William Zu Liang Sung (沈嗣良)

Returning tangentially to the Soo Hoo family, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to Lily Soo Hoo’s husband: William Z. L. Sung (沈嗣良, pinyin Shěn SìLiáng, Cantonese Jyutping Cam4/Sam2 Zi6Loeng4), a Chinese student who studied at Oberlin and Columbia and worked for St. John’s University in Shanghai.

Photo from Oberlin Archives.

Z. L. Sung was born on 3 (or 11) January 1896 in Ningpo (Ningbo), a port in Zhejiang province south of Shanghai. He was the son of father Sung Tse Sung and mother Sung Sze Z. – I assume Sze was his mother’s maiden name. Z. L. Sung was the youngest son in the family, and had two older brothers and five sisters (11 Sept 1940, The North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, “Death of Bishop Sing Tsae-seng”, pg. 410).

The Sung family of Ningpo had a long tradition of service to the Christian Church. Sung Tse Sung, Z. L. Sung’s father, was a bishop in Chekiang (Zhejiang) province (Oberlin archives, “Father Sung Is Dead At 70”). As a matter of fact, Z. L. Sung’s father was the first Chinese man to become a bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and Tse Sung’s father was the first Chinese priest to be ordained by the Anglican Church. Z. L. Sung’s two uncles were also ordained priests, and several of his aunts married clergymen. He also had one older brother who became a priest as well (“Death of Bishop Sing Tsae-seng”).


He attended St. John’s University in Shanghai from the fall of 1910 to 1919, starting in the Fourth Class of the Preparatory Department (basically a middle/high school) in September 1910 (Catalogue, 1910/11, pg. 81) and repeating this class in September 1911 (Catalogue, 1911/12, pg. 91). He had advanced to Third Class by 1912 (Catalogue 1912/13, pg. 111), and proceeded normally from there. In 1915 he entered the college program, matriculating into the School of Arts (Catalogue 1915/16, pg. 80). He graduated in 1919 with a BA, but he did not leave St. John’s right away, staying on for a year as the P.E. Director for the school (Catalogue 1919/20, pg. 165).

He arrived to the US 27 Sept 1920 from Shanghai, headed to Oberlin, Ohio (ship’s manifest). According to the Chinese Students’ Association’s Who’s Who of the Chinese Students in America of 1921 – the successor to the CSA Directories – Z. L. Sung was studying Physical Education at Oberlin and hoped to earn his MA. He lived at 106 W. Lorain St. in Oberlin and planned to return to Shanghai the following year to re-take his position as the P.E. Director at St. John’s. But before he returned, as we know from Lily Soo Hoo’s post, he married on 21 June 1921 at Oberlin Christ Church (29 June 1921, Oberlin News, “Chinese Students Wed”, from Oberlin Archives). He then returned to St. John’s to take up his old position (Catalogue 1921/22, pg. 162).


In addition to his work at St. John’s, Bill was highly involved in the physical education world beyond the collegiate sphere. In 1925 he was selected to serve as secretary for Chinese Olympic matters (25 Apr 1925, The China Press, “Far Eastern Contest Comm. Shake-Up Here”, pg. 4). He also served as the Secretary of the China National Amateur Athletic Federation from 1921 on (Who’s Who in China, 5th ed. (1934), pg. 203). In 1928, after successfully organizing the Far Eastern Championship Games of 1927, Z. L. Sung became the St. John’s Dean of Studies (Johannean Who’s Who), and then in 1929 the acting vice president (Who’s Who). It was a role he would only hold in person for one semester, because in July of 1929, Z. L. Sung returned to America to study at Columbia University (28 July 1929, The China Press, “William Z. L. Sung Sails for United States to Study”, pg. A1).

The entire family, consisting of Lily, Z. L. Sung, and four children, left Shanghai on 27 July 1929 (ship’s manifest) with various destinations: Z. L. Sung was going to New York while Lily and the girls seem to have been headed to Berkeley to visit Lily’s mother. Z. L. Sung was headed to Columbia to do graduate work in college administration to prepare him better to take up the deanship at St. John’s (Oberlin College Alumni File; 1944 Pott letter). He shows up in the 1930 Handbook of Chinese Students in the USA, the successor to the earlier CSA directories and the Who’s Who of Chinese Students in America. Unfortunately, the Handbooks have much less information. His address is listed as 500 Riverside Drive in New York City, a residence known as the International House, which was then and still is today a boarding house for students and other international visitors to New York.


Z. L. Sung returned in July of 1930 and took up the deanship of St. John’s again (20 Jul 1930, The China Press, “Wm. Z. L. Sung, Local Sports Promoter, Returns After Year’s Stay In America”, pg. A1). He was soon overseas again, this time to attend the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California (7 Aug 1932, The China Press, “William Z. L. Sung Writes Home On Arrival In U.S. For World Olympic Games”, pg. B3; ship’s manifest). He writes in the previously-linked article, “Almost at each stop when my boat called for port, there were newspaper reporters on board special launches to meet the steamer. This was especially so in Japan and San Francisco. It goes to show that how people are interested at this instance of China’s first participation in the world sports” (“William Z. L. Sung Writes Home”). The Olympic delegation – including the sole Chinese Olympic athlete from that year’s games – returned in September (17 Sept 1932, The China Press, “4 Sportsmen Return Here From States”, pg. 8).

Z. L. Sung in 1934, from Who’s Who In China, 5th ed.

The next Olympics, of course, were the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. And again, Z. L. Sung was there. In fact, he received a medal from Hitler (20 Aug 1936, The China Press, “Hitler Honors Wang, Sung With Medals”, pg. 6). Okay, so he received it from one of Hitler’s representatives. But talk about the sentences you never think you will have to write! Z. L. Sung mentions in the article how the Olympic delegation is already looking forward to Tokyo, but thanks to the very man who awarded him that medal, those Olympic Games would never come to pass.


Because then, the war began. The 1937 Battle of Shanghai caused major upheaval in Z. L. Sung’s life, closing down St. John’s (3 Sept 1937, The China Press, “St. John’s Hopes To Open In October”, pg. 4). The school hoped to open for the fall semester in October. Then, a mere 4 years later, the president of St. John’s, Dr. F. L. Hawks-Pott, retired, and Z. L. Sung took over the presidency (22 Feb 1941, The China Weekly Review, “Dr. F. L. Hawks-Pott Reitres After Forty-Three Years With St. John’s”, pg. 406). He was not a popular president, from at least one account. The students “bitterly opposed” him and he ended up resigning in 1946 (Oberlin Archives, “Father Sung Is Dead at 70”). He was even tried by the Kiangsu High Court on charges of collaboration (Oberlin Archive, “Sung to Be Arraigned as Collaborationist”). Regardless, he kept the school going during the Japanese occupation and was even able to work with American missionaries until their internment by the Japanese in 1943 (Oberlin Archives, Potts letter).


From the Oberlin Archives.


According to his wife’s naturalization petition, the Sungs left China for America in 1949. Upon arrival, Z. L. Sung entered the General Theological Seminary in New York, to follow in his brother’s, father’s, uncles’s, and grandfather’s footsteps at the age of 52. He studied there for one year and then transferred to the Divinity School of the Pacific, presumably to live with the rest of his family in California (Oberlin Archives, Lily Soo Hoo’s Alumni Record Form). He was ordained as an Episcopal clergyman in 1950 and began his second career of minister, which he held for more than 15 years. He worked at the Chinese Center in Berkeley, which was a religious outreach center (Oberlin Archives, “Father Sung is Dead at 70”). He and his family lived at the Soo Hoo residence: 2116 Channing Way in Berkeley (Oakland City Directory, 1957, pg. 513). On 6 June 1967, Z. L. Sung died and was buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in San Mateo (findagrave.com record).

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