Yung, Wing, 1828-1912
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2008.041.012 Oral History Interview with Henry Yung Jr.

Henry Yung Jr. only very recently connected with the history of his distant ancestor, Yung Wing, the legendary writer, diplomat and first Chinese student to graduate from an American university. A fourth generation Chinese American, Henry attended Rutgers University and worked in the tech field. His late discovery is no less significant, as Yung Wing writing speaks to him with a sustained relevance even today. Henry had little interest in his Chinese American heritage or familial relation to Yung Wing as a child, but his interest grew as he got older and read Yung Wing’s autobiography. Henry recounts some of this biography and notes that he was able to relate to a lot of his ancestor’s struggles and decisions at the same age. Wing was educated by missionaries in China and was later brought by them to America to continue his secondary education. He became the first Chinese person ever to graduate from an American university when he graduated from Yale in 1854. After graduating, Wing returned to China and held various government positions. Through the Chinese Educational Mission that he founded, he sent 120 students to study in the United States, however, political changes brought this to an end. By the end of his life, Wing did not have much wealth or power and was in fact in political trouble. Reading his ancestor’s autobiography, Henry thought it interesting how Wing could speak directly to him about his trials and tribulations in the United States and China and realized that he and Wing faced a lot of the same problems and difficulties. Henry addresses the stereotype that Chinese Americans are good at math and science and are good students and acknowledges that this might have helped him in life. He thinks that the one thing you could take away from Yung Wing’s story is that he made the most of the opportunities he was given. He concludes that young people will find a lot of value in learning about their ancestors and the problems they faced, as he did, as it helps give them perspective on their own problems.