Y. O. Huang (黄一歐)

As seems de rigueur with blogs, I have to apologize again for my extremely lengthy absence. Life, work, and my doctorate classes have gotten in the way for over a year, it seems. However, my New Year’s Resolution is to post more in this blog, so away I go! Starting absolutely from nowhere, I have decided to jump to the story of Y. O. Huang. I promise I will pick up the stories of the SooHoo family and William Z. L. Sung again very very soon (I promise! I even have a list!).

So, Y. O. Huang. I decided to research this family next because they first came to America in 1912 with my great-great-grandfather E. J. Chu, so I had the ship’s manifest right there already. 黄一歐 (pinyin Huáng YīŌu) was born in 1892 – 2 September according to Chinese Wikipedia – in Changsha, which is in modern-day Hunan province. It took me a little bit to figure out his family ties, since the aforementioned ship’s manifest is unclear. Apart from E. J. Chu, Y. O. Huang (or “Whang Yih Oue”, as it is listed in the manifest), traveled with two family members: “Whang Li Shing Ah”, a 22 year old married woman, and “Whang Jun Wha”, a 17 year old single woman. Y. O. Huang was 21 years old at the time, and married (link to ancestry.com copy of manifest).

All three of these people have the surname 黄, variously romanized as Whang or Huang (or occasionally Wang), and they all traveled together. One possible interpretation of this is that Whang Jun Wha and Whang Li Shing are sisters, and Y. O. Huang is completely unrelated, just happening to share a common surname. Bolstering this interpretation is a “news of the weird” item that ran in several regional newspapers in America after the family’s arrival, explicitly referring to Li Shing and Jun Wha as sisters and noting their shared father (31 Dec 1912, Oakland Tribune, pg. 8).

The other possibility is that Y. O. Huang and Whang Jun Wha are siblings, and Li Shing has married into the family via Y. O. Huang. The 1912 ship’s manifest seems to indicate this, as the immigration officer wrote down “Shing” as Li Shing’s surname, then wrote “Whang” above it in the surname box. It isn’t super common for married women to take their husband’s surname in China, but it was definitely more common during the imperial period, especially among those who went to Western countries.

It is the second possibility that is correct, and interestingly enough, the American newspaper report that erroneously calls Li Shing and Jun Wha sisters gives us the last puzzle piece. It refers to the “sisters’” father as a general who distinguished himself in the revolution against the Manchus. This man was 黄興, usually romanized as Huang Xing, deputy to Sun Yat-sen. His revolutionary group, the Hua Hsing Hui, was instrumental in the uprising in Changsha province. Y. O. Huang was the son of this man and his second wife Liao Tan-Ju. He was the eldest of six children, including “Whang Jun Wha”, who was his sister C. H. Huang (Xue, 1961).

Y. O. Huang spent his early childhood in Hunan with his mother. Then in 1906, at the age of 14, he joined his father in exile in Japan (Xue, 1961). He must have returned to Shanghai some time before 1912. There are indications in the Chinese Wikipedia article that he was in Hong Kong working for the revolution in 1911, for example. But he had to have gone to Shanghai eventually because he left for America from there, accompanying his wife and sister to Holyoke, Massachusetts. However, his last occupation as listed on his US entry paperwork was as a student in Japan (link). Like E. J. Chu, he couldn’t have attended Mt. Holyoke, as it is an all-girls school, but it seems likely that he attended Columbia University in New York. He appears in the 1915 Directory as living at 204 W. 109th Street in New York City, but I have not found any indication from Columbia University itself that he was enrolled there.

He went to California in 1914 to meet his father, who had left China due to the ascendancy of his political rival, Yuan Shikai. He then returned to Japan for some time and worked with the revolutionary movement in exile there, signing documents on behalf of his father regarding the progress of the revolution (Xue, 1961). In 1915 he shipped back to America from Yokohama (link to manifest from ancestry.com). His father, interestingly enough, was living in exile in Pennsylvania at the time. The ship’s manifest indicates that he was returning to New York to meet Dr. D. B. Duncan, a professor of English at Columbia.

He only stayed in America another two years, until his father died in 1917. He then returned to China to serve in Sun Yat Sen’s government in Guangdong in 1917. Chinese Wikipedia again has a list of his political accomplishments, such as serving as magistrate of the Changsha area, and then serving in the Legislative Yuan, starting in 1936.

We lose Y. O. Huang off the primary sources after this point. Mostly this is because after the war against the Japanese/WWII, he left politics and began working in industry (Chinese Wikipedia: “至1943年方以养病之名返回湖南,由此脱离政治,投身实业。抗日战争胜利后,中国国民党湖南省党部派人请黄一欧出山任职,被黄一欧拒绝”, translation: “By 1943 he had returned to Hunan to recover from an illness, and because of this he separated from politics to focus on industry. After the War of Resistance Against Japan, the members of the Chinese KMT in Hunan province asked Y. O. Huang to return to office, but he declined.”)., However, he did join the Communist Party and at his death in 1981 he was a member in good standing of the CCP. Being Wikipedia, this claim is not very well sourced, but I tend to believe it. The print source I have been using for this post, Huang Hsing and the Chinese Revolution, by J. Xue, gets most of the family information and personal background  of the Huang family from a series of letters exchanged between the author and C. H. Huang, Huang Hsing’s oldest daughter. The letters were exchanged in 1955, and contain almost no information about Y. O. Huang. As we will see in an upcoming post, C. H. Huang fled to Taiwan with the rest of the KMT, so to me this indicates a possible China-Taiwan family rift.

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