Kicking it old-school again today! I have a government-funded student to profile today who came to the US 8 years before the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship was founded. In fact, he entered the United States not long after the Boxer Rebellion itself ended! Today’s student is C. Y. Wang (王寵佑, pinyin Wáng ChǒngYòu; courtesy name 佐臣, pinyin Zuǒ Chén) who was one of the first Chinese students to attend the University of California.
C. Y Wang’s family was from Tung Kun Hsien in Kuangtung (Guangdong) Province, but he himself was born in Hong Kong in 1879. This means that there are fewer-than-normal entry records for him because he would have been considered a British citizen, so he did not have a Chinese Exclusion Act file, for example. He attended two famous schools in his youth: Queen’s College Hong Kong, a secondary school also attended by Sun Yat-Sen, and Peiyang University (Tianjin University), the first-ever university in China. He was at Queen’s College from the ages of 14 to 16, and entered Peiyang in 1895 – the same year it opened – to study mining. He was 20 when he graduated from the mining department in 1899 (Who’s Who in China, 1925, pg. 802).
He graduated at an exciting time for Chinese intellectual society. Many scholars and bureaucrats, as well as revolutionaries, had been pushing the Qing government to modernize and enact reforms. After the upheaval of the Boxer Rebellion and the punishment of having to pay an indemnity to 8 foreign nations, the calls for reform and modernization increased, and in 1901 the Dowager Empress Cixi announced the “New Policies”. Under these policies, imperial examinations were set to be phased out, tax collection was reformed, and schools were remodeled along Western lines. As a part of this educational modernization, the Qing government sponsored a limited number of students to study abroad. C. Y. Wang was one of the students chosen to study in the United States. His specific scholarship may have been funded by the government telegraph office (Guangming Daily, “我国现代炼锑技术的开拓者――王宠佑”, original text: “１９０１年，他得到招商局、电报局的公款支持，奉派赴美”, translation: “In 1901, he received investment promotion, and with the support of the telegraph office’s public money, he accepted to be sent to the US”).
This was noteworthy on both sides of the Pacific. The Chinese imperial government had not given a foreign scholarship to a student since the closure of the Chinese Educational Mission in the early 1880s. This step represented a complete rejection of the conservative Manchu faction at court, who had doomed the CEM all those years ago. But the sending of 7 Chinese students to the University of California was also noteworthy in the United States. It may seem strange to say now, but Chinese, even Chinese-Americans who had grown up in California, did not attend the university system in California. These 7 students were some of the first Chinese students to attend UC-Berkeley, ever. Local newspapers reported on it as a curiosity:
Berkeley gained a novel accession yesterday in the persons of Chang Yu Chuan, Wang Chung Yu, Hu Tung Chal, Woo Kim Lang, Chen Chin Tao, Yen Chin Yung and Wang Chun Huy, official students sent by the Chinese Government to be educated at the State University at the expense of the Chinese Government. With them are Koh Yu Ching and Sung Fah San, who will be educated at the university at the expense of a Christian missionary society. They are destined for missionary work in the Celestial Empire.
– San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 84, 23 August 1901, pg. 4, C. Y. Wang in bold.
The official government students arrived together on 22 August 1901 (ship’s manifest) and the students enrolled immediately. C. Y. Wang was able to enter UC-Berkeley as a graduate student, thanks to his studies in mining at Peiyang (Register – University of California. 1901/02., pg. 408). He attended summer school in 1902 and then continued his studies in the 1902-1903 academic year (Register – University of California. 1902/03., pg. 434; pg. 527). But he didn’t complete his masters at the University of California. He attended for one more semester – the fall of 1903 – and then transferred (Register – University of California. 1903/04., pg. 446).
There’s no indication why he didn’t finish the masters at UC-Berkeley. Perhaps he had a disagreement with his advisor, or failed a class, or perhaps, like Lily Soo-Hoo, he was tired of the racism towards the Chinese that was endemic in California. He did end up changing the focus of his studies from just mining to mining and geology, so perhaps the University of California didn’t offer him the opportunity to broaden his research. Whatever the reason, he transferred to Columbia University in New York (Catalogue of the officers and students of Columbia. 1903/04. pg. 317). He studied Mining and Geology in the School of Mines, and lived at 526 W. 123rd Street in New York City, not far from the Columbia campus. (pg. 530).
He was quite successful at Columbia, being elected to Sigma Xi and the American Institute of Mining Engineers (1925 Who’s Who). He was able to complete his MA in 1904, with the thesis of “A Project for the Development of a Drift Mine in California” – which sounds like he had already done most of the work, including picking the topic, while at UC-Berkeley (Catalogue. v. 1904/1905, pg. 489). His research involved the fields of geology, mining, and metallurgy, which by now was housed in the School of Pure Science (pg. 365). By this year, he had moved to 418 W. 118th Street (pg. 559). We catch him in the first Chinese Students’ Association directory here in 1905. He was listed as a Columbia student in mining who would graduate in 1903 (?). His address was care of Ling Fong & Co. at 2931 Houston Street, New York City, another mistaken entry. The 1906 Columbia Alumni Register lists the address as 29 W. Houston Street (Catalogue of officers and graduates of Columbia university from the foundation of King’s college in 1754, 1906, pg. 575).
I haven’t been able to figure out what Ling Fong & Co. was – probably an import-export business – or what C. Y. Wang’s association with them was. Columbia lost track of C. Y. Wang for several years and simply continued to list the Ling Fong address as his contact information (Catalogue of officers and graduates of Columbia university from the foundation of King’s college in 1754, 1912, pg. 671; 1916, pg. 925). He may have stayed on at Columbia another semester to do some postgrad work in geology (Catalogue. v. 1905/1906, pg. 335). But there’s definitely a gap in the record. If C. Y. Wang’s mail was being routed through Ling Fong & Co., where was C. Y. Wang? Where did he go?
Several sources state that he did not return to China until 1908, traveling around Europe for “further study” (Wikipedia, Baidu, 1925 Who’s Who, Guangming Daily). It seems he first headed to London, England to attend the July 1906 meeting of the American Society of Mining Engineering (Mining and metallurgy / American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, 1906, pg. 857). He then participated in a “Special Excursion to Germany”, heading to Dusseldorf with a smaller group of mining engineers (pg. 859). However, he must have been planning to go to Germany the whole time, because back in June, Shen Bao reported:
Overseas students will not return home
○ A few days ago, Ambassador Yang, stationed in Germany, had already replied to the government, saying that the German study abroad graduates Wang Chonghui, Wang Chongyou, and Lao Jinrong wanted to continue studying abroad.
– Shen Bao, 3 June 1906
This news report both answers and raises a few questions. Wang Chongyou (C. Y. Wang) and Wang Chonghui were brothers, Wang Chonghui being the younger (Mining120, “中国矿藏之父——王宠佑”), and they had both attended Peiyang together and were two of the seven students who studied in the University of California. Wang Chonghui was listed in the UC-Berkeley catalog alongside C. Y. Wang, then left after only one year. It’s possible that he went to Germany after that, joining Lao Jinrong there, and C. Y. Wang met up with them when he went to Dusseldorf in 1906. But there’s no indication that C. Y. Wang officially studied in Germany and no reason to call him a “German study abroad graduate”.
There’s another issue as well. While the imperial exams had officially been abolished, the returned students still had to sit an examination to prove that they had learned something abroad and to be awarded a Chinese certification. And according to another source, C. Y. Wang took this certification exam in October of 1906, and passed. He was granted Chinshih, which was equivalent to a Doctor of Literature (The North – China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, 26 Oct 1906, pg. 209). How did he do this if he was still in Europe, agitating to stay in Germany for more study? On the other hand, apart from this 1906 exam notice, there are absolutely no records of C. Y. Wang in China before 1908. So if he was truly in China in October of 1906, what did he do for 2 years before he got his first post-university job?
Whatever the case, C. Y. Wang was back in China in 1908, and he was already doing great things. In December of 1908, he and another returned student from the UK named Liang founded the Wah Chang (Huachang) antimony mining company in Changsha (Shen Bao, 15 December 1908, pg. 18; Bulletin of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, no. 30, pg. xviii). Antimony was a particular interest of C. Y. Wang’s, being the subject of an English-language treatise he wrote that same year (Baidu). He became internationally well known as an expert in the antimony mining field, and the company he founded is still in existence today. Although he only officially stayed with Wah Chang for a year, he remained interested in the mining situation in Hunan province (where Changsha is located). As late as 1919, he was presenting papers to engineering societies about mining in Hunan (The Canton Times, 18 Jan 1919, pg. 4).
C. Y. Wang spent the next few years moving all over China. In 1909, he moved on to a job as the managing director of the Pao Tai Mining and Smelting Company, located in Wuchow. He also may have kept up his international travel, reporting his address to Sigma Xi as “London, England” in 1911 (Sigma Xi quarter century record and history, 1886-1911, g. 301). He got married in 1912 during his time at Pao Tai (1917 Who’s Who Among American Returned Students), to a woman with the Western name of Alice Kong, although I don’t have a record of her studying in the US. They stayed in Wuchow in 1912 (Year book / American Institute of Mining Engineers, 1912, pg. 110), and then C. Y. Wang took a job in Hupeh as the superintendent of the Taiyeh Iron Mines from 1914-1916, then a job as a consulting engineer/engineer-in-chief at the T. K. Pannof and Antimony Refinery in Hankow (1917 Who’s Who, 1925 Who’s Who). During this time, he also may have served as the head of a committee on coal mining in Shandong province (Wikipedia, Baidu), as well as held several minor government positions related to mining in Kwangsi province and the city of Canton (1936 Who’s Who).
Then in 1921, he was chosen as an advisor to the Washington Naval Conference (Guangming Daily). However, it’s not clear how he arrived to the United States. He is listed in Shen Bao as a member of the delegation who would be staying in cabin 130 on the ship over to the US – T. L. Li was in cabin 36 (Shen Bao, 5 Oct 1921 pg. 14). But unless he was using a wildly different name, he was not on the ship that entered San Francisco with the rest of the delegation. He possibly caught a different ship from Japan; at the time of the conference he was the vice-chair of the World Engineering Conference taking place in Tokyo (Guangming Daily). He was also awarded the 3rd-class Chia Ho in July of 1922, which was almost certainly in recognition of his services at the Conference (Shen Bao, 15 July 1922, pg. 4).
He returned to China and began working for the Liu-Ho-Kou Mining Company, specifically at the Yangtzu Blast Furnace (1925 Who’s Who). But he kept several addresses: one with the Liu-Ho-Kou Mining Company in Mu Ch’ang Hutung in Beijing, and one in Hankow – 21 Rue de Paris. He also participated in setting up the first-ever Chinese Geology Society and the Chinese Smelting Engineering Association (Wikipedia) and then served as the Geology Society’s vice president and then president (Baidu). He oversaw the unification of the Chinese tungsten, antimony, and tin production industries (Mining120) and published several more works in English on mining, including “Bibliography of the Mineral Wealth and Geology of China”, “A Treatise on Coal”, and co-wrote “A Treatise on Tungsten” (1936 Who’s Who; Guangming Daily).
In 1931, Columbia University caught up with him, listing his permanent address as 63 Szeming Street in Hankow (Columbia Alum. 1931, pg. 921). Sigma Xi repeats this information in their 1936 alumni directory, although they list the house number as 61 (Sigma xi half century record and history, 1886-1936, pg. 419). The Who’s Who in China of 1936 concurs with the 63 Szeming Street address (pg. 247).
Speaking of the 1936 Who’s Who, this publication gives us a good look at what about 10 years of holding roughly eleventy-billion jobs will do to you:
Amazingly, despite looking as though he had worked himself half to death, C. Y. Wang still wasn’t done. Through one of his government posts in Guilin, he was sent abroad in 1938 to inspect the antimony and tin industries of Europe and the United States. He went to England first and stayed at the Palace Hotel in London during his inspection tour, then arrived to New York from Southampton on 26 January 1939 (entry paperwork). He stayed for almost a year, and then when he returned to China, he was off to the Yunnan Iron and Steel works to serve as their director (Wikipedia).
After a year in Yunnan, he and his wife moved to Hong Kong and lived at #5 Duke Street in Kowloon. This was most likely because C. Y. Wang had returned to Wah Chang and would be going from China to New York City regularly for the next few years as the head of the research department (Baidu). And indeed, after only a year back in China, he was entering the US again, headed for New York City, on 23 February 1941 (entry paperwork). By 1947, he was keeping a permanent address in New York at 111 Broadway (entry paperwork).
This didn’t mean that C. Y. Wang was leaving China behind. On the contrary, he felt very strongly that he wanted to invest in and help grow the scientific community of China. Shen Bao reports in 1947:
Translation: Industrial Experts Compiling a Basic Industrial Book Series
(Report from the newspaper) Weng Wenyu, Jian Guansan, Chen Bozhuang, Wu Zhaohong, in order to promote the study of China’s heavy industry and to assist in economic construction, have invited experts to edit the “Ziben Industry Series”, which will be printed by the Commercial Printing Press. The authors and authors are as follows:… (7) Tin and Antimony Mining: Yang Gongzhao, Wang Chongyou, and Chen Dacan
– Shen Bao, 25 September 1947, pg. 9; C. Y. Wang in bold
C. Y. Wang remained as the director of the Wah Chang research division until the late 1950s. Then, after a brief illness, he passed away on 30 August 1958 in New York. He was 80 years old, and the man who would be known as the “Antimony King” had lived an extremely long, busy life tirelessly working to modernize and improve China’s mining industry. I found his alumni card in the Columbia University archives, which lists several of his addresses, as well as the fact that he won the University Medal in 1929.