Sunday, March 8, 2009
Yung Wing & The Chinese Educational Mission
Not terribly obscure, but also insufficiently well-known, is that Hartford, CT was the center of one of the Qing Dynasty's last (and largely failed) efforts to reform itself in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yung Wing (a.k.a. Rong Hong), educated in missionary schools and the first Chinese to receive a degree from Yale, directed the "Chinese Educational Mission" that sent young men to be educated throughout New England, in both public and private schools. They returned to China so Americanized and perhaps even converted that Qing authorities eventually decided to suspend the mission because of its anti-Confucian and potentially subversive consequences. Yung Wing, himself a convert, remained in Connecticut, married into a local white prominent family, and was neighbor to and close friends with such contemporary luminaries as Samuel Clemens and the Reverend Joseph Twichell, both of whom spoke out against the "coolie trade" that led to Chinese exclusion and widespread anti-Chinese prejudice in the U.S., particulary in the Western states. Americans of Chinese heritage could not become citizens until the U.S. was forced to defend itself against Japanese imperialism. For those who are interested and cannot see it for themselves, I offer this photo of the inscription beneath his monument in Cedar Hill Cemetery. When one considers the company he keeps in eternity there: Katherine Hepburn, Samuel Colt, and virtually no one else connected to anything other than the local Yankee elite, it is a remarkable bit of further evidence that "makes the local global".