Although brought up in a parentless environment, his early literary struggles gained for him the scholarly degree of Chu-Jen in 1902, which was considered a high honor. In addition, Mr. Huang absorbed many Western ideas of education.
In 1904 Huang Yen-pei with his friends organized a Society of Learning but in 1903 revolutionary movements were already fermenting, and the Empress Dowager had sent mandates throughout the country for the suppression of all revolutionary ideas and movements when he and his friends came to a town in Pudong to lecture, Huang Yen-pei was arrested through the treachery of a relative of his and imprisoned by the town magistrate on a charge of revolutionary actions against the Empress.
Mr. Huang served as a town magistrate being eager to gain favor of the Empress in order to be promoted, exaggerated the case before the Manchu Court and an order was issued for the instant execution of the prisoners. He was an American Missionary named William Burke came to their rescue and the magistrate, fearing the interference of foreigners, released all the prisoners after this he became more confirmed than ever in devoting himself to the work of education.
The following are some of the more important posts he held. During the First Revolution of 1911 Huang Yen-pei was a chief of the educational bureau under the Tutu of Jiangsu. In 1914 he resigned from this post to make a special trip to investigate educational conditions in the Yangtsze provinces while travelling he acted as special correspondent of the Shun Pao, Shanghai.
In 1915 Mr. Huang went to America to study industrial conditions in the capacity of secretary to the Chinese Industrial Mission. For many years he has been vice-chairman of the Jiangsu Provincial Education Association, Chairman of the China Vocational Education Association, and a member of the Jiangsu Provincial Assembly.
In December, 1921, Huang Yen-pei was appointed Minister of Education but did not accept the appointment. He was re-appointed to this post in June, 1922, in Dr. W. W. Yen's Cabinet, but again declined. Later he was engaged in vocational educational work in Shanghai and serves concurrently as chief secretary of the Shanghai Civic Association.