Wellington Koo

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Wellington Koo
Wellington Koo 1945.jpg
V.K. Wellington Koo in 1945
Chinese Ambassador to the United States
In office
27 June 1946 – 21 March 1956
Preceded byWei Tao-ming
Succeeded byHollington Tong
President of the Republic of China
In office
1 October 1926 – 16 June 1927
Preceded byDu Xigui (acting)
Succeeded byZhang Zuolin (as Generalissimo of the Military Government)
Premier of the Republic of China
In office
1 October 1926 – 16 June 1927
Preceded byDu Xigui (acting)
Succeeded byPan Fu
In office
2 July 1924 – 14 September 1924
PresidentCao Kun
Preceded bySun Pao-ch´i
Succeeded byYan Huiqing
Personal details
Born(1888-01-29)29 January 1888
Shanghai, Qing Dynasty
Died14 November 1985(1985-11-14) (aged 97)
New York City, New York, United States
Political partyKuomintang (1942-1985)
Spouse(s)Zhang Run'e (m. 1908, div. before 1912)
Tang Baoyue (m. 1913–1918, her death)
(m. 1920; div. 1958)

(m. 1959)
ChildrenGu Dechang, Gu Juzhen, Gu Yuchang, Gu Fuchang
Alma materColumbia University (BA, MA, PhD)
OccupationDiplomat, politician
AwardsOrder of the Precious Brilliant Golden Grain
Wellington Koo
Traditional Chinese顧維鈞
Simplified Chinese顾维钧

Koo Vi Kyuin (Chinese: 顧維鈞; pinyin: Gù Wéijūn; Wade–Giles: Ku Wei-chün; 29 January 1888 – 14 November 1985), better known as V. K. Wellington Koo, was a statesman of the Republic of China. He was one of Republic of China's representatives at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

Wellington Koo served as an ambassador to France, Great Britain and the United States; was a participant in the founding of the League of Nations and the United Nations; and sat as a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague from 1957 to 1967. Between October 1926 and June 1927, while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Koo briefly held the concurrent positions of acting Premier and interim President of the Republic of China.[1] Koo was the first Chinese head of state known to use a Western name publicly.

Early life and career (1888–1912)[edit]

Portrait of young Wellington Koo

Born in Shanghai in 1888, Koo studied at Saint John's University, Shanghai from 1901 to 1904,[2] and Columbia University, where he was a member of the Philolexian Society, a literary and debating club, and graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts (1908) and an M.A. in Political Science (1909). In 1912 he received his Ph.D. in international law and diplomacy from Columbia.[1][3]

Political career[edit]

Early struggle (1912–1920)[edit]

Return to Peking[edit]

Koo returned to the Peking in 1912. He served the Republic of China as English Secretary to President Yuan Shikai. In 1915, Koo was made Republic of China's Minister to the United States and Cuba.

After World War I[edit]

In 1919, he was a member of the Chinese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, led by Foreign Minister Lu Zhengxiang (Lou Tseng-Tsiang). Before the Western powers and Japan, he demanded that Japan return Shandong to China. He also called for an end to imperialist institutions such as extraterritoriality, tariff controls, legation guards, and lease holds. The Western powers refused his claims and, consequently, the Chinese delegation at the Paris Peace Conference was the only nation that did not sign the Treaty of Versailles at the signing ceremony.

Koo also was involved in the formation of the League of Nations as China's first representative to the newly formed League. From 1922, Koo served successively as Foreign Minister and Finance Minister. He was twice Acting Premier, in 1924 and again in 1926 during a period of chaos in Beijing under Zhang Zuolin in 1926-7. Koo was Acting Premier from 1 October 1926 and acted concurrently as Interim President. (On 12 March 1925, Sun Yat-sen died in Wellington Koo's home in Beijing, where he had been taken when it was discovered he had incurable liver cancer.)[4] He served as Premier from January until June 1927, when he resigned after Zhang organized a military government. After the Northern Expedition toppled the government in Beijing in 1928, he was briefly wanted for arrest by the new Nationalist government in Nanjing, but through Zhang Xueliang's mediation he was reconciled with the new government and returned to the diplomatic service. He represented China at the League of Nations to protest the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

He served as the Chinese Ambassador to France from 1936–1940 until France was occupied by Germany. Afterwards, he was the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James's until 1946. In 1945, Koo was one of the founding delegates of the United Nations. He later became the Chinese Ambassador to the United States and focused on maintaining the alliance between the Republic of China and the United States as the Kuomintang began losing to the Communists and had to retreat to Taiwan.[5]

Koo retired from the Chinese diplomatic service in 1956.[6] and in the same year he became a judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague,[7] and served as Vice-President of the Court during the final three years of his term. In 1967, he retired and moved to New York City, where he lived until his death in 1985.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Madame Wellington Koo (née Hui-lan Oei) with baby

In 1908, Koo married his first wife, Chang Jun-e (traditional Chinese: 張潤娥; simplified Chinese: 张润娥; pinyin: Zhāng Rùn'é). They divorced prior to 1912.[8]

Koo's second wife, Tang Pao-yueh "May" (唐寶玥; 唐宝玥; Táng Bǎoyuè; c. 1895–1918), was the youngest daughter of the former Chinese prime minister Tang Shaoyi and a first cousin of the painter and actress Mai-Mai Sze.[9][10][11] Their marriage took place soon after Koo's return to China in 1912. She died in the US during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.[12] They had two children: a son, Teh-chang Koo (1916–1998),[13] and a daughter, Patricia Koo (1918-2015),.[14]

Koo's third wife was the socialite and style icon Oei Hui-lan (1889–1992).[15][16][17] She married Koo in Brussels, Belgium, in 1921.[18][16] She was previously married, in 1909, to British consular agent Beauchamp Stoker, by whom she had one son, Lionel, before divorcing in 1920.[19][20][21] Much admired for her adaptations of traditional Manchu fashion, which she wore with lace trousers and jade necklaces,[18] Oei Hui-lan was the favorite daughter of Peranakan tycoon Majoor Oei Tiong Ham, and the heiress of a prominent family of the Cabang Atas or the Chinese gentry of colonial Indonesia.[22] She wrote two memoirs: Hui-Lan Koo (Mrs. Wellington Koo): An Autobiography (written with Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer, Dial Press, 1945)[23][24] and No Feast Lasts Forever (written with Isabella Taves, Quadrangle/The New York Times, 1975).[25] Koo had two sons with her: Yu-chang Wellington Koo, Jr. (1922–1975) and Fu-chang Freeman Koo (1923–1977).[26][27]

On 3 September 1959, Koo married his fourth wife Yen Yu-yun (1905–2017),[28] the widow of Clarence Kuangson Young.[29][30] He had three stepdaughters from this marriage: Genevieve (wife of American photographer and film director Gordon Parks), Shirley and Frances Loretta Young.[12][31]


Koo lived long enough to see two of his sons die before him. He died surrounded by his family on the night of 14 November 1985, at the age of 97. Wellington Koo was survived by his fourth wife, two children, nineteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[32]

Dying older than both the 87-year old Qianlong Emperor, the 92-year old People's Republic paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and living Jiang Zemin, Koo holds the distinction of being the longest-lived person to ever lead China. Despite this, his last wife lived even longer than he did: Juliana Koo died at the age of 111.[33]



  1. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang (16 November 1985). "V.K. Wellington Koo Dies. A Former Premier Of China". New York Times. Retrieved 9 December 2013. Dr. V. K. Wellington Koo, a Nationalist Chinese diplomat, a former Prime Minister and a signer of the United Nations Charter, died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan. Dr. Koo, whose ties to the United States date from his student days at Columbia University, was 97 years old. ...
  2. ^ Craft, Stephen G. (2004). V. K. Wellington Koo and the Emergence of Modern China. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 8–13.
  3. ^ http://weai.columbia.edu/columbia-alum-and-diplomat-v-k-wellington-koos-legacy-highlighted-in-a-talk-by-guangyao-jin/
  4. ^ Hahn, Emily Hahn, The Soong Sisters, NY: Doubleday, 1943, p. 124.
  5. ^ Chervin, R. H. (2013). "Turmoil in the Taiwan Strait: Wellington Koo and ROC Foreign Policy 1953–1956". East Asia. 30 (4): 291–306. doi:10.1007/s12140-013-9201-z. S2CID 153561562.
  6. ^ "Koo Resignation Accepted". The New York Times. 22 March 1956. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Koo Named to World Court". The New York Times. 11 August 1956. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  8. ^ Burns, Richard Dean and Bennett, Edward Moore (1974) Diplomats in Crisis: United States-Chinese-Japanese Relations, 1919–1941. ABC-Clio. ISBN 0686840127. pp. 127 and 148
  9. ^ "CAMPAIGNS: China Man". Time. 30 April 1928.
  10. ^ "Foreign News: Wise Wives". Time. 21 February 1927.
  11. ^ "Chinese Minister to Mexico Chosen, V.K. Wellington Koo, Graduate of Columbia, Also Envoy to Peru and Cuba. Japanese Objected to the Appointee as a Delegate to European Peace Conference". New York Times. 26 July 1915. Retrieved 30 July 2015. V.K. Wellington Koo, Secretary to the President of China and graduate of Columbia College, has been appointed Chinese Minister to Mexico, the post having been created for him, as at present the Minister at Washington is also accredited to Mexico, Peru, and Cuba. Dr, Koo now will be accredited to the last-named countries, and, perhaps, to other South American nations also.
  12. ^ a b "Ku Wei-chun," in Howard Boorman, Richard Howard, eds. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China New York: Columbia University Press, 1968, Vol 2 pp. 255–259.
  13. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KOO, TEH, CHANG". The New York Times. 14 July 1998.
  14. ^ "Paid Notice : Deaths Tsien, Patricia". The New York Times. 3 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Tracy Tang to Wed Stephen Limpe". The New York Times. 12 August 1990.
  16. ^ a b Index to Lafayette photographs of Asian sitters. lafayette.150m.com
  17. ^ No Feast Lasts Forever. thingsasian.com. 26 February 2004
  18. ^ a b Van Rensselaer Thayer, Mary (5 February 1939) "Mme. Koo Sees Our Future Linked With China's", The New York Times
  19. ^ "General News", The Herald and Presbyter, 20 October 1920, page 21
  20. ^ "Alumni Notes", Columbia Alumni News, Volume 12 (1 April 1921), page 378
  21. ^ Mann, Susan (2010) Margaret Macdonald: Imperial Daughter. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 0773538003. p. 147
  22. ^ "Obituary: Mme. Oei Tong Ham, Mother in Law of Dr. Koo, Chinese Ambassador to U.S.", The New York Times, 1 February 1947
  23. ^ "Mrs. Koo Explains Withdrawal of Book", The New York Times, 27 April 1943
  24. ^ "Mrs. Wellington Koo's Life Story", The New York Times, 31 October 1945
  25. ^ Khor, Neil (1 April 2007) An era on the cusp, captured. thestar.com.my
  26. ^ "Koo's Son Made Citizen; Daughter-in-Law of Ex-Envoy of China Also Takes Oath", The New York Times, 15 August 1956
  27. ^ Jacobs, Herbert (1982) Schoolmaster of Kings. macjannet.org
  28. ^ "Lessons of 107 Birthdays: Don't Exercise, Avoid Medicine and Never Look Back", The New York Times (online), 24 September 2012
  29. ^ Patricia Burgess, The Annual Obituary, 1985 (Gale Group, 1988), page 592
  30. ^ Frances C. Locher and Ann Evory, Contemporary Authors: Volumes 81–84 (Gale Research Company, 1979), page 303
  31. ^ Wife's maiden name given in William L. Tung, Revolutionary China: A Personal Account, 1926–1949 (St. Martin's Press, 1973), page 33
  32. ^ Wellington Koo survivors
  33. ^ Barron, James (8 June 2017). "Juliana Young Koo, Chinese Immigrant Who Published Her Life Story at 104, Dies at 111". New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2020.


  • Chervin, Reed H. "Turmoil in the Taiwan Strait: Wellington Koo and ROC Foreign Policy 1953-1956." East Asia: An International Quarterly, 2013, Vol 4 pp. 291–306.
  • Clements, Jonathan. Makers of the Modern World: Wellington Koo. London: Haus Publishing, 2008.
  • Craft, Stephen G. V.K. Wellington Koo and the Emergence of Modern China. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.
  • Hui-lan Oei Koo, with Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer, Hui-Lan Koo: An Autobiography New York: Dial Press, 1943.
  • Wen Yuan-ning. "Dr. Wellington Koo", in Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities. Edited by Christopher Rea. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2018, pp. 65–66.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sun Baoqi
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Yan Huiqing
Preceded by
Du Xigui
President of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Zhang Zuolin
as Generalissimo of the Military Government
Preceded by
Du Xigui
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Pan Fu
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Wei Daoming
Ambassador of China to the United States
Succeeded by
Hollington Tong