Yung Wing

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Yung Wing 容閎
Yung Wing Frontispiece My Life in China and America 1909 FRD 4814.jpg
Born Nanping, Xiangshan, Guangdong, Qing Empire (in modern-day Xiangzhou District, Zhuhai)
Died 21 April 1912(1912-04-21) (aged 83)
Hartford, Connecticut

Yung Wing (simplified Chinese: 容闳; traditional Chinese: 容閎; pinyin: Róng Hóng; November 17, 1828 – April 21, 1912) was the first Chinese student to graduate from a United States university (Yale College in 1854). He was involved in business transactions between China and the United States and brought students from China to study in the United States on the Chinese Educational Mission. He became a naturalized American citizen, but his status was later revoked under the Naturalization Act of 1870.[1]


The first edition of My Life in China and America by Yung Wing (1909)
Page One

Yung Wing is the first-known Chinese student to graduate from a U.S. university. He graduated from Yale College in 1854 where he was a member and librarian of Brothers in Unity, a prominent Yale student literary society. His time at Yale was sponsored by Samuel Robbins Brown (1810–1880).[2] In 1851, at the end of his freshman year, Wing wrote to Albert Booth, a fellow alumnus of Munson Academy and "old Yale, where you have the satisfaction + honor to have gone through." Wing asked for Booth's help in acquiring study materials and stated, "Now you know probably the many disadvantages in which I labor aside from these additional studies."[3] He was a member of the Phi chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. After finishing his studies, Yung Wing returned to Qing Dynasty China and worked with western missionaries as an interpreter. In 1859, he accepted an invitation to the court of the Taiping rebels in Nanjing, but his proposals aimed at increasing the efficiency of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom were all eventually refused. In 1863, Yung Wing was dispatched to the United States by Zeng Guofan to buy machinery necessary for opening an arsenal in China capable of producing heavy weapons comparable with those of the western powers. The arsenal later became Jiangnan Shipyard.

Yung Wing was naturalized as an American citizen on October 30, 1852, and in 1876, he married Mary Kellogg, an American. They had two children: Morrison Brown Yung and Bartlett Golden Yung. At Yale's centennial commencement in 1876, Yung Wing received an honorary Doctor of Laws.[4]

Yung Wing's family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

He persuaded the Qing Dynasty government to send young Chinese to the United States to study Western science and engineering. With the government's eventual approval, he organized what came to be known as the Chinese Educational Mission, which included 120 young Chinese students, to study in the New England region of the United States beginning in 1872. The Educational Mission was disbanded in 1881, but many of the students later returned to China and made significant contributions to China's civil services, engineering, and the sciences.

Yung Wing was a lifelong supporter of reform in China. He had followed the lead of the Guangxu Emperor, whom Yung described as the great pioneer of reform in China.[5] The coup d'état of 1898 by the Empress Dowager Cixi aborted the reforms, and many of the reformers were decapitated.[5] A price of $70,000 was placed on Yung's head and he fled Shanghai to Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong, he applied to the US Consul to return to the US. In a 1902 letter from the US Secretary of State John Sherman, Yung was informed that his US citizenship that he had held for 50 years was revoked and he would not be allowed to return to the United States. Through the help of friends, he was able to sneak into the United States in time to see his youngest son, Bartlett, graduate from Yale. In 1908, Yung joined "General" Homer Lea, the former American military advisor to Kang Youwei, in a bold and audacious military venture in China called the “Red Dragon Plan” that called for organizing a revolutionary conspiracy to conquer the two southern Guang provinces. Through Yung, Lea planned to solicit a united front of various southern Chinese factions and secret societies to organize an army that he would command for the revolution. If successful, Yung was slated to head a coalition government of revolutionary forces while Lea and his fellow conspirators hoped to receive wide-ranging economic concessions from the new government. The Red Dragon conspiracy subsequently collapsed and Yung lived his remaining years in poverty in Hartford, Connecticut, and died in 1912.[6]

Yung Wing's grave is located at Cedar Hill Cemetery outside Hartford, Connecticut.

P.S. 124, a public elementary school at 40 Division St. in Chinatown in New York City, NY, is named after Yung Wing. Yung Wing has been considered as a possible namesake for one of Yale University's new colleges to be completed in 2017. [7]


  1. ^ Gold, Martin (2012-07-04). Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress : a Legislative History. The Capitol Net Inc. pp. 31–. ISBN 9781587332524. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Cornelia E. Brooke (January 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Sand Beach Church". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  3. ^ Ravi D. Goel Collection on Yale (RU 1081). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library. (Accession 2008-A-176. Yale letters and memorabilia, Box 1, Folder 10)
  4. ^ Schiff, Judith Ann, "When East Met West," old Yale, November/December 2004
  5. ^ a b Yung Wing, My Life in China and America, p.83, Henry Holt Co., New York, 1909
  6. ^ Chu, T.K., 150 ,Years of Chinese Students in America, p.9, Harvard China Review, Spring 2004; Lawrence M. Kaplan, Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune (University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 145-157.
  7. ^ Peter Perdue (October 17, 2014). "For Wing College". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2015-06-05. 


  • Edward J.M. Rhoads, Stepping Forth into the World the Chinese Educational Mission to the United States, 1872-81 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Univ. Pr., 2011).
  • Liel Leibovitz, Matthew I. Miller, Fortunate Sons : The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011).

Further reading[edit]

  • For a comparative perspective on Yung Wing's Sino-American Educational Mission of the 1870s and Prosper Giquel's Sino-European Educational Missions of the same period see Steven A. Leibo's The SINO-EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL MISSIONS 1875-86 Asia Profile, vol. 16, no. 5 1988.

External links[edit]