Kong Tai Heong was born on April 25, 1875 in Waichow, Guangdong Province, China. Abandoned as an infant on the steps of the Berlin Foundling House in Hong Kong with a note pinned to her basket giving her name, Kong grew up in the orphanage run by German nuns. Believing that the young girl who had helped them care for other children had promise, they helped her apply to the Canton Medical School to study western medicine. At the school, she met Li Khai Fai and the two worked side-by-side helping the physicians deal with the 1893 outbreak of plague which struck Canton and Hong Kong. Over objections voiced by Li's parents and Kong's professors, who did not want to lose their star pupil, the two married within hours of their graduation on June 3, 1896. The following day, they boarded a ship for Honolulu, hoping to be able to provide medical services for the large Chinese population in the city. The voyage took thirty days, and they arrived in the Republic of Hawaii on July 4.