“Mr. Kang’s writings are widely read by Chinese scholars. However, in late years he has written very little, preferring to devote practically all of his time to furthering the cause of the Confucian religion.”
This article is excerpted fromBiographies of Prominent Chinesepublished in Shanghai in c.1925.
Mr. Kang Yu-wei was born at Nan-hai, Kwangtung Province, in 1856. He successfully passed the Imperial Examinations, and became a Chu-jen, or Provincial graduate, in 1895, receiving then the degree of Ph.D. He was offered several opportunities to take up an official career, but he preferred the life of a scholar. He established the famous Wan Mu Tsao Tang School at Canton, where he taught large numbers of Chinese scholars from all parts of the country. Among those who later became distinguished were: His Excellency Liang Chi-chao, who has held various cabinet portfolios, the late Hsu Chin, and the late Tang Chu-teng.
Mr. Kang is a well known reformer. He started his campaign for political reform in the south, during the Sino-Japanese War, in 1894-1895, by delivering lectures and distributing leaflets. He petitioned the Imperial Government to make no peace with Japan.
On June 14th, 1898, Mr. Kang was received in audience by the late Emperor Kwang Hsu, upon the recommendation of Wang Tung-ho, the Imperial tutor. He manifested at once, a strong influence over the Emperor, and was responsible for the famous reform decrees which were put into effect in 1898.
A plot to prevent the Empress Dowager from actively interfering in politics, which was directed by Mr. Kang, was discovered and reported by political opponents who were prompted by the fear of losing their own power should Mr. Kang’s party predominate. In consequence, after the coup d’état by the Empress Dowager, to save her position, Mr. Kang was proscribed and ordered to be decapitated. Mr. Kang escaped, and resided abroad for many years, for the most part in Japan and in America. He travelled in Japan, America, and in many other countries, accompanied by his daughter, a well known poetess. He established reform associations in the United States, Canada, and Australia, among Chinese residents there.
After the overthrow of the Manchu Government and the establishment of the Republic, Mr. Kang returned to China. With the encouragement of the late President Yuan Shih-kai, he founded the society for the worship of Confucius; and he was been a persistent advocate of the adoption of Confucianism as the state religion in China. His efforts in that direction have been unsuccessful, in spite of his influence over the literati.
One of Mr. Kang’s greatest ambitions has been to restore the Manchus to the Throne. He played an important part in the movement, by General Chang Hsun, to restore the dethroned Emperor, in July 1917. During the temporary success of this movement, Mr. Kang was appointed Vice-President of the House of Peers. He was forced to leave, upon the failure of the movement, and orders were issued the new Republican Government to effect his arrest. He remained in the American Legation for a time, and then took up residence in Tientsin until in March 1918, he was granted an amnesty, by Presidential Mandate, which cancelled the order for his arrest.
Mr. Kang’s writings are widely read by Chinese scholars. However, in late years he has written very little, preferring to devote practically all of his time to furthering the cause of the Confucian religion.