S. K. Chow (周思敬)

My student for this week is Clarence Sze King Chow (周思敬, pinyin Zhōu SīJìng; courtesy name 仲久/Zhòng Jiǔ). Like many other Chinese students of this era, his travels were not limited to the United States, and he would serve as consul to Cuba and Australia under the Republic of China.

From the Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 6 No. 5 (March 1911), pg. 497

S. K. Chow was born in Hankow (Hankou, now part of the city of Wuhan), in Hupeh (Hubei) province, in about 1890. His father was Chow Wan Peng (周万鹏, pinyin Zhōu WànPéng), one of the Chinese Educational Mission students from the 1870s. Chow Wan Peng had been specifically instructed to study telegraphy by the Qing court, and although he returned to China before he had a chance to go to university, at the time of S. K. Chow’s birth he was working at the Hankou Telegraph Bureau. S. K. Chow would follow his father around the country as the telegraph lines in Shanghai, then Tientsin and Peking, were repaired after the Boxer Rebellion. S. K. Chow would attend the YMCA College in Shanghai, as well as St. John’s College, and he at one time had an address at 495 Myburgh Road (1914 Class History, pg. 460). But he also kept a permanent address at 總布Hutong, Number 30, which is within the Second Ring Road in Beijing today. He arrived in the United States in 1906.


The first time we see him in the United States, it’s in 1910 in the Federal Census. He’s in Holyoke, Massachussets and living with the Kagwins, remember them? They are the family that hosted members of Yung Wing’s Chinese Educational Mission in the 1870s, and then volunteered to host Boxer Indemnity Scholars in the early 1900s. We last saw them in 1912 when they were the US contacts for E. J. Chu, Y. O. Huang and his wife, and Miss C. H. Huang. Well, prior to that sponsorship, they housed S. K. Chow as he attended Holyoke High School (link to 1910 Census). You may be wondering if there is a connection with S. K. Chow’s father and there definitely is. Chow Wan Peng also stayed with the Kagwins when he was a student at Holyoke High School, and in fact father came to visit son in 1908. From the previously-linked CEM website:

The Springfield Republican, in its issue of Sunday, 19 July 1908, reported: “…Back in the 70s the Chinese government sent over a large number of youths of the highest social standing, under the auspices of Yung Wing, a graduate of Yale, and a man of advanced ideas.  The young Chinamen were at first placed under private tuition and later in the public schools, and the results of American education were awaited with keen interest.  Chow Wan Pang and another youth [Yuen Chan Kwon (Yuan Changkun 袁长坤 III, 81)] were located at B. H. Kagwin’s home on Beech street, and the vice-director’s son is now a high-school student living with the same family. Those who recall the Chinese students of the late 70s state that they learned with preternatural ease, quickly adopted American standards of dress, and were enthusiastic in our sports.…In 1881 a conservative representative of the Chinese government visited the boys to ascertain their progress, and was horrified to find them practically Americanized.  Their instant recall followed, but Chow and his comrade Yuen were given diplomas by the school committee though they were unable to graduate with the class of 1881….Mr Chow assisted in negotiating the Chino-Germaine [sic] treaty and was honored with a decoration by the German emperor, as well as by the rulers of Holland and Belgium.  He was one of the committee that entertained Secretary Taft at the Chinese capital, and is his enthusiastic admirer.”

So, the 1910 Census proves that S. K. Chow was using the Western name “Clarence” early on, and it also tells us that Berijah himself, the 80-year-old patriarch of the family who sponsored the original CEM students, was actually sponsoring Clarence, not his son Dwight, who would continue to sponsor students like E. J. Chu after Berijah’s death. But it also gives us the awkward information that S. K. Chow, despite being the age of a typical high school senior, was the “servant” of the Kagwin family. I’m not 100% certain why he was listed as such. It’s possible that this information is incorrect, that the census-taker mistakenly assumed that a young Chinese man living with white people in Massachusetts must have been a servant, rather than a boarder or lodger. However, it is also recorded that S. K. Chow attended school the previous year, and that he was earning a wage for his work as a servant. So it’s more likely that the record is 100% correct, and that S. K. Chow attended high school in Holyoke and also worked as a servant for the Kagwins while rooming there. Berijah’s participation in the Chinese student programs . . . looks a lot less like Christian charity from that angle, let’s just say.


The 1911 Eastern Directory gives the Kagwins’ address for S. K. Chow: Beech Street Extension in Holyoke, MA. This was also the year he graduated from Holyoke High School (1911 Holyoke Municipal Register, pg. 182), although according to the 1918 Returned Students Directory, he did so in 1909. The 1918 Directory does say that he was studying Law, which is not a subject I have ever heard of being taught in high school, so perhaps he was doing a special preparatory program? Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1911 that he entered a university, Yale, as a freshman in the Sheffield Scientific School (Catalogue 1912, pg. 780). The Yale records have him living at 74 Lake Place (pg. 830), while the CSA has him at 878 Yale Station in their 1911-12 Directory.

At Yale, S. K. Chow was active not only in the various Chinese students’ organizations, both local and national, but he was also a big sports player. He joined the Yale baseball team (Yearbook 1914, pg. 45) and lettered in basketball (New York Tribune, 16 Apr 1922, pg. 4), and the 1918 Returned Students Directory mentions that he was on the varsity football team. He had also participated in, and won handily, the track and field competitions at the Princeton CSA Conference in 1911 (Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 7 No. 1, pg. 33). Then, as suddenly as he had entered Yale, he was leaving. The Chinese Students’ Monthly reported:

Mr. C. S. K. Chow, for the past two years the Alliance’s Individual Champion in Track, has gone home with his brother by the Pacific. A rumor is abroad that he is going to get married.

Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 8 No. 1 (November 1912), pg. 43

This does seems to be what happened; in 1915 he was married to a woman named Mabel Chen, and by 1918 they had one daughter.


Although he hadn’t finished his civil engineering degree, and in fact had only studied the subject for one year, his US schooling was enough to get him a job at the Pusing Railway as an engineer. But he hadn’t given up his sports dreams quite yet. In addition to training his brother Frederick, who would also go on to become a noted sportsman at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, he competed for China in the first Far Eastern Championship Games in Manila in February of 1913. These were the precursor to the Asian Games, and were lauded with much excitement from the Asian participants, and much condescension from the Western observers. Take this article from the Boston Evening Transcript, for example:

Unique Athletic Meeting in the Philippines
Chinese and Japanese Teams Among Competitors
Latter Won the Baseball Series Easily
Filipinos Superior on Track and Won the Games

The great Olympic games held at Stockholm, Sweden, last summer, have reverberated around the world, and strange as it may seem their first echo has come back from the far-away city of Manila in the Philippine Islands. There, during the first nine days of February, occurred a unique event in the history of the Far
East, for Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino met each other in all kinds of American athletic events from the 100-yard dash to baseball and bicycling. Indeed, the nine days proved to be a miniature of the big games held in Stockholm, last summer,
and more than anything else furnished an idea of how complete the occidentalization of the Far East is becoming. It takes a severe wrench of the imagination to picture our little brown brother, Lozada, just nosing out Wi Hseintsang at the finish of the 220-yard low hurdles in 28 3-5, while it is perhaps stranger still to see ball-tossers from the Mikado’s empire winning the baseball championship of the Far East from the Filipinos.
It was a strange sight which the white men looked upon in that tropical land during those nine days, and perhaps the oddest part to most Americans is that it took place under the Stars and Stripes. America has not long been an Asiatic Power, but in the years that its influence has been felt it has brought about many changes. Forty-two Chinese had journeyed across to Manila over the stretch of sea which separates the islands from Hongkong and were under the directon of the American head of a college founded by money refunded by America from the Boxer Indemnity. Down from the land ofthe Rising Sun came another large delegation of Orientals, these from a country which had been opened to the commerce and thought of the world by an intrepid American commander. And the two delegations were met by Filipinos, members of the Malay branch of the human family, which is entirely different from the Mongolian who also had been led along the path to civilization by Uncle Sam. The whole event seems a bundle of opposites and contradictions and doubtless there are older white residents of the Far East who have not yet ceased rubbing their eyes….

On Feb. 1. the first classic athletic event of the Orient started off with a grand
parade past the American governor-general, W. Cameron Forbes. With the whole city upside down from the Carnival, bands playing, flags waving, and hundreds of school children singing English songs, the Japanese, Chinese and Filipinos who were to contest in the first Olympic of the Orient filed in procession before the government box. Above waved the rising sun of Japan and the five-barred flag of the new republic of China, while in the centre was the Stars and Stripes. The Filipinos in
their white outing shirts and white duck trousers had the largest delegation, of course, but the others were far more unusual. Following the parade came calisthenic
drills by more than 500 school girls and when the big crowd had united in singing “Yankee Doodle”, the games were on….

Boston Evening Transcript, 22 Apr 1913, pg. 14

S. K. Chow competed in pole vault, running broad jump [long jump], discus, standing and running high jump, standing broad jump, pentathlon, and decathlon (The North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, 25 Jan 1913, pg. 255). He ended up winning second in decathlon and standing high jump, as well as third in pole vault (New York Tribune). He returned to his job at the railroad, but by 1914 he had moved to Peking, taking a job as a professor at Peking Government University (Beida). I’m not sure what he taught, although I assume engineering. He was active in both the sports and returned students communities in Peking, playing center on the Returned Students’ basketball team, which played at the Peking YMCA (Peking Daily News, 19 Feb 1916, pg. 4).


He was only at Beida for a few years before he was appointed vice-consul for the Chinese Consulate in Havana. Much like his appointment to Beida, I don’t know on what grounds he was given this job; he hadn’t so much as studied international politics as far as I know. But he set off to Cuba with his wife in February of 1918, stopping in the United States on the way (link to entry paperwork). They would be back and forth quite often, returning to China via Key West that May (link to entry paperwork). S. K. Chow was then posted to Australia as vice-consul – a position which included consulship over the Fiji Islands (27 Aug 1920, The Sydney Morning Herald, pg. 8). A 1919 newspaper article states that he had been serving in Cuba for 3 years at that point (The Shanghai Times, 13 Oct 1919, pg. 2). In 1921 he was back in China, although still working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (The North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, 08 Oct 192, pg. 92).

Both Yale and St. John’s University tried to catch up with him, but his constant moving around made it difficult. The 1922 Seven-Year Record from Yale listed S. K. Chow as the second secretary at Havana, while the 1922 St. John’s Catalogue listed him as teaching at Beida (pg. 175). He seems to have been in China, more specifically Shanghai, throughout the 1920s, working for the judicial branch of the government. There are several references in Shen Bao to his legal decisions and work on a tax reform committee (1 Oct 1926, pg. 11; 21 Apr 1922, pg. 13).


Then, in the 30s, S. K. Chow seems to have moved back into industry. The family settled in Peiping while he worked at the Mentoukou Mining Company (Yale 1914S 25-Year Record, pg. 43; The North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, 09 June 1937, pg. 439).  And then . . . nothing. The only news about S. K. Chow that I have since then is an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1969, announcing that his grandson had gotten engaged (14 June 1969, pg. 10). His counterpart, Mabel’s father Mr. K. T. Chen, is listed as “late”, so I know S. K. Chow must have been alive as of 1969; he would have been 79 years old. He is also listed as “of China”, so I also know that he did not move back to the United States, or any other country. But apart from that, I have no ending to S. K. Chow’s story.

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