Ch'ing China

The One Hundred Days of Reform

K'ang Yu-wei

   The dominant figure of the reform movement was K'ang Yu-wei (1858-1927). He had written his ideas on reform in what was to be nearly the final form in two books in the mid-1880's (at the age of only 27): Ta t'ung shu ("Grand Unity") and K'ung Tzu kai-chih k'ao ("Confucius as a Reformer"). By 1895, he had won the highest degree (chin-shih ) and began several reform movements. When China was defeated by Japan in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the issue of reform reached a crisis. K'ang argued that China should imitate Japan in its program of reform. Like Meiji Japan, China should adopt a constitutional government and abandon the monarchy.

   Desperate for solutions, the Kuang-hsü emperor (ruled 1875-1908) asked K'ang to take over the government in June of 1898. Immediately K'ang set to work on what was to become known as "The One Hundred Days of Reform." Edicts began pouring out of the imperial court with the express purpose of changing China into a modern, constitutional state. These edicts included:It was, to say the least, an ambitious project. The last reform, however, met with bitter opposition since the military was largely in the hands of a few Governor-Generals. The reforms as whole, however, were dramatically threatening to all levels of Chinese society. The edicts issued out of the reform government were implemented in only one out of fifteen provinces; the rest of China resisted the edicts. After only a three months in power, a coup d'etat returned authority to the Empress Dowager and a conservative administration was swept into power.

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The Boxer Rebellion


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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 3-2-97