Yau Foke Sik, ca. 1880. Courtesy of Holyoke History Room, Holyoke Public Library. 

Yau Foke Sik, ca. 1880. Courtesy of Holyoke History Room, Holyoke Public Library. 

Yau Foke Sik 薛有福 (1863-1884)

a native of Fujian Province, was the third son of a prominent Malayan Chinese family established in Singapore with a successful shipping business and at Xiamen, Fujian in foreign trading. A member of the third detachment of the CEM, he sailed for the US at the tender age of twelve. Sik attended Holyoke High School, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, boarding with Miss Angelina Worswick, a supporter of the Chinese mission. In Holyoke, Sik was a popular student, making a name for himself in baseball, and becoming close friends with a girl named "Kate." These two facts reveal how far Sik’s American life diverged from the Chinese norms of the time: neither playing athletic games nor forming friendships with members of the opposite sex would have been considered proper for a young scholar of his age in China. Sik matriculated at MIT in 1880, and lived at 370 Columbus Avenue in Boston with two other CEM classmates. After his recall to China, he was assigned to the Fuzhou Naval School.

Sik served as a midshipman on the Chinese flagship Yangwu, and was killed in action during the infamous "Battle of Pagoda Anchorage" at Mamoi (Mawei) on August 23, 1884, when French forces essentially destroyed the Fujian Fleet. Sik was one of three MIT men killed in this battle.

  Sik at the Holyoke Public High School ca. 1878. Image courtesy the Holyoke History Room of the Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Sik at the Holyoke Public High School ca. 1878. Image courtesy the Holyoke History Room of the Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke, Massachusetts.


For more on Sik, see CEM Connections

Letters to Kate are held in The Thomas La Fargue Collection (Washington State University Libraries).

Class of '84 MIT: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Book, 1909, 92. Yung Chung Kwong, Yau Foke Sik and Seu Nam Yang. On the Yangwu, see Benjamin A. Elman. On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 2005.

Sources: MIT Chinese Students Directory: For the Past Fifty Years, 1931; Class of '84 MIT: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Book, 1909; theTechnology ReviewThe Tech; the MIT Course Catalogue; MIT's Reports to the PresidentWho's Who of American Returned Students (You Mei tongxue lu), Beijing: Tsinghua College, 1917; CEM Connections; Thomas La Fargue, China's First Hundred. Pullman: State College of Washington, 1942; and The Thomas La Fargue Digital Collection (Washington State University Libraries).