restricted access 2. The Formative Years of the Tong Brothers,Pioneers in the Modernization of China's Commerce and Industry
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2 Th e Formative Years of the Tong Brothers, Pioneers in the Modernization of China's Commerce and Industry THE thre e Ton g brothers , wh o wer e student s a t th e Morriso n Education Societ y Schoo l i n Hon g Kon g i n th e 1840s , may b e considered t o b e representativ e o f a ne w clas s o f commercia l bourgeoisie that emerged in the China coast cities at the end of the Ch'ing dynasty. This new class within the Chinese social system was composed of entrepreneurs, business men, financiers, and industrialists . They were key figures in the industrial an d commercia l modernization o f Chin a followin g th e impac t o f th e Wes t upo n traditional China. The thre e brother s wer e Ton g Mow-che e (T'an g Mao-chih ) ( HTJCSS) (alias Tang T'ing-chih) ( f g i ) , know n in his youth as A-chick (35ffi) , bor n in 182 8 and who died in 1897; Tong Kingsing (T'an g Ching-hsing ) (JSJH! ) (alia s T'an g T'ing-shu ) (/S£§fE ), known in his youth as Akii, born in 1832 and who died in 1892; and Tong Ting-keng (T'ang T'ing-keng) ( S g H ) (perhap s also known as Tong Ying-sing), known in his youth as Afu or Afoo (35 ft), born in 1845. Tong King-sing was the most prominent of th e brothers , bu t althoug h severa l biographica l notice s an d monographs have been written on aspects of his life, none of them trace hi s formativ e year s i n muc h detail. 1 Mor e informatio n i s available o n th e youthfu l year s of Ton g Mow-chee tha n o n th e other brothers. An account of the 61st birthday celebration of Tong Mow-chee in 1888 states that 'the Tong family has played an important part in the history of the trade relations between foreigners an d Chinese in Shanghai, and they may be said to be the leaders of the party of progress in the initiation and development of commerce after th e style of foreign countries'. A study of the formative years of the three Tong brothers illustrates the background from which the new bourgeois class arose in China. One of their classmates at the Morrison Education Society School wrote an essay entitled, Th e lif e of man a building, and youth the foundation'.2 The youthful essayis t asks how a man can THE TON G BROTHER S 35 have 'a well cultivated mind and habits which qualify hi m to discharge th e seriou s dutie s of life , unles s he ha s had lai d a good foundation fo r al l thes e thing s whe n h e wa s a youth . O n thi s foundation whether good or bad, we must build the superstructure in middle life and age'.3 The location of their home district, their education by the Morrison Education Society , thei r youthfu l service s a s interpreters , and their first ventures into the business world all laid the foundations for th e Tong brothers' contribution t o their country' s progress . Their Home Village The home of the Tong brothers was the village of Tong-ka in the Heung Shan District of Kwangtung Province.4 The district is situated between Macau and Canton, the two centres for early European commerce in China. The villagers had grown accustomed to the presence of the 'red-haired barbarians' with their strange ways, as the Cumsingmoon anchorage for the opium ships was in the bay just off shor e from th e village. The lesson that an ability to deal with the European might be financiallyprofitabl e was not lost on them. When th e Morriso n Educatio n Societ y recruite d it s first students , the majority b y far, if not all, were from th e Heung Shan District. At that time, only a Chinese family that was too poor to provide its sons with a traditional Chinese education or one that intended its sons to enter the service of foreigners would consider sending its sons to a school operated by foreigners, where English would be one of the languages of instruction. It...


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