Turpin and TC Hsi



Turpin Hsi,  Senior Class Portfolio  1914. Courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.

Turpin Hsi, Senior Class Portfolio 1914. Courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.

Turpin Hsi (席德柄 1891-1968, Class of 1914, Sanitary Engineering), Mandarin pinyin Xi Debing, a native of Jiangsu Province, was born in Shanghai, the grandson of the prominent banker Xi Zhengfu (1838-1904), the second Comprador of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (1874-1904) and a native banker who was considered one of the "Four Major Compradors of the Late Qing Era." Turpin studied at the Imperial Polytechnic College in Shanghai before coming to the US in 1909 as a self-supporting student (he later received partial government support). Initially studying science at Trinity College, he transferred to MIT in 1910, where he majored in Sanitary Engineering, writing a thesis on "Design for a Water Supply System for Duxbury, Mass," together with ZY Chow. An outstanding student who won many prizes in China, Turpin also took first place in the graduation examinations for the Class of 1914 at MIT. Active in student life, Turpin was a member of the Walker Club, and Cosmopolitan Club, for which he served as Councillor (junior year) and Secretary (senior year). He was also a member of the Institute Committee in junior year. Turpin furthermore served as Secretary, then Vice President and President of the Chinese Club. Dedicated to promoting American understanding of Chinese culture, Turpin was frequently involved with the Chinese Night and other cultural activities, both on and off campus. After receiving his BS from MIT, he studied Commerce at Birmingham University in England, receiving a Graduate Diploma in Commerce in 1915. Returning to China, he worked as a Surveyor and Sanitary Engineer at Tsinghua College in Beijing from 1915 to 1917. Hsi then made his career in finance, working in the private business sector, as well as serving in various government posts. In the early Republican era, he served as Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Deputy Director of the Customs Surtax Bureau in Shanghai, Supervisor of the Jianghan Customs House in Wuhan, Director of the Central Mint, and General Manager of the Foo Hsing Trading Company. After Shanghai's liberation from the Japanese, he served as the General Manager of the Fufeng Flour Mill. Hsi also ran an international exchange business with his brother, Xi Demao, a powerful financier. In the 1930s, Turpin Hsi opened an ice cream factory in Shanghai – the Hsi family also being one of the first to have refrigeration in their home. The Hsi (Xi) family mansions in Shanghai, elaborate European-style buildings, are now tourist attractions.

T.C. Hsi,  Technique  1916. Courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.

T.C. Hsi, Technique 1916. Courtesy MIT Archives and Special Collections.

Te Chun Hsi (席德炯 1894-1950, Class of 1915, Mining Engineering), Mandarin pinyin Xi Dejiong, was a native of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province and the scion of a prominent banking family established in Shanghai. Like his cousin Turpin, he was a grandson of the prominent banker Xi Zhengfu (1838-1904). A graduate of the Imperial Polytechnic College at Shanghai, TC qualified for the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program in the examinations of 1910. At MIT, he majored in Mining Engineering, one of the most popular fields in his era, writing his thesis on the "Geology and Copper Deposits of Bristol, Connecticut." During his student days, TC was a member of the Mining Engineering Society, the Walker Club, and the Cosmopolitan Club, serving as Vice-President in his senior year. Sophomore year he was President of the Chinese Club. Along with his cousin, Turpin, TC regularly took part in the annual Chinese Night -- acting, playing Chinese musical instruments, and demonstrating the shuttlecock. TC was also a member of the MIT Chinese Club debate team that defeated Amherst’s club in November 1911, taking the affirmative stance on: "Resolved That Industrial Development Is More Important for China Than Military Achievements." Beyond MIT he was prominent in the national Chinese Students’ Alliance, serving as Secretary for the Special Finance and Reserve Fund Committee, as Treasurer, and as business manager for the Student Alliance Monthly (later, Chinese Students’ Monthly). Following MIT, TC went on to receive a master's degree in Mining Engineering from Columbia University. After working as a technician for Thomas Steel, he returned to China, where he worked for various mining companies, including the Han Yeh Ping Iron & Coal Co., before entering government service. Over the years he held numerous posts, including Secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Finance, Director of the Water Resources Division of the National Economic Committee, and Vice Director of the Suning Branch Relief Committee. Dedicated to building a modern China, TC was known particularly for his contributions to flood relief efforts. He died in Hong Kong in 1950, shortly after the Communist Revolution of 1949. 

The cousins were early members of the FF Fraternity, the oldest Chinese fraternity in the US.