Going way back this time, I thought I’d profile one of the very first Boxer Indemnity Scholars: King Tao (金濤, pinyin Jīn Tāo), who was part of the first cohort of Indemnity Scholars in 1909.
T. King was born in 1888 or thereabouts in Fungxian, a suburb of Shanghai, in the Jiangsu Province. This is a frustratingly vague birth date, but it comes from the first lines of his entry in the 1918 Supplement to the 1917 “Who’s Who of American Returned Students”, published by Tsinghua University. This publication, much like the original from 1917, has information about selected returned students in both Chinese and English. Frustratingly, the Chinese text and the English text do not always correspond. Specifically, the addresses and Chinese dating system have been left out of the English sections, “partly because it is not deemed necessary and partly because it is impossible to translate them in many cases” (pg. iii).
I’m not too proud to admit that I took that as a challenge, so here is the first line of T. King’s Chinese entry for us to unpack: “金 濤 字旬卿年三十 — 歲生於江蘇奉賢”. The first two characters are his name, followed by his “courtesy name” of 旬卿 (pinyin Xún Qīng). It then states that he is 30 years old, although there is a possibly erroneous em dash between the words “thirty” (三十) and “years old” (歲). I am relatively sure that it was not supposed to be the number 1 (一). So if he was 30 when the Supplement was published, he would have been born in 1888.
The Supplement goes on to state his permanent address: Suzhou, Yan Jia Alley, number 14. This is not too far from his birthplace of Fungxian, on the other side of Shanghai. According to a later ship’s manifest, he had a relation possibly named Yeh Mo; this was probably his father. And he was married, which the 1918 Supplement’s English entry states happened in 1913, but the Chinese section leaves out.
T. King attended several schools in his youth. He attended Soochow University from 1903 to 1906, then Tangshan Railway College from 1907 to 1909, and then Nanyang College in 1909. Then, he received a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship the first year it was offered, in 1909.
The 1909 Boxers left Shanghai in October of 1909. They arrived at Honolulu on the 30th. Interestingly, T. King was listed as heading to Boston, but I don’t know that he ever planned to attend a school there (ship’s manifest). The ship continued on and arrived at San Francisco on 6 November 1909. T. King’s American residence, like many other Boxer Indemnity Scholars’, was listed as Washington, DC (arrival paperwork). This was probably because the Chinese Educational Mission was located there, and would serve as their permanent contact in the US. T. King was 19 years old, about the same age as the other Scholars, and was an impressive 5 feet 10.5 inches tall (ship’s manifest).
As previously stated, T. King did not attend school in Boston. Instead, he registered for the Spring 1910 semester at Cornell University. No doubt thanks to his previous schooling in China, he was able to enter as a sophomore. He studied civil engineering (Cornell Register 1909-10, pg. 692). He took classes during the summer of 1910 (Cornell Register 1910-11, pg. 107), and returned as a junior in civil engineering for the 1910-11 academic year. He finished the year with 4 terms at Cornell under his belt (pg. 74).
T. King also shows up in several Chinese Students’ Association publications from the moment he arrived to Cornell. His arrival was noted, along with that of three other students, in the 1909-10 Chinese Students’ Monthly (Vol. 5, pg. 276). He was listed as a CSA member in the 1911 Directory with an address of 401 Dryden Road, Ithaca, NY. This information was repeated in the 1912 Directory. He served as the secretary of the Cornell Chinese Club in 1910-1911, and formed part of the committee to welcome new Chinese students to Ithaca (Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 6, pg. 578). He was elected president of the club in the 1911-12 school year (Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 7, pg. 384).
T. King’s senior year was the 1911-12 academic year, and he earned his C.E. on 7 February 1912 (Cornell Register 1911-12, pg. 65; pg. 125). In April of that year, he was also elected a member of the scientific research honors society Sigma Xi, after he had already left for China (Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 7, pg. 669). His Cornell yearbook entry makes much out of “king” puns:
Tao King, Soochow, China, Prep. School, Soochow University Prep. Dept., Age 23. Course, C. E. Years in Cornell, 3. In 1909, the “King” of the greatest nation of the Orient traveled 10,000 miles to study in Cornell [Academic’s note: I looked this up because it seemed like a lot, and it is actually just under 7223 miles]. He is studious but not a “grind”; he is zealous in the future of his “kingdom,” but not overpassionate. His majesty will probably build a two-hinged arched bridge to China to break the world’s record.
He returned home after graduation and began working at the Nan Hsun Railroad in Jiangxi as an assistant engineer. He then moved to working for the Hankou Reconstruction Bureau, not too far away in Wuhan, as an engineer and surveyor. Finally, he worked on the Nanking-Hunan Railroad. Each of these jobs was for a short stint of two years or less, probably just long enough to complete whatever project he’d been brought on to manage before moving on.
In 1915, he moved to Beijing and began working with the Department of Communication (meaning Transportation or Traffic) at Beijing University. Despite all the moving around of the previous 3 years, he still wanted to keep in touch with other returned students, especially Cornell alumni. He met with six other former Cornell students on 14 Nov 1915 at Tung-hsing-lou Restaurant in Beijing; the seven alums wanted to form a North China Cornell Association (Cornell Alumni News, Vol. XVIII No. 13, pg. 153). The Cornell Civil Engineer caught up with him in 1916. He was listed as a professor of communications at Beida, but interestingly, his permanent address of Yen Jia Alley in Soochow was listed (pg. 494). This is in contrast to the 1918 Returned Students Supplement, which listed his address as Beijing, inside the Dongchang Hutong, Taiping Hutong, number 6. Dongchang Hutong is basically right smack in the middle of Beijing, within spitting distance of the Forbidden City. It’s almost impossible to buy an apartment in that part of town nowadays; check out the current prices on these places in the same area!
The 1919 edition of the American Society of Civil Engineers Yearbook also catches us up with T. King. He had become a member of this organization in late May of 1912, and was listed as working for the Ministry of Communications as a member of the Committee on Railway Technics (pg. 179). This yearbook does list his Beijing address of Dongchang Hutong. It seems that he had stopped teaching at Beida; the Yearbook doesn’t mention it, and neither does the Cornell Alumni Directory of 1921. That publication lists his address as 33 Tou Fa Hutong in the West City, Peking (pg. 177). This is still very centrally located, although, as the address suggests, on the western side of the Forbidden City rather that the east.
So what was he doing, then? It’s quite the mystery, because the Cornell Alumni Directory of 1931 lists his most recent information as “College of Communication Peiping China” (pg. 483). So, sometime between 1919 and 1931 he stopped working for Beida, moved, and then began working for Beida again. T. King shows up again in the 1938 Cornell Directory of Living Alumni, but with no current address or work information (pg. 523). Unfortunately, Cornell did not release another alumni directory until 1960, so no luck there. It was completely impossible to find any references to him in my Chinese sources, firstly because “King” is an incredibly common last name both in English and Chinese, and with only one given name, it is hard to find the King I’m looking for, and secondly because I have far fewer sources from Beijing than I do from Shanghai or Canton.
So unfortunately, I have another open-ended one for you this week. T. King probably stayed in Beijing through the 1930s and may or may not have survived the war. He didn’t come back to the United States, and he never entered politics. But he did live in an awesome hutong, so there is that.