Sung Sing Kwan, class of 1912

Name: Kwan, Sung Sing
From: Imperial Medical College, Tientsin
Previous School: Dummer Academy
Attended Andover: September 16, 1908-June 14, 1911
Department at Phillips Academy: Scientific
Dorm: Churchill 2 Junior Year
Churchill 3 Lower Year
Churchill 1 Upper Year
Graduated: Non-Returning Middler
Class of 1912
College: MIT
Profession: Architect
Father: Dr. King Y. Kwan, Imperial Medical College
1922 address: 125 Rue de Baron Gros, Tientsin
1958 address: Peitou, Taiwan

Correspondence between SS Kwan and Andover principal Alfred Stearns, 1908-1927.

Sun Sing Kwan came to Andover as a junior (9th grader) in September, 1908, after attending the Dummer Academy. He was the son of Dr. King Y. Kwan, a graduate of the Imperial Medical College, and a resident of Tientsin, China. He resided in the Churchill dormitory during his three years at Andover. He went directly from his upper year to college, which was common at the time, such students being known as non-returning middlers. Kwan attended MIT and pursued a career in architecture.

In 1916, the annual conference of the Chinese Students Alliance, (Eastern Section) was held at Phillips Academy from August 24 to September 2. The students performed a play entitled “The New Order Cometh” in the Stone Chapel on August 30, in which SS Kwan played Shu Seng Chen, a student.

In December of 1927, Sun Sing wrote to Dr. Stearns from the Biltmore in Los Angeles, California, where he was staying with the Princess der Ling. The Princess der Ling had been the first lady-in-waiting to the Empress Dowager and had lived in the Forbidden City for three years. They had with them, “13 boxes of wooden models of Chinese palace buildings and many drawings and photographs…made under my personal supervision…great care exercised to give the correct scale and true color schemes…now being exhibited in the Biltmore Hotel…result of my research work in Chinese ancient architecture…during the past 6 years or so.” 1 The object of their visit to Los Angeles was to seek support for the building of a replica of the Forbidden City in Los Angeles, to include 20 buildings, pagodas and pailous, on 20 acres, surrounded by a replica of the wall around it. The complex would contain a hotel, theatre, auditorium, museum, music pavilion and two restaurants (American and Chinese).

Dr. Stearns wrote letters of introduction to Samuel FB Morse and William H Crocker, whom he thought might be interested in supporting this project. “This letter will introduce you to an old Andover boy and during the course of his American education my personal ward, Sun Sing Kwan, who has an interesting proposition which I am sure you will be glad to discuss with him. He isn’t looking for your hard-earned cash; so cheer up. After graduating from Andover, Kwan went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was duly graduated, after pursuing a course in Architecture. His record at Tech, as at Andover, was exceptionally strong, and I can add that he is an exceptionally fine fellow. Returning to China, he has been practicing Architecture there for a number of years, and I hear quite frequently of his very fine standing and rather unusual work as an architect. If you will be good enough, therefore, to listen to what he has to say and give him such good advise as you can, I shall be greatly indebted to you, as will he.” 2

SS Kwan’s dream to build a replica of the Forbidden City in Los Angeles remained only that — a dream. One can only wonder about the fate of his scrupulously constructed models and of the Princess der Ling.

1. Letter from SS Kwan to A. Stearns, Dec. 20, 1927. Phillips Academy Archives, Andover, Mass.
2. Letter from Al Stearns to Samuel F.B. Morse. Jan 9, 1928. Phillips Academy Archives, Andover, Mass.