Kwong King Yang

Kwong King Yang (1863-?, Class of 1884) was a native of Guangdong Province and a member of the third detachment of the CEM.[1] A cousin of Kwong Hein Chow, he prepared at Williston Seminary before entering MIT in 1880. Kwong studied civil engineering at MIT for only a single year, returning to China in 1881 with the recall of the CEM. He was then sent to the Tangshan Kaiping Mining School. Working during the pioneering days of modern mining and railways in China, Kwong made key contributions to the development of both.[2] He served as general assistant in the Kaiping Mining company in Tangshan between 1882 and 1886. Thereafter, he worked for the railways, and became one of China's first railway engineers, hired by the famous official Wu Tingfang to work for the China Railway Company. As assistant to CW Kinder, Engineer-in-Chief of the Imperial Chinese Railway, Kwong helped build the Tangshan-Tianjin line, China's first standard-gauge railway. Kwong had the honor of driving the first spike on the Imperial Chinese Line.[3] Leaving North China during the Boxer Uprising in 1900, when the Allied forces occupied Beijing and its surrounding railways, Kwong took a position as resident engineer of a Jiangxi railway. Rejoining the Imperial Railways of North China in 1903, Kwong supervised the construction of the Hanku Bridge over the Beitang River in 1904. In 1906, he returned south to his native province of Guangdong to take charge of the southern section of the important Hankow-Canton line.[4] By the time of his twenty-fifth reunion in 1909, Kwong could boast that he had attained the official rank of Taotai, having risen up in rank to become Engineer-in-Chief of the Hankow-Canton Railway Line.[5] Kwong was also an advisor to the Board of Communication in Beijing and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

An article in Technology Review in 1909 on “Tech Men in the Public Eye” praised Kwong's achievements and their positive reflection on MIT:

The record Mr. Kwong has made is a distinct credit to the land of his education. His scientific and progressive spirit has overcome many of the obstacles with which his predecessors were almost overwhelmingly hampered, and it is largely due to his persistence and tact that the new era of railroad development in China has been made possible. [“Tech Men in the Public Eye,” Technology Review, volume 11, 1909, 486-87.]

In 1911/12, Kwong became Chief Engineer of the Peking-Kalgan-Suiyuan Railway, then went on to hold various other posts in the railways until his retirement in 1922.

In 1913, The Far Eastern Review published an article, "An Appreciation of China's Railway Engineers," praising Kwong and other American-educated Chinese railway engineers for achieving what Western skeptics thought was impossible – building a Chinese railway line without the assistance of foreign engineers. (See Far Eastern Review, volume X, no 6, November 1913, Shanghai and Manila.) This publicity was noted with pride by the Technology Review.

In 1920, Kwong helped to establish the Association of Chinese and American Engineers in Beijing. Supported by both the Chinese Government and the American Ministry, this association was dedicated to advancing engineering knowledge and practice, promoting cooperation among engineers, and serving China by solving engineering problems critical to a new era of construction and development for the young Republic.[6] Kwong later served as the President of this Association, as well as the President of the Chinese Engineers’ Association.[7]

Kwong was also active with the MIT alumni group in China. As William. W. Stevens (Class of 1898) wrote in a letter to his class secretary in 1917:

I met King Yang Kwong, '84, at the dinner in Peking, and he and another Tech Chinese and I gave them a demonstration of the Tech yell when the stunts came. You might not think him young by his class year but he must have graduated young — he looks in the prime of life. [Technology Review, volume 19, 1917, 224]

In terms of his family life, Kwong was married in 1888 to a Miss Liang of Canton, with whom he had four children. In 1922, he retired from public life. For his service to the nation, Kwong was decorated numerous times by the Chinese government.[8]




[1] For more on Kwong, see CEM Connections.

[2] Available from the LaFargue collection at Washington State University: Reunion in China at Christmas 1890 – Kwong King Yang

[3] Technology Review, volume 11, 1909, 486-87.

[4] Technology Review, volume 11, 1909, 486-87.

[6] "Chinese and American Engineers Form an Association in Peking," Mining and Metallurgy, December, 1920, Number 168, 45.

[7] Who's Who of American Returned Students (You Mei tongxue lu), Beijing: Tsinghua College, 1917, 196.

[8] Who's Who of American Returned Students (You Mei tongxue lu), Beijing: Tsinghua College, 1917, 196, CEM Connections.

Sources: MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931; Class of '84 MIT: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Book, 1909; the Technology Review; The Tech; the MIT Course Catalogue; MIT's Reports to the President; Who's Who of American Returned Students (You Mei tongxue lu), Beijing: Tsinghua College, 1917; CEM Connections; Thomas La Fargue, China's First Hundred. Pullman: State College of Washington, 1942; and The Thomas La Fargue Digital Collection (Washington State University Libraries).