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The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) cordially invites you to join us for a virtual discussion with scholars Sam Wong and Evelyn Wong, who will delve into the life and legacy of Kuang Qizhao. Kuang was the first Chinese person to write a Chinese-English dictionary and served as the official translator for the Chinese Educational Mission (CEM) in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1874 to 1882. The CEM marked the first instance of the Qing government sending students abroad to learn from the United States. During his time in Hartford, Kuang interacted with a diverse array of Americans, including Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant, forming close friendships with many intellectuals in Connecticut. These relationships influenced his reform ideas, particularly the importance of Western education for China’s modernization.

Kuang was an early and vocal defender of Chinese immigrants in the U.S., particularly outraged by the racism and false claims of Chinese inferiority propagated by demagogues and the American press. He wrote numerous letters to major newspapers and lobbied congressmen to oppose the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1881, Kuang published A Dictionary of English Phrases, surprising many Americans that a Chinese immigrant compiled a dictionary to teach them their own language. Kuang’s and the CEM’s interactions with Americans also indirectly impacted American literature, especially Mark Twain. Recent scholarship suggests that Twain’s willingness to confront hypocrisy and racism was influenced by his interactions with Kuang and other CEM students. The discussion will highlight specific examples of Kuang’s influence on Twain’s work, including the overlooked play Ah Sin and the most famous novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

In light of current U.S.-China relations, Kuang’s experiences with Chinese exclusion laws are particularly relevant to Chinese Americans today. Join us for an insightful evening as we explore Kuang Qizhao’s contributions to both Chinese and American history and literature.

About Sam Wong

Sam Wong is the great-great-grandson of Kuang Qizhao. He has been researching Kuang’s legacy since 2010 and has co-authored three scholarly articles: U.S. Influences on Chinese Educational Reform: Universal Education and Moral Education as Tools for Chinese Modernity, 1874-1882, co-authored with Brian Z. Wong, Pacific Historical Review 91, No. 4 (2022), 525-559; Chinese Perceptions of American Democracy: Late Qing Observers and Their Experiences with the Chinese Exclusion Act, co-authored with Brian Wong, The Journal of American-East Asian Relations 27 (2020), 315-46; and The Role of the Guangbao in Promoting Nationalism and Transmitting Reform Ideas in Late Qing China, co-authored with Valerie Wong, Modern Asian Studies 51, no. 5 (2017), 1469-1518.

Sam Wong is the Executive Director of China Renewable Energy Investment. His previous experience includes roles in investment banking at Kidder, Peabody, Bear Stearns, Société Générale, and Credit Suisse First Boston. He holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

About Evelyn Wong

Evelyn Wong is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Kuang Qizhao. She recently presented research on Kuang titled Kuang Qizhao’s Personal Interactions in Connecticut: Another Example of the Benefits of People-to-People Exchanges, at the Ding Lung and His Era Conference in Jiangmen, China. She has also given presentations on Kuang’s legacy at the Jiangmen Museum of Overseas Chinese in 2023 and the Taishan Overseas Cultural Museum in 2024. Evelyn also co-presented in Zhuhai for Searching for My Ideal China: An Illustrated Biography of Yung Wing, the Father of Chinese Students Abroad, a book she helped translate. She is currently a student at the Singapore International School in Hong Kong.

July 31, 2024
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
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