Russia, China, and the universalism of modernity: the “Account of the Reforms of Peter the Great” by Kang Youwei
This paper analyzes a short essay by Kang Youwei (1858–1927) – one of the intellectual and political protagonists of late imperial and early Republican China. In it, he interpreted the historical experience of Russian modernization under Peter the Great (1672–1725) and used it as a “success story” for the renewal of Chinese monarchical institutions. It was written in 1898 and presented to the Manchu throne under the title “Account of the Reforms of Peter the Great”, and for our purposes will be the departing point for a “global intellectual circuit” through which the following questions will be addressed: Why was seventeenth and eighteenth century Russia considered as a model for China by the author? How did he manage to adapt the historical experience of Russia into a social and political conceptual framework for China? What was Kang’s historiographical method, and what kind of philosophy of history framed his reflections? What does this short essay tell us about Kang’s view on “Westernization”, on the concept of “modernity” itself, and on its use for historiographical purposes?
KEYWORDS: Late Qing China historiography Kang Youwei Westernization philosophy of history
Kang Youwei and Confucianism in Canada and beyond, 1899–1911
Based on the new discovery of two of Kang Youwei’s writings composed in Canada in 1899, this article expands the historical research concerning his Confucian religious thoughts and movement within the Canadian context and the period of his overseas exile in 1899–1911. The article first focuses on Kang’s continual pursuit of Confucian religious cosmopolitism from China to Canada, especially his efforts to disseminate Confucianism overseas and to develop a new utopian vision that called for the removal of religious boundaries among human beings worldwide. Its second focus is on Kang’s use of Canada as both a starting point and a turning point in his search for the Confucian State Religion. He consequently sought to develop a conservative nationalism from traditional Chinese culture and through a utilitarian adoption of Christian institutions and Western cultures. The analysis of both Kang’s pursuit of Confucian religious cosmopolitism and his search for the Confucian State Religion reveals their positive and negative impacts on his reformist movement that affected Canadian Chinatowns and on the broader Chinese diaspora from 1899–1911. Kang’s promotion of Confucianism in Canadian Chinatowns and the Chinese diaspora in addition had implications for the failure of his religious movement in the early Republican Period.
KEYWORDS: Kang Youwei Confucian religious cosmopolitism Confucian State Religion 1898 reform Canadian Chinatowns Chinese diaspora
Kang Youwei’s propaganda adjustments after the Hundred Days Reform, 1898–1900
After the failed Hundred Days Reform, Kang Youwei launched a propaganda campaign in the newspapers under his control. In addition to casting himself in a favorable light, the campaign served two other purposes: to justify his own fleeing from China and to solicit foreign intervention to free Emperor Guangxu from house arrest. Immediately following the bloody coup d’etat in 1898, Kang identified Empress-Dowager Cixi as the chief instigator of the tragedy. By 1899, he turned to blaming some of her “evil ministers” as well. A year later he accused both parties. After the founding of Baohuang hui (Chinese Empire Reform Association) in 1899, Kang’s overseas propaganda began to call for an armed rescue mission and for funds from the overseas Chinese communities for this purpose. The adjustments Kang made to his propaganda campaign were echoed by progressive newspapers published inside China. Together, they created a public opinion that forced the Qing government to proceed with the political reform.
KEYWORDS: Hundred Days Reform Kang Youwei Empress-Dowager CixiRong Lu Baohuang hui (Chinese Empire Reform Association) propagandist discourse
Heeding the warnings: Deng Huaxi and Zheng Guanying’s Shengshi weiyan
This article establishes a link between Qing-dynasty official Deng Huaxi (1826–1916) and comprador Zheng Guanying’s (1842–1922) political treatise Shengshi weiyan (Warnings to a Prosperous Age). It suggests that Deng Huaxi’s reforms as provincial governor of Anhui and Guizhou were inspired by Shengshi weiyan. The work did not come to be applied in the 1898 Hundred Days Reform but saw at least partial success in the modernization of the two landlocked provinces. This interpretation supports the scholarly consensus that the geographical extent of the late Qing self-strengthening reforms was contingent on various persons and places and being far more focused on coastal provinces. It also suggests that the nature, pace, and scope of reforms lay at the discretion of governors-general and provincial governors, many of whom possessed few resources with which to implement them fully. The story of Deng Huaxi challenges a common idea about late Qing China: that meaningful reforms relied only on men with deep political connections to the central court and access to private fortunes. It also shows how effectively messages by Zheng Guanying and other theorists could reach local administrators and leaders and how, in provinces not so dominated by conservative literati elites, Western-style reforms garnered much appeal without too much resistance.
KEYWORDS: Anhui China Deng Huaxi Guizhou Qing empire Warnings to a Prosperous Age
“Soldiers with stiff bodies”: rumors, stereotypes and the Chinese image of the British army during the First Opium War (1839-1842)
SEARLE Alaric & ZHANG Yi
A curious aspect of the First Opium War was the circulation among Chinese officials of two claims made about British soldiers, instigated by Commissioner Lin Zexu: their uniforms were so tight that if they were to stumble they would not be able to get up again; and, the men were “like fish,” thus able to function well at sea, but not to fight on land because they had become so used to the pitching and rolling of their ships. This article examines the extent to which these notions took on the quality of wartime rumors, and how they spread beyond generals and officials and into the general population. It considers the way in which the rumors functioned in different ways and at different levels of society, taking on different constructions of meaning in multiple social and political domains.
KEYWORDS: First Opium War rumor Chinese encounters with foreigners Lin Zexu British army
Cross-cultural sexual narratives and gendered reception in Republican China
HSU Rachel Hui-Chi
This article examines nonfiction sexual narratives inspired by foreign thought in Republican China. It highlights female viewpoints to recover their hidden voices in history and shows the socio-cultural significance of the gendered reception of cross-cultural theories. I focus on three foreign female thinkers – Ellen Key, Emma Goldman, and Alexandra Kollontai – whose works stood for different schools of free love and drew numerous adherents in China. My study shows a nuanced but telling difference in the focuses of sexual narratives along gender lines. Whereas male writers sought to modernize marriage and liberate sexuality from socio-eugenic perspectives, female writers pursued sexual autonomy from relatively more personal stances. The rhetorical feature of Chinese female essayists, I argue, was essentially iconoclastic towards sexual conventions and yet reticent about free sexuality, as opposed to the progressive eloquence often shown in male writings about sexual matters. In sum, this article illustrates how Chinese female essayists retained gender propriety when openly addressing intimate matters, while male writers glamorized free sexuality and free love as a panacea for nation-strengthening and social/racial progress in a cross-cultural context.
KEYWORDS: Sexual narratives Republican China Ellen Key Emma Goldman Alexandra Kollontai male writers female writers/essayists
From “natural river” to “political river”: Jia Guojing’s research on Qing-era Yellow River governance in light of Karl Wittfogel’s thesis
Research on Yellow River flooding and on its governance has always been an important focus on the history of water conservancy in China. In recent years, scholars have reflected on this topic and provided in-depth empirical discussions that reveal the multiple and complex relationships of water management to the state, region, and people. Jia Guojing’s latest research on Yellow River governance during the Qing dynasty is an outstanding example. Based on the intricate relationship between water conservancy projects, local society, and state power, the present article summarizes and evaluates Jia Guojing’s research in the context of China’s “water management history” as conceived using Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism as a point of departure. In doing so, it points out the long-existing issues in the history of China’s water conservancy and brings in as well those from abroad. The article ends by offering possibilities for further exploration.
KEYWORDS: History of Chinese water conservancyYellow River governanceKarl WittfogelJia Guojing
The evolution of maritime Chinese historiography in the United States: toward a transnational and interdisciplinary approach
Once considered a marginal side-story to the Fairbank-inspired narrative of an agrarian-centered, land-bound China, Chinese maritime history has received increasing attention in the United States as a research field in its own right. Through sustained engagement with trends in regional, comparative, military, and global histories, and dialogue with European and Asian academia, the efforts of several generations of scholars after Fairbank have slowly broken down his paradigm. Studies of maritime China are increasingly showing a broad, integrated maritime East Asian region comprising the seas and their littoral from the Sea of Japan to the Strait of Melaka. This article surveys the historiographical development of the field. It also highlights my work-in-progress on autonomous overseas Chinese polities along the Gulf of Siam littoral in mainland Southeast Asia during the eighteenth century as one possible future path for the study of maritime Chinese history.
KEYWORDS: John King Fairbank maritime China continental China maritime East Asia Ha Tien Siam
Discovering East Asia: the formation of modern East Asia as a crucial grand history from a global perspective
TSAI Wei-chieh (蔡伟杰)
Published online: 23 Jun 2020
Bridging China and the West: a theme with variations in modern China’s knowledge transformation
LIU Wennan (刘文楠)
Published online: 14 May 2020
To Japan and Back from Japan: The Exchange of Words and Concepts between China and Japan in Modern Times
BIAN Mingjiang (边明江)
Published online: 30 Apr 2020
Rethinking China’s “modernity”: Between Thought and Society, by SUN Jiang
XU Tianna (徐天娜)
Published online: 14 May 2020
Minds connected by a common tongue: the national language movement and modern China
CAI Jionghao (蔡炯昊)
Published online: 20 May 2020
Land reform and changes in rural political power in North China: an investigation from the perspective of political history
LI Gongzhong (李恭忠)
Published online: 29 Jun 2020
Exploring uncharted territory: Institute of Modern History and developments in historical studies
YIN Yuanping (尹媛萍)
Published online: 18 Jun 2020