avoided proselytizing the CEM students under their tutelage.  As for Wong Shing, there is no evidence that his private Christian activities caused him to be dismissed from government service, either at the CEM or at the Legation, though his pastor the Rev. Twichell believed it to be the case (see note 21).  For, even after leaving both positions, he went on to serve as China's Vice-consul at San Francisco.  Under the reformist influence of Li Hongzhang, the Qing government was sufficiently pragmatic to recognize the usefulness of these employees to China's interests abroad, irrespective of their private religious sentiments.

   On the other hand, rebellious students who disobeyed the prohibition against conversion were another matter: some were severely reprimanded, while others were expelled and returned to China, knowing that they faced possible capital punishment,  though fortunately, none ever did. This strict policy is understandable: because the students had been selected for training to become future government officials, no dissent from the official ideology based on Confucianism would be tolerated. 

Common Endeavours

   Tseng Laisun, and Kwong Ki Chiu both forged for themselves larger roles in their service to the Chinese Educational Mission with much success.  They were effective cultural brokers between Chinese and Americans.  Significantly, all three men brought along their families to America to experience the educational and cultural interaction with Westerners, which meant that the impact of that experience broadened and spread to the next generation.  Kwong and Wong Shing shared a deep engagement with news media, and via their bilingual expertise in the dissemination of up-to-date knowledge they bridged the gulf between China and the outside world.  In their own unique ways, all three men worked incessantly to bring modern ideas and expertise to their country.  Open to the wider world beyond their boundaries, yet dedicated to the service of the Chinese wherever they lived, they embodied the spirit that Yung Wing sought to foster in China through the CEM.  In broader terms, they were among the earliest individuals in 19th century China who managed to resolve in their own lives and careers the tensions between East and West, tradition and modernity.

Essay by Bruce Chan
陈肇基, with editorial input from Dana Young.


1.  Most material about Tseng was derived from Rhoads (2005), 19-58.  Tseng had variant names in Chinese: some scholars consider the equivalent of "Laisun" as 兰生, while others regard the latter as an alias; his zi (字) was "Hengzhong" 恒忠. The report of his return to China by The Springfield Republican was retold in "Recall of Chan Laisun," New York Times, Aug. 26, 1875, p. 2

2.  Biographical material about Kwong can be found in the following sources:
(a) [隐名]《求索东西天地间─近代东亚知识分子的困惑与追寻》:五.沟通中西,以译作桥的邝富灼; 华大社科网  [unknown author], “Exploring the East-West Divide: The Quest and Bewilderment of Chinese Intellectuals in Recent History: Part 5. Kuang Fuzhuo’s Use of Translation as a Cultural Bridge between China and the West”, article posted on Huazhong University Social Studies website  <> (2009/09/04).
(b) 吴志诚:《人物春秋:聚龙村名人邝其照─清末岭南报业界巨子》(Wu Zhicheng, “Personal Histories: Famous Son of Julong Village, Kuang Qizhao—A Giant of the Newspaper Business in South China in the Late Qing”), posted on 广州文史网址> (2010/12/27).
(c) Further details were kindly made available by Prof. E.J.M. Rhoads and by Sam Wong 黄植良, great-great grandson of Kwong Ki Chiu.
(d)  Bruce A. Chan, "A Forgotten Qing Era Progressive: Kwong Ki Chiu - Lexicographer, Interpreter, Textbook Author, Newspaper Publisher" in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Vol. 53, 2013: [227]-261.

3.  Some details of Kwong’s life are derived from a transcript of a manuscript of an interview conducted by H.H. Bancroft, when Kwong visited the Library at Berkeley, California on 9 Jan. 1883, on his return journey to China: University of California, Berkeley, The Bancroft Library, manuscript collection: BANC MSS P-N 2, “‘The Chinese in America’ by Kwang Ki-Chaou” 
(2009/09/04). “1836” was purportedly supplied by Kwong as his birth year during the interview; but he further stated that he had attended the Central College in Hong Kong.  However, there appears to be an inconsistency in timing: the College was opened in 1862 when Kwong, if born in 1836, would have been 26 years old.  On the other hand, if he was born in 1845, he might have been just young enough to study there in the higher grades.

4.  New Haven Register, 21 April, 1879: "Kwong began life as a druggist.  After keeping a shop in Hong Kong for a few years, he went to Australia.  There were many Chinamen in Melbourne, but no physician.  Kwong Ki Chin [sic] took over a cargo of herbs and roots, and speedily had to send for more.  In five years he was able to return to China with a fortune and a knowledge of the English language, which secured for him an appointment in the home department.  He was rapidly advanced to a mandarin of the fifth rank, and after two trips around the world in the interest of the emperor, he was assigned to the American educational mission."

5.  According to Louise Su Tang, a granddaughter of Kwong Pin Kong, in her historical novel, Cantonese Yankee (Pasadena, CA: Oak Garden Press, 2010), pp. 10-11.

6.  See “Kwong’s English Phrases,” Hartford Daily Courant, Dec. 24, 1880, p. 2; “To Return to China”, Hartford Daily Courant, Dec. 21, 1882, p. 1; “Departure of Mr. Kwong”, Hartford Daily Courant, Dec. 27, 1882, p. 2.

7. Still a useful reference tool, this dictionary, in digital format, is freely available from Internet Archive at:

8. “The Chinese Commissioners,” Hartford Courant, 21 Apr. 1879: “… his American friends frequently meet at his table.  To dine with Kwong Ki Chin [sic] has been the desire of many eminent gentlemen in Hartford, but in order to do so, it has been necessary to get the social endorsement of Rev. J. Twichell or Mark Twain, and at Kwong Ki Chin's table it was that ladies have sat down to eat with Chinese gentlemen.”

9.  “Review: Dictionary of English Phrases…”, North China Herald, June 15, 1883, p. 681; E.J. Edwards, “How I taught the Mandarin the American Idiom,” The Atlanta Constitution, Feb. 28, 1913, p. 14.

10.  “A Chinese View of it”, Hartford Daily Courant, May 2, 1882, p. 2:  “Mr. Kwong Ki Chiu of this city is doing a useful work through the columns of the New York Herald, in giving in a temperate and yet forcible manner the views of an intelligent Chinaman upon the anti-Chinese legislation of congress and upon the speeches of congressmen.”
11.  Henry S. Cohn & Harvey Gee, “No, No, No, No!”: Three Sons of Connecticut Who Opposed the Chinese Exclusion Acts,” in Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal (November 2003), Paper 5, p. 56: <>   

12.  “New Publications”, New York Times, Mar. 12, 1882, p. 6.

13.  “The Noah Webster of the Chinese”, Hartford Daily Courant, Dec. 3, 1912, p. 5.

14.  “Mr. Kwong Ki Chiu,” Hartford Courant, Oct. 11, 1884, p. 1.

15.  In 1894, the paper had a circulation of over 3,000 and was mailed to Chinese worldwide, for a yearly subscription of $8 – Florence O’Driscoll, M.P., “How the Chinese Work and Live”,  in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, vol. 49, No. 1 (Nov. 1894): 68.
16.  Material about Wong was derived from the Chinese Wikipedia article on Wong Shing: 黃勝:<> (2009/09/04); from numerous passages in Smith (1985); from Lo (1963), 57-58; and from the biography of Wang T’ao (1828-1897), signed by Roswell S. Britton in Hummel (1944), Vol. II, 837-38.  Wong's birthplace was recorded as "Macao" in the student register of the Morrison Education Society School which he entered at age 15 on January 1, 1841.  

17.  He was among the CEM party who attended the graduation exercises of Hartford Public High School that year.  See Robyn (1996), p. 45, note 100, citing Hartford Daily Tribune, April 18, 1879, 2:4.

18. Wong Shing was listed as “Secretary” under the entry for the Chinese Educational Commission in Geer (1878), 15.  In 1879, he was said to be “the official interpreter of the Chinese Embassy to the United States, but for the present on duty with the Chinese Educational Mission at Hartford,” by the Rev. J.H. Twichell, “The Life of a Christian Mandarin”, in The Congregationalist (Boston), reprinted in  Evangelical Christendom: Christian Work and the News of the Churches… (London: The Evangelical Alliance), Vol. 33 (July 1879): 205.  Two other sources also note his employment as Interpreter and Translator at the Chinese Legation in Washington, but provide no dates or references: Britton (1933), 45; and Cohen (1987), 318, n. 3.

19.  See “The Chinese Embassy,” Hartford Daily Courant, August 12, 1878, p. 2.

20.  Stated by Rev. Dr. Samuel R. Brown (Wong Shing's former teacher at Morrison Education Society School), in his brief memoir published in Biographical Memoranda respecting all who ever were members of the Class of 1832 in Yale College, edited by the Class-Secretary, for private distribution, New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor,  1880, p. 32-3.

21. From Rev. Joseph Twichell’s unpublished journal (in Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library), entry for 27 September 1879:   “Wong Shing and his three sons at tea with us.  W.S. is about to leave for San Francisco.  He and we all had hoped that he might be permitted to remain on duty with the mission, but finally (owing first of all probably to the circumstance that he is a Christian) he must go.  It is a heavy cross – as he must part from his boys, but he accepts it meekly.…” (Transcript kindly supplied by Prof. Edward J. M. Rhoads).  In regard to Wong's date of return to Hong Kong, it was on April 27, 1883 that he was appointed a member of the Board of Examiners of the Education Department (The Hong Kong Telegraph, April 27, 1883, p. 6).

22.  Britton (1933), 39.

23.  The Missionary Magazine and Chronicle (London), v. 37 (April, 1859): 266.

24.  Robyn (1996), 49-52. 

25.  Hung (1955), Notes, p. 67 item B. 

26.   For Bartlett’s appointment, cf. “The Chinese Embassy,” Hartford Daily Courant, August 12, 1878, p. 2; and “Arrival of the Celestials,” Washington Post, September 20, 1878, p. 1.