Month: November 2015

H. T. Wong (黄顯庭)

A lot of Indemnity Scholars show up here and there across the pages of history without leaving many clues as to why they were there. 黄顯庭 is not like this. Hinting Wong (Jyutping [Cantonese] romanization Wong4 Hin2ting4) was born 2 November 1892 in Hong Kong to a Christian (Episcopalian) father, who may have attended Oxford (Syracuse Herald, 16 Nov 1917, link goes to Ancestry.com copy). H. T Wong attended both Canton Christian College in Guangzhou and Queen’s College in Hong Kong before serving in the Southern Army in 1911 (State College News, 1 Nov 1916). He was only 19 years old, but he was a 2nd lieutenant, Infantry – I expect his schooling sent him straight to the officer corps. He was wounded in battle, and his World War I draft card states he had lost his sight in his right eye. The previously cited Syracuse Herald story – “Veteran, Student Here” – retells the gripping story of how H. T. Wong received a bayonet thrust to the head in the 1911 Revolution (Syracuse Herald, 16 Nov 1917).

After his injury, H. T. Wong served as a secretary to several important figures in the Southern government. He was then sent abroad to study in Western universities. A New York newspaper article mentions him studying at Japanese and English universities, as well as at Harvard, but I can’t find any primary source documentation for this. No US arrival documentation as of yet.

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The Holiday Season

With the holiday season officially beginning this week – the early appearance of retail store displays notwithstanding – it’s a good time to talk about the winter holidays and how they were celebrated among the Chinese students in America. As with many other aspects of American culture, the Boxer Indemnity Scholars took to US holidays, celebrating them with as much enthusiasm as their American counterparts. American holidays like Thanksgiving and Christian holidays like Christmas were probably familiar to the Chinese students, especially those who had studied in missionary schools, but the first time these students participated in traditional holiday celebrations was upon their arrival in the United States.  Towards the beginning of the Boxer Indemnity Scholar period, the vast majority of Chinese students in America celebrated the holidays with various American hosts, but as the students became more and more familiar with the American holiday season, holiday parties tended to become more club- and Chinese-focused.

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Immigration and Citizenship

I didn’t ever expect to post anything topical in this blog, since the subjects of my posts have mostly all been dead for 20 to 50 years. But I thought that due to the ongoing coverage about refugees and immigrants, this might be a good/interesting time to talk a little bit about the history of Chinese immigration to the United States and how immigration laws affected not only the Chinese students in America, but also their spouses and children.

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W. K. Lam (林雲陔)

The scope of this project is so enormous that sometimes I can only proceed in what feels like a very small spiraling motion outward. There are so many students and so many primary source documents, as well as the entire weight of Chinese and US History, that I sometimes feel like I am looking into an immense and densely populated forest, with no idea where the best point of entry is. Often it is just easier to pick a place to start, and then research the other people and places that relate to that starting point, until I am finally deep in the research. So: my previous student post was on E. J. Chu, and this post will be on the fellow student he boarded with in Albany: W. K. Lam.

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Chinese Student Directories

In my last post, I mentioned a few primary sources that I want to discuss in a little more detail, to give you an idea of how I track the movements of these Chinese students in America. The foremost primary source that I use for addresses and locations is the Chinese Students’ Alliance’s set of Chinese student directories. These seven directories, especially the ones that include the students’ Chinese names in characters, have proven to be the best way to keep up with the Boxer Indemnity Scholars. It’s hard to get a hold of these directories, and a couple of issues have disappeared into history. Schools that hosted a large number of Indemnity Scholars are always a good source for these directories; the University of Michigan seems to have a fairly full set, as do the University of Illinois and Columbia University in New York.

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E. J. Chu (徐振)

徐振 (pinyin Xú Zhèn) was born on 27 February 1891 in Macau, although his parents, Wing Pao and Soo Pan, were originally from Guangdong Province. At that time in Chinese history, many port cities were under significant or even total foreign control. The Chinese treaty port system ceded control of specific zones in coastal cities to foreign powers – as in the American/British and French concessions of Shanghai – or in the cases of Hong Kong and Macau, complete colonial administration. These areas functioned somewhere on the spectrum from Vatican City to the former Panama Canal Zone in their laws and regulations on movement to and from the area. Since Macau was under Portuguese colonial administration, 徐振 was born a Portuguese citizen, although he was ethnically Chinese.

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