When I was younger, if people told me about Yung Wing, my attitude was, "Well,he's a famous guy that I'm related to." I think I knew about my legacy from the time I was a child. To be honest, I have to admit that when I was a child and a young man I really wasn't that interested in my Chinese American heritage. As I've gotten older I've had more time and become more interested in it.
First of all, I read Yung Wing's autobiography. He spoke about his earlychildhood to the point where he was a retired and successful politician in China. As a very young boy he was educated by missionaries in China. Then, later on, he was brought to the United States, by an American missionary to be educated in American preparatory schools and universities. He graduated from Yale in 1854 as the first Chinese person to ever graduate from an American university.
After graduating from Yale, Yung Wing returned to China where he was active in anumber of different pursuits. He was involved in the government and held a various number of government positions. He always had the idea of sending more students to the United States, and in fact, he was able to send 120 students, that I believe, was called the Chinese education mission, which was really one of his life's goals.
He had to wait for a long, long time before creating the Chinese educationmission in the United States and then, even after it started, basically, political changes put an end to it. He also talked about how difficult it was to implement other types of changes in China. He has some moderate success in that area as well but my impression was that at the end of his life he didn't have that much power or wealth and was actually in political trouble.
It was interesting that, you know, basically, an ancestor of mine from 150 yearsago, who was actually a very good writer could speak directly to me about his struggles and trials and tribulations in the United States and China. He was a young person who came here, not that different from me. As a college student he wasn't really sure what he wanted to do, as a young professional he struggled to find his path, and he faced a lot of the same problems and difficulties and decisions that I did.
Well, you know there's a stereotype about Chinese Americans that they're good atmath and science and they're good students and they're high achievers, and I don't really know how I feel about that. I think that in some ways, people might throw me into that stereotype, and in some ways, it actually might have helped me in my life. The one thing you can take from Yung Wing's story is that he made the most of the opportunities he was given. He had very little to begin with and he was given some educational opportunities and he really took advantage of them.
You know I think that, and I'm saying this because I actually didn't do itmyself, but I think it's good for young people to really think about their ancestors and the type of problems they faced. And I think it gives you perspective on our own life.
My name is Henry Yung Jr. I am a distant descendant of Yung Wing.