Lou Writes to Chinese Language Tutor Ch’uan Yueh-Tung

Lou Henry Hoover is seen standing next to President Elect Herbert Hoover on a boat during a trip to Florida in early 1929.
President elect Herbert Hoover and wife Lou on Florida trip, early 1929.

By Thomas F. Schwartz

On November 29, 1929, Lou sent a reply to a letter from her former Chinese language instructor, whose letter was delivered to her though one of his sons. Lou wrote:

“I have thought of you and your family so very many times since leaving China and have very often wondered how you all are. Therefore I was very glad to have the letter and particularly to have the photograph, as the picture told me that you were very well and apparently happy and still a kindly philosopher.

“Also I was glad to have news of your family again. It is so queer to think of the little girls and boys quite grown up and taking their place in the world. Ti Ton I was specially interested to learn about, as he was the one that I know best. I remember that he made a very good Chinese teacher when it was necessary for me to have someone in your absence.

“I wonder if you remember that on my birthday you and Ti Ton brought me a very beautiful tall white Chinese vase decorated with pale red lotus and green leaves? It has always been amongst my cherished possessions. And when I moved from 2300 S Street to the White House, I brought it with me. It certainly has come a long way from the Race Course Road In Tien Tsion [Tianjin]. But it always has brought many pleasant thoughts of China and of you and Ti Ton—and of many warn friend I had there.

“Of course I will trust that you and your children will let me know if any of you ever come to America. I much hope that either here or in China we may have another meeting and discuss as we used to of old, the affairs of all the world—although I fear we will never do so in Chinese again! There are only a few phases like [to thank] and [goodbye] which I remember.

I am sending you photographs of my husband and myself, hoping that you will have a small part of the pleasure in possessing them that we have in owning this one of yourself.”

One of the collecting passions of both Lou and Herbert Hoover that began in China was collecting Chinese porcelain which Lou references with Chuan’s gift of a vase. Because Chaung taught foreign visitors Chinese and adopted the Christian religion, he was a target during the Boxer Rebellion. This event also left an indelible impression on the Hoover’s who lived through the siege of Tianjin. 

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