REFORMISTS IN CHINA IN THE LATE 1800s AND EARLY 1900s
Among the leading reformists in the late 19th century and early 20th century were Zheng Guanying, who helped China build its first series of modern industries; Wang Tao, a thinker and publisher of China’s first modern newspaper; Kang Youwei (1858-1927), the founder of the "Self Strengthening" movement in the 1860; and Liang Qichao, a key figure in the Hundred Day Reform 1898 and the constitutional movement that led to the drafting of China’s first constitution in 1908.
Among the leading reformists in the late 19th century and early 20th century were Zheng Guanying, who helped China build its first series of modern industries; Wang Tao, a thinker and publisher of China’s first modern newspaper; and Liang Qichao, a key figure in the Hundred Day Reform 1898 and the constitutional movement that led to the drafting of China’s first constitution in 1908
Li Hongzhang, the Chinese foreign minister of the late 19th century, had to make various compromises on Chinese sovereignty, including cession of railway rights to Russia, which led to his being reviled by his contemporaries. A century later, Li's reputation is still controversial in China, but he is widely regarded as an original thinker who played a difficult hand with skill.
Early 20th Century China : John Fairbank Memorial Chinese History Virtual Library cnd.org/fairbank offers links to sites related to modern Chinese history (Qing, Republic, PRC) and has good pictures; Sun Yat-sen Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; May 4th Movement Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Obituary Madame Chiang Kai-shek Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Website on the Qing Dynasty Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Qing Dynasty Explained drben.net/ChinaReport ; Recording of Grandeur of Qing learn.columbia.edu Chinese History: Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization depts.washington.edu ; Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia ; Books: "The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Struggle for Modern China" by Jay Taylor, former U.S. foreign service officer; "Enter the Dragon: A Look at the Western Fever Dream of Insatiable Chinese Power" by Tom Scocca ; "Cambridge History of China" multiple volumes (Cambridge University Press); "China: A New History" by John K. Fairbank; "In Search of Modern China" by Jonathan D. Spence; “China in the 21st Century” by Jeffrey Wasserstrom; “Penguin History of Modern China: 1850-2009” by Jonathan Fenby; “"Shark Fins and Millet" is an excellent depiction of China in the 1930s by Polish-born journalist Ilona Ralf Sues, who met up with Big-Eared Du and Madame Chiang Kai-shek.
Reform Movements in China after the Opium Wars
After China's defeat in the Opium War of 1842, thinkers tried to understand what made the West so strong and how China could best respond. Debates debates about reforms took place from the mid-nineteenth into the early twentieth century, as arguments for more radical reform, including revolution, increased.
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “After China's defeat in the Opium War, there was great concern about the superiority of the West and fierce debate about how to respond. In 1842 Wei Yuan (1794-1856), a scholar and adviser to the government, concluded that the West had beset China because of the West's more advanced military technology. He outlined a plan for maritime defense which included "building ships, making weapons, and learning the superior techniques of the barbarians." In the decades that followed, other scholars went further than Wei, calling not only for the purchase and eventual manufacture of Western arms but also for the establishment of translation offices and institutions where students could study Western languages and mathematics in addition to Chinese classics. This approach came to be known as "self strengthening;" its principle goal was to maintain the strong essence of Chinese civilization while adding superior technology from abroad. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“Still later, scholars like Li Hongzhang (1823-1901) in 1872, argued that self-strengthening programs should be widened to include industrial ventures and transport facilities, focusing on increasing China's "wealth and power" by establishing profit-oriented ventures. The construction of modern coal mines and railroads followed. But for many reasons these projects did not succeed: many of them were not central to the state's concerns, scholars were still bound by the traditional examination system based on the Confucian classics, and growing foreign imperialism was taxing China's economy and society as much as its military.”
New Nationalism and the Rejection of Traditional Beliefs
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Qing China at the close of the 19th century saw the emergence of a new intellectual elite that increasingly perceived the political situation of the day as proof that the Chinese system did not work and that traditional Chinese beliefs were no longer relevant. China’s physical survival as a nation became the overriding concern of these new intellectuals, for their fear was of not only China’s cultural destruction but China’s political destruction at the hands of imperial powers. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos ]
In a desperate urge to strengthen China so that it could resist the ongoing imperialism of the West (and increasingly, of Japan), these Chinese intellectuals developed a new kind of nationalism defined by a dramatic rejection of traditional beliefs, which were seen to have “failed” China. Even the imperial government recognized that some degree of what was called “Western learning” was necessary if China was to survive this new crisis. In 1898, the Qing emperor Guangxu (b. 1871; reign, 1875-1908) appointed Kang Youwei (1858-1927), a leading intellectual of the time, to draft and implement a drastic reform program for the Chinese government. Kang’s program, now known as the “One Hundred Days of Reform,” only had a brief trial period before political pressure brought about a coup and reinstated the Empress Dowager, who favored a more conservative approach. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos ]
“Kang’s ideas for reform were not abandoned altogether, however, and wide-ranging reforms in education, the military, the economy and the government were implemented throughout the early 1900s, culminating in the elimination of the civil service examination system in 1905. But the reforms could not in the end save the Qing dynasty, which eventually collapsed in 1911. The political vacuum was filled by new anti-imperialist and nationalistic military and intellectual groups that shared an increasingly fierce anti-traditionalism — a powerful rejection of the very traditional patterns that had guided Chinese life and beliefs during the Qing and earlier periods.”
Reform Movements in China After the Sino-Japanese War
Robert Eno of Indian University wrote: “The political uproar that followed” the Sino-Japanese War, “unmasking of China’s weakness had led to a program of ambitious reform, adopted by a young emperor who daringly gave power to a party of radically progressive Confucians. But the leaders of that party were killed or driven into exile by a coup led by the aging Empress Dowager, and the young emperor was banished to an island prison within the imperial palace grounds in Beijing, where he awaited his eventual death by poison.” [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “After 1895, with the disastrous defeat of China by the Japanese over dominance in Korea and the subsequent "scramble" by foreign powers for Chinese concessions and spheres of influence, the more conciliatory and pragmatic programs of the "self strengtheners" were discredited as fears for China's survival mounted. It was in this period that Chinese nationalism developed, along with urgent appeals to the Qing court for more radical reform. The reform program designed by the scholars Kang Youwei (1858-1927), Liang Qichao (1873-1929), and Tan Sitong (1865-1898) had a brief trial in the so-called "Hundred Days of Reform" of 1898, but it was not until after the Boxer Rebellion defeat in 1900 that wide-ranging reforms in education, military, economics and government were actually implemented. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“The reform program after 1901 did begin to address structural reforms, with changes in and the eventual abolition of the examination system, the establishment of more schools throughout the country which were to include Western subjects, support for student study abroad, the establishment of a new national army under a new army ministry, along with a new ministry of commerce, reform of the currency, and the promulgation of a commercial code. In spite of these changes and perhaps because of them, the dynasty collapsed in 1911.
“Thinkers such as Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen (1866-1925) had already abandoned not only the Manchu dynasty but also the imperial system and had argued for its replacement with a different form of government. Local assemblies had begun to meet in 1909 and the dynasty had worked out a timetable for creating a constitutional monarchy, with a constitution planned for 1912 and a parliament to be convened the following year. Sun went even further and called for a republican revolution. In the tumultuous years that followed, a number of visions for a new China were created by either mixing old and new, or by rejecting Chinese traditional ideas entirely. These efforts informed and fueled the May Fourth Movement, so named for the popular protests it engendered in China on May 4, 1919. Reform efforts also informed the reorganization of the Kuomintang (Guomindang, KMT), or Nationalist Party, which nominally reunified the country in 1926-28 and tried to build a modern state, and the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921, which saw itself as adapting Marxist ideas to Chinese realities.
“Western "Usefulness" (Yong) Versus Chinese "Essence" (Ti)
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “In the nineteenth century, how did the Chinese respond to being defeated by the Western powers and carved up into spheres of influence? At first they were confused and uncertain about which direction to move. Pressured not only from the outside, they were troubled also by their own explosive population growth, unpredictable economic swings and internal rebellions throughout the century. The Chinese were at first fearful of major changes, believing that they would poison their traditions if they adopted too much from the West. Before they agreed on reform, leaders in the scholar-official class had first to accept the need for change. Many of them instead held to the status quo which not only protected their position and power but also, they felt, had been the source of China's greatness in the past. Others argued that this was impossible, faced with the challenge on Western arms. Much of the 19th century, therefore, was a time of debate about whether or not to modernize, and if so, how much? [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
Some Confucian scholars called for the study the "barbarian" technology in order to resist the Western pressures. Feng Guifen (Feng Kuei-fen) was such a man. He wrote the selection on "Western Learning" in the 1860s, when China was defeated a second time by the West and had unequal treaties imposed upon it. Because of widespread hostility to his ideas, he did not publish it until much later. Feng argued that China should adopt Western technology while retaining Chinese values. Others, like the writer Yan Fu (Yen Fu), felt this was impossible — that Western technology could not be borrowed without also borrowing Western science and the democratic system of government that fostered science.
“The debate continued in the later half of the 19th century as China was slowly partitioned into various spheres of influence. The southeast of China was occupied by the French, the northeast by the Germans, the south by the British, the northwest by the Russians, and the north by the Japanese. Even the defeat at the hands of their own Asian neighbor, Japan, did not totally convince many that the need for reform and change was vital to China's survival.
“Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Chinese thinkers were immersed in debates about how to change China's technology while retaining traditional values and culture. Only gradually did some thinkers come to believe that just bringing in Western guns and machines was not enough. The ineffectiveness of reform efforts led them to believe that the traditional system itself was hindering both China's modernization and her ability to deal with the foreigners.
“The quest for a "new China" began in the 1800s as the Chinese of that period debated how they could borrow from the West and Japan what was useful (yong) for economic development or industrialization without losing the essence (ti) of Chinese culture. In the primary sources below, two scholars present counter-arguments. Feng Guifen argues for adopting Western techniques without altering Chinese "foundations," and Yan Fu argues that this would not be enough.”
Liang Qichao: China's First Democrat
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Liang Qichao (1873-1929) was a young colleague and follower of Kang Youwei (1858-1927) during the failed “100 Days Reform” of 1898. When the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) put an end to the reform, Liang narrowly escaped arrest (and certain execution). He settled into exile in Japan, where he pursued a highly influential career as a writer and publisher of journals, including the popular fortnightly Renewing the People (Xinmin congbao), published between 1902 and 1905. “The following is an excerpt from Liang’s essay, “Renewing the People.” [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
Orville Schell wrote in “Discos & Democracy: China in the Throes of Reform”: “Liang Qichao, who was born in 1873 in a small southern village, not far from the Portuguese colony of Macao, died in 1929 after an intellectually tumultuous life. He wrestled continuously with the problem of how to reform China without destroying what he took to be its cultural essence and without humiliating its people with cultural annihilation. Among Liang's formative political experiences was his participation in China's first student demonstration, in 1895. The Imperial government had just signed a humiliating peace treaty with Japan following China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War; in response, eight thousand young Chinese scholars, who had come to Beijing to take the national civil service exams, signed a petition expressing their opposition to the treaty. They then formed a line one-third of a mile long in front of Duchayuan, the Censorate of the Qing government, in protest. Their public demonstration proclaimed for the first time that Chinese citizens had the right, indeed the obligation, to regulate those by whom they were governed. Confucius's disciple Mencius had written, "He who restrains his prince, loves his prince." But Liang belonged to the first generation of scholars who, instead of going into voluntary exile when their entreaties were rebuffed by the Imperial government, dared to organize a constituency outside of the government to apply political pressure. [Source:Orville Schell, “Discos & Democracy: China in the Throes of Reform” (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988; paperback: Anchor Doubleday, 1989). Reprinted with permission. Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“Like other forward-thinking Confucian scholars, Liang came to see "wealth and power" as the only salvation for a beleaguered China living under the threat of national extinction at the hands of Japan and the technologically advanced, rapacious Western powers. Just as intellectuals in the nineteen-eighties were debating the causes of China's backwardness and searching for ways to remedy it through "modernization," so too had Liang and his generation of reform-minded scholars sought to understand the origins of China's dynastic weakness and to suggest remedies.
“A brilliant Confucian scholar, Liang came to believe that the source of Western wealth and power lay in democracy. He held that the energy generated by popular participation in the political process was what drove any dynamic society forward. But while he valued the dynamism that free, competing individuals might contribute to the building of a nation, he was vague indeed about how these Promethean, alien forces he wished to see released in China might be reconciled with the interests of the Chinese state. In fact, in optimistically Confucian fashion, he avoided entirely the problem of possible conflict by assuming that the natural order of things was harmony between rulers and the ruled. Whereas Western thinkers such as Hobbes and Rousseau (who recognized how particular interests easily come into conflict with the "general will") had immediately identified this obvious point of discord in any democratic social contract, Liang missed it completely. In holding his new convictions that individuals should and did have "rights" (quan), he never imagined that a state might become tyrannical or that its people might become rebellious."
The main figure in the revolutionary movement that overthrew imperial rule and created the Republic of China was Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), who, along with other republican political leaders, endeavored to establish a parliamentary democracy. They were thwarted by warlords with imperial and quasi-democratic pretensions who resorted to assassination, rebellion, civil war, and collusion with foreign powers (especially Japan) in their efforts to gain control.
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “By 1900 the leading revolutionary in China was Sun Yatsen (1866-1925), a man very different from previous Chinese reformers. Born to a peasant family in the Guangzhou region, Sun was educated in missionary schools in Hawaii and Hong Kong and developed a world view as much Western as Confucian. In 1894 he founded his first revolutionary organization, and by 1905 he was made head of the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui) in Japan by representatives from Chinese secret societies, overseas Chinese groups, and Chinese students abroad. After sixteen years of traveling, planning, writing and organizing, his dreams were realized when the revolution of 1911 led to the end of the Qing dynasty. He gave up the presidency in favor of General Yuan Shikai, whose death in 1916 led to an era of local warlord rule. Sun died in 1925. His "three principles of revolution" were first articulated for the Revolutionary League and later formed the foundation for the Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
Ignored by the Western powers and in charge of a southern military government with its capital in Guangzhou, Sun Yatsen eventually turned to the new Soviet Union for inspiration and assistance. The Soviets obliged Sun and his Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). Soviet advisers helped the Kuomintang establish political and military training activities. But Moscow also supported the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was founded by Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and others in Shanghai in 1921. The Soviets hoped for consolidation of the Kuomintang and the CCP but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. The struggle for power in China began between the Kuomintang and the CCP as both parties also sought the unification of China.
Sun Yatsen’s "Three People's Principles"
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “By 1900 the leading revolutionary in China was Sun Yatsen (1866-1925), a man very different from previous Chinese reformers. Born to a peasant family in the Guangzhou region, Sun was educated in missionary schools in Hawaii and Hong Kong and developed a world view as much Western as Confucian. In 1894 he founded his first revolutionary organization, and by 1905 he was made head of the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui) in Japan by representatives from Chinese secret societies, overseas Chinese groups, and Chinese students abroad. After sixteen years of traveling, planning, writing and organizing, his dreams were realized when the revolution of 1911 led to the end of the Qing dynasty. He gave up the presidency in favor of General Yuan Shikai, whose death in 1916 led to an era of local warlord rule. Sun died in 1925. His "three principles of revolution" were first articulated for the Revolutionary League and later formed the foundation for the Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party; they included: [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“1) Nationalism. Finding evidence of proto-nationalism throughout Chinese history, Sun believed that he had enlarged and modernized the principle to include opposition to foreign imperialism and a firm sense of China as an equal among the nations of the world. He also addressed the need for self-determination for China's minorities.
“2) Democracy. Finding important Chinese precedents for the notion of the voice of the people, Sun introduced the new notions of a republican government and a constitution as the best way to articulate and protect people's rights. Sun advocated popular elections, initiative, recall and referendum, but he felt that China was not yet ready for full democracy, requiring instead a preparatory period of political tutelage.
“3) Livelihood. Sun believed in both economic egalitarianism and economic development. He sketched out a complicated plan to equalize land holdings and ensure that taxation was both widely and fairly implemented. Dedicated to industrialization but concerned about China's difficulty in securing investment capital and also about social unrest, Sun advocated nationalization of key industries as the best way to ensure both economic development and political stability.
"Reforming Men's Minds Comes Before Reforming Institutions" by Chu Chengbo
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Qing scholars and officials of the late nineteenth century were very concerned with the empire’s weakness, which was there for all to see as the Qing experienced defeat at the hands of the British, the French, and, in 1895, the former tributary country of Japan. Concern with weakness led scholars and officials to offer a number of different analyses of the causes of weakness and to propose a variety of actions meant to address those problems. [Source:Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“Chu Chengbo, an imperial official, submitted the following memorial — entitled “Reforming Men's Minds Comes Before Reforming Institutions” — to the Guangxu emperor in the wake of Japan’s defeat of China in 1895 in the Sino-Japanese War: “In the present world our trouble is not that we lack good institutions but that we lack upright minds. If we seek to reform institutions, we must first reform men’s minds. Unless all men of ability assist each other, good laws become mere paper documents; unless those who supervise them are fair and enlightened, the venal will end up occupying the places of the worthy. At the beginning of the Tongzhi reign (1862-1874), Zeng Guofan, Zuo Zongtang, Shen Baozhen, Li Hongzhang, and others, because the danger from abroad was becoming daily more serious, strongly emphasized Western learning. In order to effect large-scale manufacture, they built shipyards and machine factories; in order to protect our commercial rights, they organized the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company and cotton mills; in order to educate persons of talent, they founded the Tongwen College and other language schools; in order to strengthen training, they established naval and military academies. Countless other enterprises were inaugurated, and an annual expenditure amounting to millions was incurred. Truly no effort was spared in the attempt to establish new institutions after the pattern of the West. [Source: Excerpts from “Reforming Men's Minds Comes Before Reforming Institutions” by Chu Chengbo, a 1895 memorial to Qing emperor Guanxu (1871-1908, r. 1875-1908) “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 275-276; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“When these enterprises were first undertaken, the regulations and systems were thoroughly considered so as to attain the best. It was asserted then that although China at the outset had to imitate the superior techniques of the West, eventually she would surpass the Western countries. But [in fact] perfunctory execution of these reforms has brought us to the point now where the island barbarians [the Japanese] have suddenly invaded us, and the whole situation of the nation has deteriorated. Was it because there were no reforms or because the reforms were no good? The real mistake was that we did not secure the right men to manage the new institutions.
Kang Youwei (1858-1927) was a scholar and official educated in both the Confucian classics and in Western history and philosophy. According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “Typical of scholars of his generation, Kang was concerned about the weakness of the Qing and devoted himself to the problem of how to make the country rich, strong, and able to stand up to the constant pressure and challenges posed by the Western powers and Japan." [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
Kang Youwei was the leader of a political reform movement called the Hundred Days’ reform, that was modeled in part on the 1868 Meiji Restoration in Japan as well as Western ideas. Kang grew up in Foshan, a 1½ hour drive from Guangzhou (Canton) and studied neo-Confucianism. His fondness of saints earned him the nickname “Saint wei.” Kang gained the confidence of Qing Emperor Guangxu and attempted to launch his political, economic and military reforms under him in 1898 . Because the effort was poorly planned and executed it failed in just 100 days, hence the name, due to a coup led by conservative forces. Kang fled the country. A Chinese researcher told the Yomiuri Shimbun: :Kang’s driving power was passion, He was unfamiliar with the complex nature of political battles. “ After the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 Kang advocated for a constitutional monarchy and aimed to restore the Qing Dynasty, making his a conservative in the eyes of many. Mao Zedong was influenced by Kang in his youth
Hong Kong-New York filmmaker Eric Chan told China Beat, Kang Youwei’s legacy is complex. If his reform efforts failed during the 1911 Revolution, but have survived as an illusory path not taken by “China,” his speculative utopian program was realized to a fault in revolutionary China during the Great Leap Forward. Mao’s relationship with Kang, fraught with respect and rivalry, was one of the most astonishing things I uncovered during my research. Apparently, Mao found his initial calling after reading Kang’s Datongshu in 1917, when he was 24. He wrote to a friend stating Datong to be his political goal, while citing the Confucian evolutionist paradigm developed by Kang. Understandably, that has been suppressed throughout his career, probably because of his insistence on his originality, but apparently also due to an urge to hide his original calling’s Confucian underpinning in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary rat race, in both his theoretical one-upman-ship within the party, and later in his state-building rivalry with the Soviet Union. But Kang cannot be blamed for the Great Leap Forward’s barbarous atrocities by design or ignorance, because of his own leeriness of a forcible utopianism. [Source: China Beat, December 5, 2011]
Kang Youwei, Emperor Guangxu and the Hundred Days Reforms
The Qing Emperor Guangxu was influenced by reformers like Kang Youwei, who attempted to bring about changes based on Western ideas of progress and freedom and urged the Qing court to modernize China by building railways and improving ports, factories, weapons and metal and textile factories. At the end of the 19th century, most of the railways, mines and communications lines in China had been built for foreigners for their own use. Kang was also a key player in the Hundred Days Reform. Chinese and Western historians primarily recognize Kang for his role in the political reforms of 1898 — which failed — and do not pay much attention to his utopianism or have much respect for his scholarship.For a time Kang was exiled in Sweden.
Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “In 1895 and in 1898 a scholar,Kang Youwei, who was admitted into the presence of the emperor, submitted to him memoranda in which he called for radical reform. Kang was a scholar who belonged to the empiricist school of philosophy of the early Manchu period, the so-called Han school. He was a man of strong and persuasive personality, and had such an influence on the emperor that in 1898 the emperor issued several edicts ordering the fundamental reorganization of education, law, trade, communications, and the army. These laws were not at all bad in themselves; they would have paved the way for a liberalization of Chinese society. But they aroused the utmost hatred in the conservative gentry and also in the moderate reformers among the gentry. Kang Youwei and his followers, to whom a number of well-known modern scholars belonged, had strong support in South China. We have already mentioned that owing to the increased penetration of European goods and ideas, South China had become more progressive than the north; this had added to the tension already existing for other reasons between north and south. In foreign policy the north was more favourable to Russia and radically opposed to Japan and Great Britain; the south was in favour of co-operation with Britain and Japan, in order to learn from those two states how reform could be carried through. In the north the men of the south were suspected of being anti-Manchu and revolutionary in feeling. This was to some extent true, though Kang Youwei and his friends were as yet largely unconscious of it. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]
Hong Kong-New York filmmaker Eric Chan, who made a 2011 film about Kang and his daughter called "Datong: The Great Society", told China Beat, “If both Kang and Liang Qichao are considered the inaugurators of Chinese modernity, Kang was the last major intellectual of the classical millennia, while Liang was the first one blazing his way into the vernacular present. Since the shift turned out to be almost as major a shift as from Latin to the vernacular in Europe, Liang and the notable figures who followed him are more of a presence in Chinese modernity than Kang. Liang has been considered a figure who has “outshone” his master, no doubt partly due to this significant cultural/linguistic shift, even though Liang, “the ultimate fox” in your words, once lamented that he was not as an original thinker as his master. [Source: China Beat, December 5, 2011]
“Comprehensive Consideration of the Whole Situation” by Kang Youwei
On January 29, 1898, Kang Youwei submitted this memorial entitled “Comprehensive Consideration of the Whole Situation” to the Guangxu emperor (1871-1908, r. 1875-1908). A few months later, the Guangxu emperor put Kang in charge of implementing a program of government reform. The project lasted only 100 days before court factions opposed to Kang inspired the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) to oust Kang and his colleagues (many of whom were executed) and to put the Guangxu emperor under what amounted to house arrest for the rest of his life. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
In the memorial Kang Youwei wrote: “A survey of all states in the world will show that those states that undertook reforms became strong while those states that clung to the past perished. The consequences of clinging to the past and the effects of opening up new ways are thus obvious. If Your Majesty, with your discerning brilliance, observes the trends in other countries, you will see that if we can change we can preserve ourselves; but if we cannot change, we shall perish. Indeed, if we can make a complete change, we shall become strong, but if we only make limited changes, we shall still perish. If Your Majesty and his ministers investigate the source of the disease, you will know that this is the right prescription. [Source: from “Comprehensive Consideration of the Whole Situation” by Kang Youwei, a 1898 memorial to Qing emperor Guanxu (1871-1908, r. 1875-1908) from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 269-270; [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ]
“Our present trouble lies in our clinging to old institutions without knowing how to change. In an age of competition between states, to put into effect methods appropriate to an era of universal unification and laissez.faire is like wearing heavy furs in summer or riding a high carriage across a river. This can only result in having a fever or getting oneself drowned. It is a principle of things that the new is strong but the old weak; that new things are fresh but old things rotten; that new things are active but old things static. If the institutions are old, defects will develop.
Image Sources: 1) Sun Yat-sen, Ohio State University; 2) Sun Yat-sen, Columbia University; 3) Cutting queue,and 4) May 4th, Ohio State University; 5) Whampoa, Wikipedia
Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu ; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated August 2021