Yung, Wing, 1828-1912

Alternative names
Birth 1828-11-17
Death 1912-05-29
Chinese, English

Biographical notes:

First Chinese student to graduate from Yale University (1854); served in Imperial Customs Translating Department, Shanghai; worked under the Viceroy Tsang Kwoh Fan, 1863-1865; involved with education in China and in sending Chinese students to the U.S.; held various posts in the Chinese government until 1902, when he moved permanently to the U.S.

From the description of Yung Wing papers, 1848-2001 (inclusive), 1848-1910 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122562677

From the description of Yung Wing papers, 1848-2004 (inclusive), 1848-1910 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702166703

Kwang is a member of the Chinese Educational Mission in Hartford and is its translator.

From the description of Letter, 1875 December 14, Hartford, Conn., to Harriet G. Atwell. (Hartford Public Library). WorldCat record id: 33256364

Yung Wing was born in Nam Ping Village of Xiang Shan Province (now Zhong Shan Province) in South China. In 1854, he received his degree from Yale College, becoming the first Chinese to graduate from an American university. Yung is significant in the history of his country because he encouraged other young Chinese to be educated in Europe and the U.S., and to learn the "western viewpoint." Upon return to China, he wanted a role in preparing China for the future, but instead was associated with the reformers, and was shunned and often threatened. Yung fled to Hong Kong and eventually returned to the U.S. in 1902 until his death in 1912.

From the description of Yung Wing collection [microform], 1848-1910. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 743409375

First Chinese student to graduate from Yale University (1854); served in Imperial Customs Translating Department, Shanghai; worked under the Viceroy Imperial Customs Translating Department, Shanghai; worked under the Viceroy Tsang Kwoh Fan, 1863-1865; involved with education in China and in sending Chinese students to the U.S.; held various posts in the Chinese government until 1902, when he moved permanently to the U.S.

Yung Wing, second son of Ming Kun Yung and Lien Tai Lin, was born November 17, 1828, in the village of Nam Ping, near Macao, China, and received his early education in Macao in the missionary school of Mrs. Gutzlaff, an English lady, and that just started by the Morrison Education Society, under the charge of Rev. Samuel Robbins Brown, D.D. (B.A. Yale 1832), and soon removed to Hong Kong. In 1847 with two other Chinese boys from the latter school he came with Rev. Dr. Brown to the United States, expecting to return in two years, but friends enabled him to continue his studies here, and he was fitted for college at Monson (Mass.) Academy, under Rev. Charles Hammond (B.A. Yale 1839). He became a member of the Monson Congregational Church.

In sophomore year he twice won the first prize in English composition. During the latter half of his course he was steward of a boarding house and librarian of the Brothers in Unity, thereby largely earning his way.

Before graduation he had determined to do what he could to secure the regeneration and enlightenment of China under Western education. He had studied surveying under Professor William A. Norton and greatly desired to remain longer in this country to take a scientific course, but in November 1854, he sailed for China in company with Rev. William Allen Macy (B.A. Yale 1844), who had been one of his teachers in the Morrison School in Hong Kong and was then going out as a missionary of the American Board.

On reaching his native land after an absence of eight years he engaged in many different occupations before gaining the position and influence necessary to secure the educational advantages he desired for China. After regaining his command of the Chinese language he was at first for a short time secretary to Dr. Peter Parker (B.A. Yale 1831), for many years a medical missionary in Canton and at that time United States Commissioner, was then interpreter in the Hong Kong Supreme Court, then in the Imperial Customs Translating Department at Shanghai. The last position was financially a good one, but on account of the system of graft he found to prevail, he resigned after four months. In 1859 he engaged in the tea and silk commission business, which he continued with profit until 1863, when he entered the service of the Viceroy Tsang Kwoh Fan. In June 1864, he was sent abroad by the viceroy to purchase machinery for a machine shop, afterward known as the Kiang Nan Arsenal, near Shanghai. To this a mechanical school was afterward attached at Yung Wing's suggestion.

After visiting France and England he decided to make his purchase in the United States, and reached New Haven in season to attend his class decennial reunion. He spent six months in this country while the machinery was being constructed in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and then, in the spring of 1865, left New York for San Francisco by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and finished the circuit of the globe. A few months after his return to China he received an official document making him a Mandarin of the fifth rank, and later he was raised to the fourth rank.

In 1868 the opportunity suddenly came to present his plan to the prime minister for the education of picked Chinese youths abroad for public service, but the retirement and death of this official caused a delay of two years, when the Chinese Educational Commission was finally authorized. A group of thirty students was to be sent to the United States annually for four years, each student to have fifteen years to complete his education. If the first and second detachments proved a success the experiment was to be continued indefinitely. Headquarters were established in Hartford, Conn., where a preparatory school was built. In the autumn of 1872 the first group of students reached this country, and in 1875 the last group came. Yung Wing was appointed chief commissioner, and with this office promoted to the third official rank.

In 1873 he made a brief visit to China and induced the government to send large orders for Gatling guns, and while there he was appointed to visit Peru and investigate the condition of Chinese coolies in that country. In 1878 he was appointed associate minister to Washington, and also raised to the second rank of Mandarin, and invested with the title of Taou Tae (or Intendant) of the Province of Kiang Su. Through the efforts of the reactionary party, the Educational Commission was abolished in 1881 and the students were recalled. Recently, however, through the influence of some of the students who have risen to power, the work of the commission has been revived.

In the spring of 1882 Dr. Yung returned to China. While in Peking he prepared a plan for the suppression of the Indian opium trade in China, but he was informed that the government could not then find suitable men to carry out the plan, and it was laid aside for many years. In the spring of 1883 he returned to the United States, where he remained until the outbreak of war between China and Japan, working with the reform party. In 1895 he went again to China to see the Viceroy Chang Chi Tung, by whom he had been commissioned to raise a loan in London to enable the government to continue the war, and was appointed secretary of foreign affairs for Kiang Nan, but soon severed his official connection with that province, and made his headquarters in Shanghai, where he labored for the establishment of a national banking system and received a concession for a railroad to be built with Chinese capital, but at that time both projects failed. In 1897 he represented China at the jubilee of Queen Victoria in London. In 1902 he returned permanently to the United States.

After the empress dowager gained control of the government in 1898 a price was placed upon his head, but the ban was removed in 1905. Since the establishment of the republic he had been keenly interested in its progress, and had been in constant correspondence with its leading spirits.

In 1876 he received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Yale. In 1909 Henry Holt & Company published his autobiography, My Life in China and America .

Dr. Yung died of apoplexy at his home in Hartford, Connecticut, April 21, 1912. He was in the 84th year of his age. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. Joseph H. Twichell (B.A. Yale 1859), for more than forty years his intimate friend and pastor in the Asylum Hill Church. He was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.

He married February 24, 1875, Mary Louisa, daughter of Bela Crocker and Mary Golden (Bartlett) Kellogg, of Avon, Conn., and had two sons, the elder a graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School in 1898, and the younger of the College in 1902. Mrs. Yung died May 29, 1886.

[From The Obituary Record of the Graduates of Yale University, 1910-1915, pp. 183-86.]

From the guide to the Yung Wing papers, 1848-2004, 1848-1910, (Manuscripts and Archives)


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