Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Jung Hung

JUNG Hung (Yung Wing) 容閎 (T. 純甫), Nov. 17, 1828—1912, Apr. 21, the first Chinese to graduate from an American university, an early advocate of Western learning for China, was a native of the village of Nan-p'ing 南屏 in the district of Hsiang-shan (present Chung-shan) on Pedro Island about four miles southwest of Macao. He was the third in a family of four children. Despite their humble circumstances, his parents took the opportunity to enter him (1835), when he was barely seven, in a school at Macao conducted by the wife of Karl F. Gützlaff (see under Wei Yüan). The school disbanded two years later and he returned to his Chinese studies for a time, but after his father's death in 1840 he assisted his mother in the support of the family. In 1841 he entered the school of the Morrison Educational Society which was first conducted at Macao and in 1842 was moved to Hong Kong. The school was founded in memory of Robert Morrison 馬禮遜 (1782–1834), the first Protestant missionary to China. Jung Hung was in this school until 1847, receiving there the equivalent of an American grammar school education. On January 4 of that year he and two classmates, Huang Shêng (Wong Shing, see under Wang T'ao) and Huang K'uan (Wong Foon 黃寬, d. 1878), set sail for America in the company of the retiring principal of the school, Samuel Robbins Brown (1810–1880). Aided by subscriptions raised by foreign merchants and residents of Hong Kong and Canton, the three boys entered Monson Academy at Monson, Massachusetts—a school which their sponsor, Mr. Brown, once attended. In 1850 Jung Hung graduated from the Academy and, though he could not expect further help from his sponsors in China, he entered Yale University. Except for some financial aid from "The Ladies' Association" of Savannah, Georgia, and the Olyphant brothers, of New York, he supported himself during the four years of his college course by managing a boarding house and acting as librarian for one of the literary societies. In his sophomore year he won, twice in succession, a prize in English composition. Graduating from Yale in 1854, he left the following autumn (November 13) for China where he visited his mother.

After a few months spent in recovering the spoken language, he acted as secretary to Dr. Peter Parker (see under Hsü Kuang-chin), the United States Commissioner at Canton. He also was interpreter for the Supreme Court in Hong Kong. In August 1856 he went to Shanghai where he worked first in the translating department of the Imperial Customs, then as a clerk for a tea and silk merchant, and later as an inspector of the tea-growing districts. In the autumn of 1859 he accompanied a party on a visit to the Taiping rebel chiefs at Soochow and Nanking to judge for himself the character of the movement. He suggested several measures of reform to the Taiping chiefs, none of which they accepted. He was offered by them the fourth official rank, which he declined. The Taipings had seized large quantities of tea, boxed for shipment, and these Jung Hung and a few merchants planned to take to Shanghai for export. With the aid of a passport given him by the rebel chiefs, he and his associates brought 65,000 boxes of the tea through territory held by both rebel and government forces. Ill from the dangers and exposure of this work, he relinquished it after six months and established his own business as a tea commissioner in Kiukiang.

The turning point in Jung Hung's career came in 1863 when he received letters from two of his friends who were secretaries of Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.]—namely, Chang Ssŭ-kuei 張斯桂 (H. 魯生) and Li Shan-lan [q. v.]—inviting him to visit the great statesman. Chang and Li had already discussed with Tsêng the need for mechanical equipment and they urged Jung Hung to present to the Viceroy a plan for the introduction of Western machinery into China. Jung was commissioned by Tsêng to go to America to purchase the machinery for what subsequently became the Kiangnan Arsenal. Leaving China early in 1864, he traveled by way of Europe and Great Britain to New England where he fulfilled his commission and returned to China in the following year. When Tsêng Kuo-fan inspected the machinery in 1867 Jung persuaded him to establish a school for the training of mechanics. At this time Jung was made an official of the fifth rank. A few months later he was decorated with the peacock feather and was also raised to an official of the fourth rank—meanwhile acting as interpreter and translator for the government.

For many years Jung Hung had cherished a plan for the education of Chinese in America. His Western education had induced him to consider ways in which the technological information of the West could best be introduced into China. He believed that this should be done, not by the employment of foreign specialists, nor by the purchase of machinery, but by sending Chinese youths to Western countries to be trained in the technological professions. At the same time Tsêng Kuo-fan was working towards a similar solution. Ting Jih-ch'ang [q. v.] was acquainted with the desire of Jung Hung to start such a project, and also with the desire of Tsêng Kuo-fan to remedy the technical backwardness of China. In 1870 both of these officials were at Tientsin in connection with the settlement of the Tientsin massacre. A plan for sending students abroad was proposed in general terms in a memorial dated October 10, 1870. Imperial assent having been given to the general proposal, Tsêng Kuo-fan and Li Hung-chang [q. v.] perfected it in detail, and on August 18, 1871 the full plan was presented to the throne. The project was accepted and the first group of students set sail for the United States in the summer of 1872. They were supervised by Ch'ên Lan-pin 陳蘭彬 (T. 荔秋, chin-shih of 1853), a conservative official known for his devotion to Chinese learning. Ch'ên had been deliberately chosen to counterbalance Jung who was suspected of excessive partiality for Western ideas. Jung, as Assistant Commissioner, had gone in advance of the first group in order to complete arrangements for their reception in the United States. Headquarters were established at Hartford, Connecticut, where a building was erected (1874) for the use of the Mission. In the spring of 1873 Jung returned to China as agent for the Gatling Company whose guns he introduced into the Chinese army. During the same year he was sent by the government to Peru to investigate the "coolie traffic", and while there secured the freedom of eighty laborers.

On February 24, 1875 Jung Hung married Mary Louisa Kellogg, the daughter of a New England physician. In the same year Ch'ên Lan-pin and Jung were appointed joint ministers to the United States, Spain and Peru. But as Jung was unwilling to give up his position with the Educational Mission he was allowed to retain that post. At the same time he was made an associate minister to Washington with the rank of a second class official. Ch'ên Lan-pin did not go to Washington, however, until September 19, 1878. Nine days later he and Jung presented their letters of credence, thus establishing the first Chinese Legation in the United States.

Unfortunately for the fate of the Educational Mission, Ch'ên Lan-pin and Jung Hung differed from the beginning on the general policy to be pursued in superintending the education of the youths in their charge. Jung favored as much absorption by them as possible of the American viewpoint. The pressure of the new environment, which the youths found to be very attractive, naturally caused them quickly to discard their Chinese dress and manners and to neglect the Chinese part of their education which was supposed to go on simultaneously with their American studies. Ch'ên Lan-pin disliked this metamorphosis and wanted to keep the boys more strictly to their Chinese studies. Reports of Jung's conduct of the Mission spread back to China with the result that much criticism arose about the alleged corrupt practices and doctrines of the students. Li Hung-chang—either because he did not wish to stand against this tide of unfavorable opinion or because from such a distance he could not judge properly what was going on—withdrew his support and in June 1881 the Mission was ordered to be abolished and the students and teachers were directed to return home.

Among the students who came to America at this time the following may be mentioned: T'ang Shao-i 唐紹儀 (T. 少川, 1860–1938), first Premier of the Republic; Chan T'ien-yu 詹天佑 (T. 眷誠, 1861–1919), chief engineer of the Peking-Kalgan Railroad; Liang Tun-yen 梁敦彥 (T. 崧生, d. 1924), onetime Minister of Foreign Affairs; Admiral Ts'ai T'ing-kan 蔡廷幹 (T. 耀堂, 1861–1935); and Jung K'uei (Yung Kwai 容揆, T. 贊虞 1861–1943. The last-named was connected for more than forty years with the Chinese Legation in Washington.

Leaving his family at Hartford, Jung Hung returned to China shortly after the students had left. For the next two years he attempted to resume employment with the Chinese government but, dissatisfied with the post offered to him, returned to America, reaching Hartford in the spring of 1883. There he remained until 1895. He was then commissioned by Chang Chih-tung [q. v.] to seek a loan in London to help China defend herself against Japan. He negotiated the loan, but owing to differences of opinion in China, it fell through. Nevertheless, he returned to China at the invitation of Chang Chih-tung. As his wife had died on June 28, 1886, he left his two sons, Morrison Brown Yung and Bartlett G. Yung, under the guardianship of his father-in-law, Dr. E. W. Kellogg. After filling a minor secretaryship in Nanking, he went to Peking where he worked on projects to establish a National Bank and a railway from Tientsin to Chinkiang, neither of which he could carry through. During the heat of the Reform Movement of 1898 (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung) he deemed it wise to leave Peking. After a sojourn in Hong Kong from 1900–02 he returned to the United States and spent the last years of his life in the preparation of his autobiography which was printed in 1909. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1852. He died at Hartford, in 1912 at the age of eighty-four. Among his close personal friends were Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain, 1835–1910), Charles Dudley Warner (1829–1900), and the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell (1838–1918).

In 1936 a bronze tablet was placed at Chiao T'ung University 交通大學, Shanghai, in Jung Hung's honor, and a hall was dedicated to his memory. His eldest son, born in 1875, died in Peking in 1933. His second son, born in 1877, is said to be still living in China.


[Yung Wing, My Life in China and America (1909) with portrait; Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.], Tsêng Wên-chêng ch'üan chi (memorials), 30/3a–4a, 30/13b–15b; Ch'ing Shih-lu (T'ung-chih period) 291/3ab; idem, Kuang-hsü period 130/66.]

Thomas C. La Fargue