In the 1870s, the Chinese government sent 120 young male students to live and study in America — the first attempt to open China to western ways. Arriving in 4 detachments of 30 each over 4 years, the students were dispersed to host families throughout western Massachusetts and Connecticut and were taught in public schools, academies, and colleges in New England. The students were recalled by the Chinese government in
1881 and the project ended.

Wing C. Tong, courtesy of the Stone House Museum, Belchertown, MA

Now, researchers with the Pioneer Valley Network want to use the resources of our network to learn what documents, images, artifacts, and other research material might be available in the Pioneer Valley relating to this unique experiment in inter-cultural exchange.  It’s possible that much of this research material, especially letters and photographs, may be in private hands, not in the museums and libraries. We’re hoping to use the PVHN connections in the local communities to help us track this material down.  We need your help.  Please let us know if you have something of interest to this project.

Particularly interesting to the researchers is understanding more about the host families in western Mass. which were in at least fifteen different communities — what connections existed between them (church affiliations?), and why and how were they selected.  For more information about the host families, see our website:  Chinese Educational Mission

For more background on the history of the Chinese Educational Mission, visit the “CEM Connections” website.

7 thoughts on “Chinese Educational Mission

  1. Thank you for initiating the link between this site and “CEM Connections.” We believe your efforts to encourage research on the American hosts of the Chinese boys of the CEM will add greatly to the study of early American-Chinese relations. We welcome any communications regarding the history of the CEM and the pioneer students.

    CEM Connections
    Bruce Chan & Dana Young, Administrators

  2. Any progress on the research about American host families? My grandfather Pah Liang Fong (Fang Boliang) was roomed with Charles E Leland while he was in Williston Seminary from 1876 to 1880 according to US Census of 1880 and information contained in Dr. Rhodes’ book “Stepping forth into the world, Chinese Educational Mission, 1872-1881”. I am very interested in knowing the Leland family and his descendants, if any.

    And also, I have found no records about with whom and with which American family my grandfather used to live while studying at Monson Academy in Wilbraham from 1873 to 1876.


    Hui Fang

    1. Yes, the research happens in “fits and starts” since we did not get the grant we were hoping for. I am giving a talk on the C.E.M. this weekend and I hope to get back to this research later this year. However, I will keep your grandfather in mind and send you any material I find about his American hosts. Thank you for visiting our website.

  3. Hello!
    My great great uncle was Tong Shao-Yi, and he was hosted by the Gardner family in Springfield, Mass. Quite a lot was known about him and is documented in David G. Hinners’ book Tong Shao-Yi and His Family: A Saga of Two Countries and Three Generations.
    – Amy

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