Today’s student is Lingoh K. Wang (王麟閣, pinyin Wáng LínGé), a student who seemed to be on a mission to attend every single university in the United States in his seven years in the country, then visit every single country as Chinese consul after he graduated.
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.
My student for this week is Miss Phoebe Stone (石非比, pinyin Shí Fēibǐ), who was the younger sister of the famous Dr. Mary Stone, one of the first Western-trained female physicians in China, and one of the first Chinese women to study in the United States. Mary is a little bit outside of the time period of my research, but Phoebe fits right in, and I’m excited to share her story with you.
This week I’ll be profiling one of the female Indemnity Scholars: Miss Yat-Kwan Liang (pinyin Liáng Yìqún, Cantonese Jyutping Loeng4 Jat6kwan4). Beginning in 1914, the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship exams were opened to female students every other year. The number was limited; in 1914 only 10 scholarships were awarded to women. 1916 was the second year that female students were sent to the US to study, and Y. C. Liang was one of 10 women that earned a scholarship that year (Shen Bao, 1 Sept 1916, pg. 10).
Back to another original 1909 Boxer Indemnity Scholar! This week’s student is Y. F. Chen (程義法, pinyin Chéng YìFǎ), with a courtesy name of 中右 (pinyin Zhōng Yòu). He was born in about 1890 in Shanghai and left for the US before his 19th birthday to study mining and metallurgy.
I decided to profile L. M. Tsaou next thanks to a reader’s comment on my blog post on K. C. Chen. L. M. Tsaou (曹麗明, pinyin Cáo LìMíng) was another Massachusetts student who became ill during the influenza pandemic and died in the US. His story was similarly tricky to sort out, thanks to the lack of descendants, but I was able to gather a good amount of information on the short life of this Boxer Indemnity Scholar.
It’s flu season again, and it seems to be a pretty harsh one from what my friends on social media and local news stories indicate. Just the other day I read a story about a healthy 22-year old who got the flu and died. The indication so far is that his death was a fluke – normally only the very young, old, and immunocompromised are at risk of dying from flu – but it still put me in mind of the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic that had such a high mortality rate among young people. The 1918 flu was a worldwide pandemic that caused an overreaction of the immune systems of those who were infected, leading to respiratory complications like pneumonia which ended up being fatal. And since the students I have been researching were all young adults during this pandemic, I’ve encountered several Boxer Indemnity Scholars who were affected and even died from the flu or pneumonia during the time of the outbreak.
Continuing on from last week’s post on Y. O. Huang, I thought I’d do a post on the sister that traveled with him, his wife, and E. J. Chu to America on the ocean liner Siberia in 1912. This is the 17-year-old C. H. Huang, or 黄振華 (pinyin Huáng ZhènHuá), born 15 November 1895 in Changsha, the oldest daughter of General Huang Xing and his first wife.
Charles Wan-Nian Bien (Chinese 卞萬年 or 卞万年, both of those options have the pinyin of Biàn Wànnián) is the last son of Z. S. Bien that I will be profiling in this blog; I’ll be profiling his daughter Edith Chu-Nian Bien next week. Before I get into Charles’ life, however, I thought I’d share an interesting thought that occurred to me on the drive in to work today. Put succinctly, the educational paths of the Bien family are a pretty good microcosm of the arc of the Boxer Indemnity Scholarships as a whole, and it’s really cool how this one family can illustrate the educational pressures that led to the development of the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship program in the first place, as well as the changing educational landscape in China that accounts for the changing nature of the program over the years.
Z. S. Bien and F. S. Bien came to America early, Z. S. Bien before the Boxer Indemnity program had even begun. Z. S. Bien studied at a French Catholic missionary college; missionary college preparation was a common pre-America educational choice for many Boxer Indemnity Scholars, especially the early ones. He then had to take a year of courses at Ithaca High School in America before continuing on to Brown University. This was also common for many Boxer Indemnity Scholars at the time. The truth is that even with foreign capital funding the missionary schools, the university movement was in its infancy in China at the turn of the 20th century, and many students arrived in the US unprepared for university coursework. It was common for Chinese students to re-take years at universities and even take high school or preparatory classes before entering a US college. Both Z. S. and F. S. Bien then received their undergraduate degrees in America and returned to China to help build the new republic; both entered banking, which was an essential field for the fledgling government. This was similar to other Chinese graduates at this time, such as W. K. Lam who entered governmental service, and H. K. Chow, who became a businessman. The drive to gain Western learning and then use it in the service of China was a strong theoretical underpinning of the entire Boxer Indemnity program.
However, the next generation of the Bien family had a slightly different US educational experience which mirrors the changes happening in the Boxer Indemnity program. As the Boxer Indemnity program continued into the 20s, students were coming to the United States much more prepared for a US university education. This was helped immensely by the efforts of Tsinghua University, created with Boxer Indemnity money, as well as the maturation of the original missionary schools. Therefore, the number of students retaking high school and college courses dropped significantly. Z. S. Bien’s first child, Richard, may have had educational preparation in China, but he entered Brown University immediately with no stops at preparatory courses first, and he took his entire bachelor’s degree at Brown. He even did a little graduate work before returning to China to teach. George and Paul had completed BSs in China at Shanghai College, an American Baptist missionary school which had an almost 20 year history by the time the twins graduated from it, as opposed to the 3 years of operation Aurora College had under its belt when Z. S. Bien left it in 1906. This meant that the standards of Chinese universities were starting to match up with those of American universities, such that Paul only had to take one year of undergraduate work before proceeding to his PhD, while George entered Brown as a doctoral student immediately. They also both returned to China and became teachers. This illustrates the changing needs of the Republic of China and of the desire for Western learning. The focus on post-university careers had shifted from those fields which were immediately helpful to the Republic, such as finance and government, to more long-term goals, such as teaching the next generation in China itself.
As the Boxer Indemnity program, and the Chinese educational system, moved into the 1930s, Chinese students were starting to elect NOT to travel abroad to receive a Western education, or to do so in very specific circumstances. Charles, the next-oldest child of Z. S. Bien and the subject of this post, graduated from medical school in China, and only came to America for a one-year program at Harvard. Z. S. Bien’s next two sons, Edward Mei Nian Bien and James Fung Nian Bien, did not study in America at all, although both had university educations. Edward attended Yenching University and became a noted paleontologist in China, while James went into banking like his father and uncle after graduating from Shanghai Fudan University.
The Boxer Indemnity program ended in 1937 when the Japanese invaded China, but by that point a Western university system was well in place in China, which has managed to survive World War II, the Chinese Civil War, and the bad old days of Communist China. It’s always hard to play historical “what-if”, but even if the invasion hadn’t happened I’m not sure the program would have been necessary for much longer, as the basic purpose of bringing the intellectual class of China more in line with the Western system had by and large been achieved. Of course, to this day many Chinese students still choose to study in America due to the prestige of the universities here, as well as for political and ideological concerns, but the overwhelming, almost philosophical drive to do so which underpinned the Boxer Indemnity movement is largely gone.
The children of the Boxer Indemnity Scholars themselves also have a different educational environment. Most of them were either born in America or were brought to the country at a young age, so they entered the American schooling system in primary school. George, Paul, Charles, Edward, and Edith Bien’s children all entered American schools as permanent residents or naturalized citizens of the United States, and most went on to college in the US as well. This reflects the flight from Communist China undertaken by many supporters of the Kuomintang regime, many of whom had studied in US universities at one time or another. So the children of former Boxer Indemnity Scholars are being raised in the American educational system and attending US universities by default.
Despite the title of this blog, the Boxer Indemnity Scholars, this is the first entry to date which will be dealing with an actual student with a scholarship from the Boxer Indemnity Fund. Hou Kun Chow (周厚坤, pinyin Zhōu Hòukūn) was born on 27 September 1891 in Wusi, Jiangsu province. He was a student at Nanyang College in Shanghai, the current Jiao Tong University (Who’s Who of American Returned Students, 1917). He arrived in America on 11 September 1910 on board the steamship China, headed for Boston with the second group of Boxer Indemnity Scholars (ship’s manifest, link to Ancestry.com copy; Chow Hou-Kun, 2015).