TC and Turpin Hsi – Cosmopolitans

Hsi Te Chun (席德炯1894-1950, Class of 1915 Mining Engineering) was a native of Suzhou and the scion of a prominent banking family established in Shanghai. A graduate of the Imperial Polytechnic College at Shanghai, Hsi qualified for the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program in the examinations of 1910. At MIT, Hsi majored in Mining Engineering, going on to receive a master's degree in the field from Columbia University. After working as a technician for Thomas Steel, he returned to China, where he worked for various mining companies before entering government service. Hsi held numerous posts, including Secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Finance, Director of the Water Resources Division of the National Economic Committee, and Vice Director of the Suning Branch Relief Committee. Dedicated to building a modern China, Hsi was known particularly for his contributions to flood relief efforts in China. He died in Hong Kong in 1950, shortly after the Communist Revolution of 1949.[1] While a student at MIT, Hsi was active with the Cosmopolitan Club and the Chinese Club, and he regularly took part in the annual Chinese Night -- acting, playing Chinese musical instruments, and demonstrating the shuttlecock.[2] Hsi was a member of the MIT Chinese Club debate team that defeated Amherst’s club in November 1911, taking the affirmative stance on: "Resolved That Industrial Development Is More Important for China Than Military Achievements."[3] Beyond MIT, Hsi was prominent in the national Chinese Students’ Alliance, serving as Secretary for the Special Finance and Reserve Fund Committee, as Treasurer, and as business manager for the Student Alliance Monthly (later, Chinese Students’ Monthly).[4] T.C. Hsi was accompanied at MIT by his cousin, Turpin Hsi (Class of 1914, Sanitary Engineering). T.C. and Turpin were both grandsons of Xi Zhengfu (1838-1904), the second Comprador of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (1874-1904), and a native banker who was considered one of the "Four Major Compradors of the Late Qing Era."[5] With their comprador family background, T.C. and Turpin Hsi were eminently familiar with Western customs and habits, and settled very comfortably into American college life.

Turpin Hsi (席德柄1891-1968, Class of 1914, Sanitary Engineering) was born in Shanghai and studied at Nanyang College before coming to the US in 1909 as a self-supporting student (he later received partial government support). Like his cousin T.C. Hsi, Turpin was the grandson of the prominent banker Xi Zhengfu (1838-1904), known as one of the "Four Major Compradors of the Late Qing Era."[6] Initially studying science at Trinity College, Turpin Hsi transferred to MIT in 1910, majoring in Sanitary Engineering. Active in student life, Turpin Hsi was Secretary of the Chinese Club, 1911-12, and Vice President and President in 1912-13. He also served as Secretary of the Cosmopolitan Club in 1913-14. Like his cousin, T.C., Turpin was frequently involved with the Chinese Night and other cultural activities, both on and off campus, and played a major role in promoting understanding of Chinese culture. Turpin was an outstanding student who won many prizes in China, and also took first place in the graduation examinations for the Class of 1914 at MIT. After receiving his BS from MIT, he studied Commerce at Birmingham University in England, receiving a Graduate Diploma in Commerce in 1915. Returning to China, he worked as a Surveyor and Sanitary Engineer at Tsinghua College in Beijing from 1915 to 1917.[7] Hsi then made his career in finance, working in the private business sector, as well as serving in various government posts. In the early Republican era, he served as Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Deputy Director of the Customs Surtax Bureau in Shanghai,[8] Supervisor of the Jianghan Customs House in Wuhan,[9] Director of the Central Mint, and General Manager of the Foo Hsing Trading Company.[10] After Shanghai's liberation from the Japanese, he served as the General Manager of the Fufeng Flour Mill.[11] Hsi also ran an international exchange business with his brother, Xi Demao, a powerful financier. In the 1930s, Turpin Hsi opened an ice cream factory in Shanghai – the Hsi family also being one of the first to have refrigeration in their home.[12] The Hsi (Xi) family mansions in Shanghai, elaborate European-style buildings, are now tourist attractions.[13]



[1] Bridge, 91-92.






[7] who’s who, Who's Who 1918.