Month: December 2015

Oberlin College and Columbia University

Sorry for the slight break in posting! I took the past two weeks off, one week for visiting Mom and Dad Academic with Mr. Academic, and one week for eating holiday roast and Yorkshire pudding. But I am back on track, with a post about where my research is taking me for the next few weeks. The time of winter break is upon us, which means that I finally have time to use the library archives of TWO schools, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. When I am researching a specific student, the library archives of the university they attended, more specifically the university’s special collections, can be a good resource to verify names and dates of attendance, as well as the activities a student participated in during their university career. Club lists and yearbooks are helpful to paint a more detailed picture of what a student’s life was like. In addition, many special collections contain correspondence, which admittedly is only helpful in my research situation if the student or some member of their family was important enough to write letters that were a) related to the school, and b) saved for posterity. This happens rarely, but it can sometimes be useful; for example, an upcoming post I’m preparing about Returned Student Richard Pang-Nian Bien (卞彭年) draws from a set of correspondence I found in the Brown University archives, detailing the agreement for Bien to return to Brown many years later as a professor and scientist.

My upcoming “research trips” will be as follows: the first week in January I will be in New York City, and I thought I’d go to Columbia and check out their archival material, and shortly after that I will be making a trip up to Oberlin College to use their college archives. I say “research trips” in quotation marks because to be frank, the choice of these two universities is partially due to convenience. I was already planning to go to NYC on a personal trip, and I figured since I will be there, I should take advantage. Oberlin is similarly convenient to me, travel-wise. Unfortunately, I’m not in a place where I get paid for my research; I have no grants and no assistants to work on this with me. Luckily, Oberlin College and Columbia University are also good choices because they both played host to a large number of Chinese students, especially Boxer Indemnity Scholars.

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Miss Ida Chan (陳永信)

Here is post two of two about the Chan family for today: Ida Chan (陳永信, pinyin Chen Yongxin). This second-youngest daughter was born in Canada on 30 May 1893. She and her family lived in British Columbia until 1901, when they immigrated to Portland, Oregon.

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Miss Frances I. Chan (陳寬信)

I’m finishing up my posts on the Chan family this week, and I decided to post both Fanny’s and Ida’s posts today. These two youngest siblings were extremely difficult to trace; one of them died young and the other never became a US citizen, so there is comparatively little information about them. For that reason I’ve decided to post both biographies today, since the posts are shorter than my typical.

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Miss Bertie G. Chan (陳端信) and G. G. Leong (梁官照)

Bertha Grace Chan (Chinese name 陳端信, pinyin Chén Duānxìn) was born in September of 1887 in China, possibly in Canton (Guangzhou), but more likely in Hong Kong, as she was considered a British citizen. Her father was a Methodist missionary and her mother was a physician. When she was less than a year old, her family moved to Vancouver for her father’s missionary work. They lived in Canada for 12 years before moving to the United States.

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The Chan (陳) Family

The focus of this blog is on Chinese students who studied in American universities, specifically those that were sponsored by the government through the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship or other programs. Because of this, I tend to concentrate on educational motivations that provoked the massive influx of Chinese students in American universities from the turn of the 20th century until World War II. Simply put, students came to America from China to get a Western education and to take that knowledge back to their home country to improve the social and political situation there. This theme is easy to see in W. K. Lam‘s political ambitions and H. T. Wong‘s military career. The typical tone of the articles in the Chinese Students’ Monthly, a publication produced by the Chinese Students’ Association in America, also evidences this focus on education, Western learning, and the betterment of China through technological advancement. But I would be remiss in not mentioning the other large institutional factor in promoting Chinese student immigration to America: the growth and influence of the Christian churches in China.

Christianity in China has a long history, but the modern missionary movement is most pertinent to the subject of this blog. Beginning in the early 1800s, Christian missionary work was focused on the coastal areas and the south of China; the first missionaries operated in Macau, Hong Kong, and Canton (today Guangzhou). Christianity and a desire to study in the West often overlapped among Chinese students, so it’s not surprising that many of the students who arrived in America in the early 1900s were both Christians and from the province of Guangdong. Cities which were open to foreign trade such as Shanghai were also centers of Christianity at this time, and many students from the city of Shanghai and the province of Zhejiang also came to America in large numbers to study. The importance of missionary schools cannot be overstated either; many students who ended up finishing their studies in America first studied at missionary schools in China, such as Canton Christian College in Guangzhou and St. John’s University in Shanghai. In short, most students who came to America did so under government encouragement and to learn Western subjects, but a majority of them were also Christian.

This brings us to the subject of today’s post: the Chan family. They are a bit atypical among the other Chinese students I am studying, since Sing Kai Chan, the family patriarch, came to America purely to work as a missionary; he did not study at an American school at all. He also brought his family along, and then his children became Chinese students in America due simply to growing up in America, not due to an educational motivation to travel to another country to study. This means that the motivations of this family in coming to America are a bit different from those of the other students I am researching. However, although the father did not come to America to study, he was motivated by that second impulse, that of Christianity, and so I find him and his family worthy topics of study. I thought I’d write a little bit about them as a family overall and then dedicate individual posts to those members who were students in America. Overall, the themes of Christianity, cultural interchange through performance, and eventual residence in the US still resonate throughout the story of this family.

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