This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
Tsai Ting-kan wrote the introduction to Biographies of Prominent Chinese.
Admiral Tsai Ting-kan was born in 1861 in the Hsiang Shan District, Kwangtung Province. He received his early education in his home district schools. Thereafter he attended the Chinese Educational Mission School, at Shanghai, organized by the late Dr. Yung Wing. He was one of the party of Chinese Government Students which accompanied Dr. Yung Wing to America, in 1872. After eight years of study, at Hartford and New Britain, he, together with the other students, was recalled to China.
Admiral Tsai joined the Chinese torpedo school at Taku, and studied electrical mining, fish-torpedos, and surveying under American and German officers. Later he studied navigation and seamanship under British officers at Weihaiwei and at Port Arthur. In the Chinese Navy, he was made a Junior Lieutenant, in 1888; an acting Senior-Lieutenant, in 1889; and a Commander, in 1891 at which time he was decorated with the “Peacock Feather”. He was first made captain of a torpedo boat, and later given command of a flotilla of torpedo boats, at Port Arthur; and during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) he took part in the engagements off Port Arthur, Yalu, and Weihaiwei.
Admiral Tsai entered the services of His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai when the latter was Viceroy of Chihli. In 1911, he was appointed Chief of the Administrative Department of the Ministry of Navy. In December, of the same year, he was made Expectant Metropolitan Officer of the Third Rank, with Brevet Second Rank. In 1912, he was appointed, by Presidential Mandate, High Councillor of Military Affairs; and, by a similar mandate, he was made a Vice-Admiral.
By Presidential Mandate, in 1913, Admiral Tsai was awarded the Order of Merit, Fourth Class, and appointed Director of the Salt Gabelle. In May, of the same year, he was given the order of Chiaho Second Class. In September, he was appointed Assistant Director of the Revenue Council. In May 1914, he was made Assistant Grand Master of Ceremonies, to the President. In October 1917, he received the Order of the Paokuang Chiaho, Second Class. In May 1918, he was appointed Chairman of the China Tariff Revision Commission; and, in October, of the same year, he received the order of the Tashou Paokuang Chiaho, Second Class.
Admiral Tsai served as the Assistant Director of the Repatriation Bureau for Enemy Subjects, in 1919. In the same year, he was appointed Vice-President of the Chinese Red Cross Society, and awarded the Order of Tashou Chiaho, First Class, and order of the Wenhu, First Class. In 1920, he served as a member of the International Famine Relief Association, in Peking; and, in 1921, he attended the Washington Conference as Advisor to the Chinese Delegation. In February 1922, he was appointed Chairman of the China Tariff Revision Commission; and, in October of the same year, he was given the Order of Merit, Third Class.
Admiral Tsai is the author of a Synthetic Study of the “Tao Teh Ching” by Lao-tsz, in Chinese. He devotes much of his leisure time to the translation of Chinese poems into English. He is considered an eloquent speaker. He has been the Chairman of the American College Club, for a number of years; and he is prominently identified with many social activities in Peking.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 50.