Tchou was born in China in 1895 and went to Scotland in 1908 where he studied at the University of Glasgow receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in naval architecture and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical and civil engineering. The University of Glasgow is also where Tchou met his wife, Jean Brown. In 1916, Tchou returned to China becoming a mechanical engineer in the industrial research bureau and later a professor of mechanical engineering and English at several universities. While living in China, Tchou also served as the secretary to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the Chinese Army. In 1921, Tchou became the executive secretary of the industrial department of the Y.M.C.A. where he studied the labor conditions within China and began reform efforts.
Tchou traveled throughout Europe and America becoming an ardent advocate for social legislation, education of workers, and improving educational and housing conditions of the working class. In the United States, he taught at universities and was a leading author and speaker on the issues of China’s housing, social, and labor problems. A 1946 New York Passenger list shows that Tchou arrived in the United States and was traveling to Oberlin, where he held a teaching position at Oberlin College. While I am unsure of what brought Tchou and his family to Yellow Springs, they purchased their home in 1952. It has been suggested that Tchou was a descendant of a great 12th Chinese philosopher and Confucian scholar, Chu Hsi and was also known as one of China’s foremost painters.