Document 3: Kung Hsiang-hsi to Susan Bowen Bird,
May 28, 19011

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This heartfelt letter was written from Susan Rowena Bird's close friend and convert, Kung Hsiang Hsi, to Rowena's mother, Susan Bowen Bird. It was sent in May of 1901, almost a year after the younger Bird's death in July of 1900 in Taigu, a county of the North China province, Shanxi. The letter was written from Peking (Beijing), China to Oberlin, Ohio. In the letter, Kung reaches out to Mrs. Bird and expresses deep sadness at the passing of her daughter as well as gratitude for the work and friendship she had provided.

The circumstances surrounding Miss Bird's death mark a specific moment in history, ripe with western imperial sentiment and growing resentment from those nations who felt imposed upon, in this case China. In 1890, Shanxi province was suffering from serious famine as a result of insufficient rain for the previous two years, and many found it easy in their desperation to blame the influx of foreigners. This growing fear culminated in 1900 in the Boxer Rebellion, which determined to "rid China of evil foreign influences, including Christianity" by killing foreigners and missionaries, including Susan Rowena Bird.2

Document Text:

Greetings to one whom I hold in affection and love, and respect, who is constantly in my heart, and whom I cannot forget:
To Mrs. Bird, -- Peace.
Beloved Madam,

Often I have desired to write to you, but I could not do it, for whenever I took my pen in hand, sorrow overwhelmed me and I knew not what to write. Still I must write a little that you may know that I have not forgotten you who are on the other side. Beloved Madam, although I have not seen you with my own eyes, or spoken to you with my own lips, I look upon you as my own Mother and your image is printed on my heart. This is truly like the words in the Bible, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him".

I know I am not worthy to hold you as my Mother, and that I am going beyond my proper place, but my dearly loved Miss Bird when on this sorrowful, Hateful world, constantly looked on me as a younger brother, so this going beyond my proper place was with her permission.3

Beloved Madam, I do not know what to say to you. If I could spread out wings and fly at once to you, then looking into your face could weep bitterly, - this is what I would wish. But alas! I have no wings, so I can only ask the God who loves you to keep you strong and well until sometime when I can see you and minister to you; then I will be content.4

Beloved Madam, the ones whom you and I tenderly loved are gone, but their precious blood yet speaketh, - For God, for the church, for the Christians, they were faithful unto death, and a crown of glory has been given them. Their names shall never perish from now until all eternity. Beloved Madam, I know not the feeling of your heart, but I know that last year when the wild beasts were raging, she whom you and I love, was in perfect peace and went about all her duties as usual.5 The circumstances were more than I could bear, but she bore all with perfect steadfastness and said to me one day, "Whatever comes to me, my Mother will not regret, (My coming to China) and I shall not regret." I do not like now to think of words like these, - I cannot bear to mention them because when I do it seems as if the voice which spoke them was still sounding [in] my ears, but I must tell them to you that you may know the thought of her heart.

Beloved Madam, when I was imprisoned alone and could not go to those whom you and I love, I received a last letter from her in which she asked me to read some words from the Bible, and now I want you too to read those words in the first chapter of Philippians from the nineteenth to the last verse. These verses seem like a garment which will never leave my body while I live.6

Beloved Madam, I should have written to you earlier, but you could not understand what I write. Fortunately a teacher, whom I respect and love, and who loves me, Miss Miner, is glad to translate for me, so I write you this short letter, hoping later to write more.7

Greetings of peace to your family and to those who love the Lord.
Your little son,
Kung Hsiang Hsi,8
with his own pen pays his respects. Written May 28th. 1901 at Peking

[1] Transcribed by Nuria Alishio-Caballero.

[2] Ellsworth C. Carlson, The Oberlin Band: The Christian Mission in Shanxi 1882-1900 (Oberlin, OH: Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, 2001) 28.

[3] Miss Bird had asked Kung to look at her as an older sister, but, as his teacher, Luella Miner remembered him saying, "it was as a mother that she loved me, and that I looked up to her." He lived with his father and uncle, and had no mother, so it could be said that he tried to fill this empty role in his life with Miss Bird, and after her death, Mrs. Bird (Luella Miner to Susan Bowen Bird, Peking, China, May 30 1901. Oberlin College Archives. RG 30/351, Box #1, Series 1, subseries 2.).

[4] Following the deaths of the Oberlin Shanxi martyrs, Kung became depressed and disillusioned with God. At times he expressed that he wished he had died with them, and that his only goal in life was to travel to America to see "the friends of the martyrs" and to study at Oberlin (Ibid).

[5] "Wild beasts" no doubt refers to the Boxers of the Boxer Rebellion who killed Miss Bird and the other missionaries.

[6] 19: For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20: According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. 21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22: But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23: For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. 25: And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; 26: That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. 27: Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28: And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30: Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me (The Holy Bible, Phillipians 1:19-30)

[7] Luella Miner (1861-1936) was born in Oberlin, Ohio, on 30 October 30 1861. She received a Bachelor degree of Arts from Oberlin College in 1884, and 3 years later was awarded an appointment for missionary service in China by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. From 1890 to 1902 she taught at North China Union College for men at Tungchow, near Peking (Beijing), where she taught Kung at the time this letter was written, and, as noted, assisted him in writing it (Ellsworth C. Carlson, Woman - Pioneer - Saint, Luella Miner [1861-1935], ND, Unpublished Biography, Oberlin College Archives, RG 30/176, Box #1, Series 7, "Luella Miner" Biography and Related Correspondence 1, 3-4).

[8] Kung Hsiang Hsi (1880-1967) was one of the Oberlin Band's most loyal converts. He helped bring supplies to the missionaries during the Boxer Rebellion. Bird said of him, "He is a great comfort now, and he is capable and energetic as well as true". He was not killed as a convert along with the missionaries because his family recanted for him against his will. He later attended Oberlin, graduating in 1906. After completing an MA in economics at Yale, Kung returned to Tiagu where he rebuilt the missionary school as Ming Shien, using Oberlin College as his model. Kung became a wealthy and influential man, serving in the Kuomintang as Minister of Finance, Governor of the Bank of China, and Premier of the Republic of China. After the defeat of the Kuomintang in 1947, Kung moved to the United States (Carlson, Oberlin Band, 149, 151 and Carl Jacobson, "H.H. Kung: Strengthening China through Education and the Oberlin Spirit," Shansi: Oberlin and Asia, Oberlin College Archives,