In 1879 Fei Qihao (Fei Chi-hao) was born into a Chinese Christian family in Dongzhao, 12 miles northeast of Beijing. He graduated in 1898 from North China College and went to teach at a mission school in Taigu in Shanxi Province. During a school break he went sixty miles southwest to visit his sister in Fenzhou, who introduced him to her missionary friends, Charles and Eva Price, graduates of Oberlin College in Ohio. After being accused of being too strict with his pupils, Fei moved to Fenzhou to teach.
In summer of 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion a local magistrate told the missionaries that they would be escorted safely to the coast. On the morning of August 15, Charles Price took Fei aside and gave him some traveling money and a piece of cloth saying: “This is a trustworthy man; he will tell you of our fate. C. W. Price.” After the missionaries had walked with the soldiers for twenty miles, a soldier told Fei that all of the missionaries would be killed in the next village, but allowed Fei to flee. With all of his friends dead, Fei traveled 400 miles by foot to tell the American consul in Tianjin of their fate. He then went to Beijing where he found that his mother and father had both committed suicide at the prompting of another son, who was not a Christian, in order to save the rest of the family.
Filled with sorrow from losing both his family and his friends, Fei wrote to his missionary friend Alice Williams, who he had met in Taigu and was now living in Oberlin because of her mother’s failing health. Her husband, George, who had remained at the Taigu mission to care for opium addicts, had been murdered two weeks before the Prices.
Fei accepted an offer to study in the U. S. in 1901, he traveled with American Board missionary Luella Miner, a 1884 graduate of Oberlin College, and his college friend, Kong Xiangxi (H. H. Kung). When they arrived in San Francisco on September 12, 1901, the immigration officers rejected their passports due to technicalities. After a second delay, the two men and Miner started for Oberlin, but after the northern train crossed into Canada, they were again barred from reentering the U.S. at Portal, North Dakota. While waiting in Toronto, the Chinese counsel in New York made many appeals. Finally they reached Oberlin on January 10, 1903, sixteen months after landing in San Francisco.
Fei belonged to the Student Volunteers for Foreign Missions. He graduated from Oberlin in 1906 and spent a year Yale, where he received a M.A. in Education.
After a year doing education work with the Y.M.C.A. in China, he was asked to serve as President of the Chihli Provincial College at Baoding, the second highest educational institution in the province. From 1910-1929, he served as Associate General Secretary for the Y.M.C.A. in Beijing. He married Wang Yurong and had seven children, 3 boys and 4 girls.
From 1929-39, Fei worked in various financial departments in the Guomindang government. During the war he worked as Director of Personnel at the Central Trust of China in Chongqing, the wartime capital. After the Japanese surrender, he was appointed as one of five officials to establish a new municipal government of Beijing.
He served on the boards of Yenjing University in Beijing, the Government Railway College, Beijing Y.M.C.A., and the Beijing Deaf and Dumb School.
When the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Fei retired at the age of seventy. Fei lived in Beijing until 1953, when he died of a heart attack.
- Material adapted from Chapter 1 of Jan Stacey Bieler, “Patriots or Traitors”? A History of American Educated Chinese (M.E. Sharpe, 2004), Luella Miner, Two Heroes of Cathay (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1907).