Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program

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The Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program (Chinese: 庚子賠款獎學金; pinyin: Gēngzǐ Péikuǎn Jiǎngxuéjīn) was a scholarship program funded by Boxer Rebellion indemnity money paid to the United States that provided for Chinese students to study in the U.S. It has been called "the most important scheme for educating Chinese students in America and arguably the most consequential and successful in the entire foreign-study movement of twentieth century China."[1]

The first group of Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program students in 1909. Future president of the Republic of China Zhou Ziqi is seated in the front center.


Although there had previously been some higher education opportunities for Chinese in the U.S. associated with Yung Wing's Chinese Educational Mission, this short-lived effort was disbanded in 1881, a year prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act, and there was little subsequent activity.

Following the Boxer Rebellion, the defeated Qing Empire were to pay 450 million taels of fine silver as indemnity over a course of 39 years to the eight nations involved.[2] Under the exchange rates at the time, this was equal to US$ 335 million gold dollars or £67 million.[2] Including interest, the Qing finally paid 982,238,150 taels (~1,180,000,000 troy ounces (37,000 t) silver), of which the U.S. share was 7.32%.

When Liang Cheng,[3] the Qing representative to the U.S., learned that the terms of the Boxer Protocol awarded the U.S. more than it had originally demanded, he initiated a campaign to pressure the U.S. into returning the difference to China.[4] The American Minister in Peking campaigned for it to be used for education rather than projects the Chinese preferred.[5] In 1906, the President of the University of Illinois, Edmund J. James, who led the University from 1904-1920, proposed to President Theodore Roosevelt a plan to establish a scholarship program to send Chinese students to the U.S.,[6] this would later be known as the "Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program." James' 1906 letter noted to President Roosevelt,

China is upon the verge of a revolution […] The nation which succeeds in educating the young Chinese of the present generation will be the nation which for a given expenditure of effort will reap the largest possible returns in moral, intellectual and commercial influence.[6]

In June 1907, the Theodore Roosevelt administration decided to use the difference to create a scholarship program for Chinese students to study in the U.S.[7] American missionary Arthur Henderson Smith also helped persuade Roosevelt to use the indemnity payment for education.[8]

Despite further proposals by the Chinese to use the funds within China, the settlement was made on American terms.[5]


The program, set up in 1909, funded the selection, preparatory training, transportation to the U.S., and study for the scholarship beneficiaries. Part of the first remission of money included establishment in 1911 of a preparatory school (肄業館 Yìyèguǎn) in Peking (Beijing) for the Chinese graduates pursuing further studies at American universities, named Tsinghua College in 1911 and also called the "American Indemnity College" (美國賠款學校 Měiguó Péikuǎn Xuéxiào). This school was later expanded to offer four-year undergraduate and post-graduate programs and became Tsinghua University.

A second remission in 1924 provided for the establishment of the China Foundation (中華文化教育基金會 Zhōnghuá Wénhuà Jiàoyù Jījīnhuì) which would in turn fund the China Institute in New York City in 1926.[9]

Approximately 1,300 students were able to study through the program from 1909 to 1929.[4] In 1929, after Tsinghua had become a true university itself, the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program was opened to all candidates.[4] A total of five groups of scholars were educated in the U.S. before the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.


A number of prominent Chinese and Chinese Americans were beneficiaries of the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program, including philosopher Hu Shih, Nobel Physics prizewinner Chen Ning Yang, mathematician Kai Lai Chung, linguist Yuen Ren Chao, educator Kuo Ping-Wen, rocket scientist Tsien Hsue-shen, meteorologist and scholar Coching Chu (竺可楨), and architectural engineer Edward Y. Ying, who was influential in the planning of modern Shanghai. The scholarships served as a model for the Fulbright Program's grants for international educational exchange.[10]

The United Kingdom, France, and Japan also later set up similar programs for Chinese students.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ye, Weili (2001). Seeking Modernity in China's Name: Chinese Students in the United States. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 10. 
  2. ^ a b Spence, Jonathan D. [1991] (1991), The Search for Modern China, WW Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-30780-8.
  3. ^ Liang Cheng himself had come to the U.S. at age 12 as part of the fourth group of Yung Wing's Chinese Educational Mission. He was educated at Phillips Academy and Amherst College.
  4. ^ a b c Weili Ye. Seeking Modernity in China's Name: Chinese Students in the United States. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.
  5. ^ a b Hunt (1972), abstract
  6. ^ a b Timmins, Mary (December 15, 2011). "Enter the Dragon". Illinois Alumni Magazine. 
  7. ^ Iris Chang. Thread of the Silkworm. Basic books, 1995.
  8. ^ Thompson, Larry Clinton. William Scott Ament and the Boxer Rebellion: Heroism, Hubris, and the Ideal Missionary. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009, 219
  9. ^ "Founded in 1926 in New York City, China Institute is one of the oldest cultural and educational organizations in the United St". 1926-05-25. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  10. ^ Morris Bishop. A History of Cornell. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1962. p.403