W.W. Yen (Yan Huiqing) 顏惠慶

This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.

W.W. Yen

His Excellency Dr. Weiching Williams Yen, more popularly known as Dr. W. W. Yen, son of the late Rev. Y. K. Yen, was born at Shanghai on April 2nd, 1877. He received his early education from home tutors and in local schools and colleges, including The Anglo-Chinese School and Tun Wen College of Shanghai.

He went to America in December 1895, and received his preparation for college, at the Episcopal College in Virginia, where he stayed for two years. After his graduation from the high school, he entered the University of Virginia, where he studied arts and law, from 1897 to 1900; being then awarded with the degree of B.A. During his stay in that university, he was awarded medals and other prizes for English composition, debating, and general proficiency. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in June of 1899.

Dr. Yen returned to China in 1900, and became Professor of English and Literature at St. John’s University. In 1900, he accepted the offer of the Commercial Press to serve as English Editor. During his connection with that notable publishing institution, he edited and translated many useful books; among which should be mentioned the “Standard Anglo-Chinese Dictionary” (a work of 3,000 pages), the “Manual of Translations”, and the translation of “Political Economy” by Walker.

During his residence in Shanghai, he interested himself in student and social activities. He was one of the founders of the World’s Chinese Students’ Foundation, of which he was subsequently appointed Honorary Secretary. He was a member of the Committees of the Educational Association of China, and the Anti-Foot-Binding Society, and of other associations having the object of promoting civil welfare and social reform.

He received his degree of Doctor of Literature from the Imperial Government at Peking, in 1906. Two years later, he was appointed Second Secretary of the Chinese Legation at Washington, while Dr. Wu Ting-fang was Minister. He was recalled, one year later, to Peking to organize a press bureau, which he took charge of and directed with efficiency.

In 1911, Dr. Yen was admitted to the Hanlin Academy of China, and was also appointed Councillor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After various promotions, he became Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, in 1912, when the first government of the Republic was organized.

He represented China at the International Opium Conference, in 1913; and he was appointed Minister to Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. These posts he retained until 1917, when, due to conditions caused by the World War, he left Germany for Copenhagen, where he continued as Minister for Denmark and Sweden until May 1920. Then he returned to China, at the instruction of the Peking Government. On August 12th 1920, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs,–which office he held until July 1922.

On December 18th, 1921, Dr. Yen was appointed Acting Premier, upon the resignation of General Chin Yun-peng. He was again thus appointed from January to March 1922. On June 11th, 1922, he was appointed Premier, but he resigned a few weeks later. In August 1923, he was elected Chairman of the Commission for the Adjustment of National Finance; and, in April 1924, he was made Chairman of the Red Cross Society of China. In January 1924, he was elected Premier of the Republic of China, and, concurrently, Minister of Interior. However, he resigned shortly afterward.

Dr. Yen is a member of numerous literary and educational societies, and charitable organizations; and is a Free Mason. His decorations include: The Second Class Order of Merit, the First Class Chiaho (with precious stones), the First Class Wenhu (tiger), Grand Cordon Dannebrog (Danish), Grand Cordon Polar Star (Swedish), Grand Officer Legion d’Honneur (French), Grand Cordon Pius IX (Vatican), Grand Cordon Christ (Portugese), and the Grand Cordon Sol (Peruvian).

W.W. Yen text

A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 21.