In the wake of the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901, the Chinese government paid a significant damage settlement—or indemnity—to several countries, one of which was the United States. The U.S. returned a portion of its settlement to China to fund the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship and creation of Tsing Hua Imperial College, a preparatory school, for those students who were sent by the government to study in at American universities.
These extraordinary young men were hand-selected to study abroad to prepare for military or civil service. Although Norwich was not the only U.S. school to enroll Chinese students (prior to their arrival at Norwich, some Chinese cadets had attended Harvard, Cornell, Purdue, or MIT), Norwich students comprised fully half of those who came to the U.S. from China through this program to be instructed in Western military tactics. Their training at Norwich propelled them to leadership positions, and many of them rose to become generals in their own army.
Many of these students also studied at the Tsinghua Imperial College, now known as Tsinghua University in China. This world famous university recently mounted an exhibit honoring the accomplishments of its graduates who studied military science in the United States, particularly at Norwich. A delegation from Norwich, including Assistant Vice President for International Education Thy Yang and Dean Michael McGinnis, was invited to attend the exhibit opening and meet with descendants of the NU-Tsinghua graduates. Material from Norwich’s historical collections is featured in the exhibit.
The first known student of Chinese descent to enter Norwich University was Woon Loy Chun, known in his home country as Chen Huan-lei. He attended Norwich with the class of 1910. Just a few years later, he was followed by one of our most famous Chinese graduates, George Bow of Grass Valley, CA, a member of the class of 1914. In the 1920s, Bow served as the chief bodyguard for Sun Yat-Sen, who had previously been the first president of the Republic of China.
Norwich University’s relationship with China dates back to the 19th century. Frederick Townsend Ward—legendary for his military triumphs in 1860s Imperial China as the mercenary commander of the “Ever Victorious Army”—attended Norwich in the late 1840s. Working as a soldier-of-fortune, his travels took him to Shanghai, where was instrumental in introducing Western military tactics to the Chinese Army; and, although he didn’t live to see the victory, his leadership helped bring about the end of the Taiping Rebellion.
Today, China is one of the most popular study abroad destinations for Norwich students, and study there is required for Chinese language majors. You can learn more about Norwich’s past, present, and future relationship with China from the Norwich University Archives and the International Center.