Boxer Rebellion Indemnity and First Chinese Student At Beloit
The Boxer Rebellion occurring during 1898-1900 was crushed by an international force of British, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and U.S.. Facing such a strong force, the weak China government was forced to sign a final settlement agreeing to pay about $330 million in damages in 1901.
In 1906, the pioneer American missionary and a Beloit graduate of class of 1867, Arthur H. Smith, suggested a Chinese Student Educational Plan to President Roosevelt. The main point of the plan was to return part of "the Boxer Rebellion Indemnity Fund to the Chinese government to be used to develop higher education in China, particularly by sending Chinese students to American colleges, where they would study American institutions and practices which, upon returning to China, they could help inculcate into Chinese life." (The Round Table, November 8, 1918, p.2) Becoming very interested in this plan, President Roosevelt conferred with Chinese authorities and suggested it to Congress.
In 1908 a bill was passed by the U. S. Congress "authorizing the president to modify the Boxer indemnity from $24,440,778.81 to $13,655,492.69." (The Round Table, October 27, 1917, p.3) The balance was returned to China and used for Chinese students' education in the United States.
To prepare Chinese students to enter American colleges and universities, a school was established in Beijing, Tsing Hua College. In the spring of 1911, the first eighteen American teachers arrived in Beijing. "At the same time a rigid examination was offered to students of all schools in China for the scholarship of Tsing Hua College." (The Round Table, October 27, 1917, p3.) 460 students were chosen finally from several thousands of candidates. "Thus the college began her career." (The Round Table, October 27, 1917, p.3) For many years after 1911 about 50 or more students chosen from the graduates were annually sent to the United States for higher education.
Among the first students entering Tsing Hua College was the first Chinese student coming to Beloit. His name was Ching Ye Tang. He was an outstanding student and brought a great honor to Beloit.
Ching Ye Tang was the first Chinese student at Beloit College. After having studied under private tutors for eight years, he entered the preparatory school of Nanyang College, one of the best colleges in Shanghai. His father, Wen Zhi Tang was the president of Chiaotung University, a famous university in China. As his grandson, Xiao Xuan Tang, class of 1949, said, Wen Zhi Tang was patriotic and progressive and he knew the backwardness of China, so he wanted his son to understand the outside world and be a diplomat in the future. Therefore, in 1914, Ching Ye Tang, at the age of sixteen, entered Beloit College upon the recommendation of Professor Sheldon from the University of Wisconsin teaching in Chiaotung University. This realized his father's expectation as well as his life-long desire to enter an American college. As a freshman, Tang only knew "a few scattered phrases of English" (The Round Table, January 9, 1917, p.1) and could only speak the most elementary English at that time. This gave him the greatest difficulty in understanding the lectures of professors. However, English was not an insurmountable barrier for Tang. His persistence and precocity brought him remarkable and incredible results in two short years. "In two years he had mastered the English to such an extent that he wrote and delivered the winning oration at the Home Oratorical Contest (1917)." (Crawford, P.9) That same year he won the Wisconsin State Oratorical Contest and second place in the Interstate Oratorical Contest.
The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Oratorical Contest started in 1874 among Beloit, Lawrence, and Ripon Colleges and the University of Wisconsin. (University of Wisconsin dropped out in 1918, and Carrol College was admitted to membership.) "The state contest is the biggest intercollegiate meeting in Wisconsin, and by the support accorded it the college can make or break its reputation among the other schools of the state." (The Round Table, January 9, 1917, p.1) Therefore, it was extremely important and crucial for Beloit to choose its representative.
At the Home Oratorical Contest in 1917, Tang won the right to represent Beloit College at the state contest by his remarkable showing "The composition of his oration was excellent and the personal touch he gave to his delivery showed how interested he was in his subject." (The Round Table, December 16, 1916, p.4) He was still only eighteen years old. His oration was so excellent that Beloit was full of hope for him. "Beloit owes her champion the full measure of support He may be spurred on to crown his work with a victory in the coming contest." (The Round Table, October 9, 1917, p.1) However, "our greatest orator" (The Round Table, February 3, 1917, p.1) faced a big challenge from representatives of other colleges. Meanwhile the fact that Beloit had won most times in the state contest for the past years put more pressure on him. A repeat victory required an outstanding representative's extra efforts and superior wisdom. As reports from other schools said, "if Beloit is to repeat, she will have to surpass all her previous efforts." (The Round Table, February 13, 1917, p.1) The challenge was apparent. Tang, again, lived up to the expectations of Beloit. When the news as announced, Beloit became a happy world. "Tang was carried up and down the halls, and students and faculty burst forth in one prolonged howl of joy.", (The Beloit Daily News, February 17, 1917) "Freshmen then scattered, raided down town alleys of their boxes and a rousing fire lighted up the whole campus." (The Round Table, February 17, 1917) Tang's victory marked the 25th that Beloit had won out of 29 state contests. No wonder it brought such excitement and happiness to Beloit. Tang's victory not only kept and improved Beloit's reputation but also won honor for Chinese students. Beloit was very proud of him -- "C. Y. Tang is purely a Beloit product, and is a representative of the best that Beloit has to offer. Beloit as a college has an opportunity to demonstrate herself as a leader in things intercollegiate." (The Round Table, January 9, 1917, p.1) President Eaton even recognized him as being comparable to some great names -- "Such occasions as this remind me of such men as James Blaisdell, Wood, the two Maurers, and Ahlgren, Beloit's list of great orators. Mr. Tang has tonight earned his right to take his place among them." (The Beloit Daily News, February 17, 1917)
Tang's victory in the State Oratorical Contest placed him in the position to represent Wisconsin in the interstate contest held among middle western colleges, including colleges of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri as eastern division, and colleges of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas as western division. Six best orators, three from each division, would compete for the highest forensic honor in the twelve states. Beloit had won the Interstate contest more times than any other college. To keep this record was certainly every Beloiter's dream. Although Tang had successive victories in oratorical contests and was believed to have another bright chance of victory, he didn't treat the contest lightly. He still worked hard to improve the delivery of his oration every day. Professor Crawford, the head of the college public speaking department, said: "At first, a foreigner, in beginning to speak our language, has to concentrate on the symbols of expression. Tang is now beyond the mere symbol and this is coming out in his speech… now his expression is real and true." (The Round Table, April 10, 1917, p.4)
Once again, Tang brought great hope to Beloit: He became one of the best orators in the finals of the Interstate Oratorical Contest. This success was not obtained without a hitch. During Tang's oration, many unexpected things happened: The audience was sleepy and many had left since it was nearly midnight when Tang began to speak. When he was at the climax, the lights went out for a few seconds, three times. "What there was of an audience began to laugh, but the oration was ended without a flaw." (The Round Table, April 17, 1917, p.1) The excellent delivery and the most polished composition decided Tang's victory.
He became a popular and welcome orator after winning the eastern division contest. He spoke in many places to different audiences. "Everywhere, he has been cordially and enthusiastically received." (The Round Table, April 28, 1917, p.1) Meanwhile Tang practiced very hard every day to improve his oration for the Interstate Oratorical Contest -- "The power in his delivery is growing." (The Round Table, May 1, 1917) This fact enabled people to believe that he would stand in good stead for his final delivery. Professor Crawford, who both trained and accompanied him through all the previous oratorical contests, was very confident in him. The college gave Tang high praise and full support. "Not only Beloit College but a whole community is behind him in these last days of his preparation", (The Round Table April 28, 1917, p.1) "but win or lose, he shall be remembered as one who did his best for Beloit." With such great expectations from the college and community, Tang left for Carleton for the final contest. The result was not surprising. He won the second place in the Interstate Oratorical contest. "Out of five or six hundred students in the colleges of America who started out last fall to compete in oratory, local contests, state contests, and interstate contests have weeded them all out except three, and of these three, Tang has been second, missing first by but one point." (The Round Table, May 8, 1917, p.1) "His poise on the stage and his mastery over his thought made a strong grip on the audience." (The Round Table, February 17, 1917, p.1) However, Professor Crawford insisted that Tang would have won the best if the judge had enough time to "become thoroughly acquainted with the oration as well as the delivery of it." (The Round Table, May 8, 1917)
The crucial elements that lead Tang to success lay in his excellent eloquence as well as the interest of his oration topic -- "The Cycle of Civilization," in which Tang pleaded for a national spirit in China to protect the rising democracy and urged the introduction of western sciences to make China efficient to feed her hungry and clothe her poor. His oration conveyed "the message of China's awakening and the part that the Occident can play in contributing to the life of the newly roused celestial civilization." (The Beloit Daily News, February 17, 1917) Civilization has gone in a cycle about the world: "moving from its cradle in the orient westward to waken Europe, then to find new expression in the United States, finally to leap the Pacific and waken Japan. Now the cycle is completed and China herself is reawakening." (The Beloit Daily News, February 17, 1917) As the youngest man and the only oriental ever to speak in a Wisconsin oratorical contest, Tang presented to the audience a new picture of China and world civilization.
As a matter of fact, at the very beginning of the state oratorical contest, Tang's winning in the representing Beloit in the state contest had already captured popular interest. "The fact of a Chinese beating native Americans for oratorical excellence in an American college has attracted considerable attention outside of Beloit." (The Beloit Daily News, January 9, 1917) Leading newspapers ran stories about Tang, one printing his picture with the title of his oration in Chinese characters. The Beloit Daily News presented complete coverage about Tang on the front page through his journey to the Interstate Oratorical Contest. Tang's achievement was so impressive that his pictures appeared frequently in newspapers and he became an important figure traced by the mass media. "The young man in fighting his way to the top of American college oratory has had to climb over the heads of orators of other races and nationalities besides Americans." (The Beloit Daily News, April 14, 1917) However, Tang succeed once again. As President Eaton said, "It is a fine thing that he has done for Beloit, for himself, and for China." From knowing a stuttering use of English to writing a first-class oration and winning the second prize in the Interstate Oratorical Contest, Tang demonstrated the success of a Chinese student in America by his talent and his hard work. It was most unusual for an eighteen-year-old foreigner to reach such excellence in the United States. "He bears Beloit's name most honorably. He has contributed as much or more to Beloit than anyone else. His pluck, steady nerves, and fine spirit has kept Beloit to its high place of leadership." (The Round Table, April 21, 1917, p.2) "His speaking is one of the best advertisements of what Beloit really is." (The Round Table, April 28, 1917, p.1) To Tang, Beloit "owes more than we can express." (The Round Table, April 21, 1917, p.2) On the other hand, it was Beloit that fostered Tang. "To Beloit he owes his success, he is the result of Professor Crawford's wonderful training." (The Round Table, April 28, 1917, p.1)
C. Y. Tang was so modest that he attributed his success to Professors Cox and Crawford. As he said, "it's all Cox and Crawford anyway. Anyway I thank you." (The Round Table, February 17, 1917, p.1) As a Chinese student, Tang bore the virtue of modesty. He did not think that his victory in representing Beloit in the interstate contest would warrant the sending of a cablegram to his parents. "Such is the modesty of our youthful representative of whom we are so proud." (The Round Table, March 17, 1917, p.1) He did not even mention the fact that he won first place in the eight annual conference of the Mid-west Chinese Student's Alliance by his oration of "China and World Democracy." This honor could not be hidden any longer when a cup for oratory and a medal for debating was received by him. "His victory proves further his exceptional ability in forensics." (The Round Table, November 3, 1917, p.3) His winning oration, "The Cycle of Civilization", was printed by Professor C. D. Crawford in his book Forty Years of Winning Oratory at Beloit College.
Tang's English was so excellent that The Round Table invited him to furnish articles about China. From October 1917 to June 1918, Tang wrote a series of short articles which were varied and interesting. He wrote about Chinese student organizations and conferences in America, Chinese parables, Chinese language, Chinese literature, and new changes in China. These articles helped bring to Beloit students an understanding of China.
During his years at Beloit, Tang was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was considered "one of the finest and most brilliant Tekes." (The Teke)
After he graduated from Beloit, C. Y. Tang went to Columbia University for further study in public law and political science. During his time at Columbia, Tang won an oratorical contest in the Summer Conference of the Eastern Section of the Chinese Students' Alliance at Syracuse University in 1918. His subject was "China and the New Education." Tang obtained his M. A. degree at Columbia in 1920.
In October of 1920, Tang was appointed an as attaché of the Chinese legation at London. Two weeks later, "he was selected to accompany Wellington Koo, Chinese ambassador to Great Britain and Geneva." (The Round Table, January 19, 1921, p.3) From then on, he entered the diplomatic service of Chinese government. First serving as the secretary for the secretariat of the League of Nations at Geneva, he was connected with the Chinese delegation to the Washington Arms Limitation Conference, held in November 1921 for the relief of the world from the burdens of war. The members of the official delegations included Great Britain, Italy, Japan, China, etc. "As the secretary... Tang is present at all the meetings of the conference, and is in intimate contact with the foremost men of the world. Less than 25 years of age, he is one of the youngest men to hold a position of like responsibility." (The Round Table, November 30, 1921, p.1)
However, Tang's interest in education attracted him to eventual professorship at Chiaotung University, one of the foremost technical institutes of China. Beginning in 1924, he taught there for almost 60 years. During the second World War, Tang lost his eye-sight completely, but he continued to teach. Despite his blindness, he continued as head of the foreign language department of Chiaotung University, simultaneously doing a considerable amount of lecturing and writing. In a letter to his classmate Edward P. Wilson of Beloit, Tang wrote that "I enjoy the work much more than I did the work in the Chinese-American Bank of Commerce with which I was connected for several years." (Beloit Alumnus, March - April, 1932)
Tang died in 1986 two years after he retired.