This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
His Excellency Li Kin-yuan, a native of Teng Chun, Yunnan Province, was born in 1880. After passing the literary examinations, he was awarded the degree of ‘Hsiu Tsai’ and became a candidate for a provincial post. To further his studies, he went to Japan where he attended the Japanese Military Cadets Academy. After his graduation from that school, he took a course in political science at Waseda University.
Upon his return to China, in 1909, he became director of the Military Lecture Hall of Yunnan and Councillor to the Bureau of Military Training. He was ordered to investigate the Burma Boundary Line dispute. He took a trip into the interior, at great risk to himself, and succeeded, after careful investigations, in producing the first maps of that territory. With the use of these maps the settlement of the dispute was made in favor of China.
At the outbreak of the revolution, in October 1911, General Li, in cooperation with the late General Tsao Ao of Yunnan, organized revolutionary forces and declared independence of the Peking Government. He was placed in command of the forces of western Yunnan and empowered to control all of the civil and military administrations of that part of the province. In October 1911, he was given the rank of Brigadier General; and in December of that year, he was elected a member of the House of Representatives, from Yunnan.
In 1913, after the outbreak of the Second Revolution, General Li continued, for a time, to cooperate with his chief, General Tsao Ao, in the suppression of the disturbances. However, he, with others of his party, was soon forced to leave the province; and again went to Japan. While there, he spent several more years studying in the Waseda University.
In 1916, when President Yuan Shih-kai restored the monarchy and placed himself on the throne, General Li returned to China to assist other democrats in opposing the change of government. A military council was organized in Kwangtung Province, of which he was made Vice-Director. Here the combined forces of Kwangtung, Kwangsi, and Yunnan Provinces were concentrated; and General Li rendered signal service in his direction of these forces until the Republic was restored.
In July 1916, after the death of President Yuan Shih-kai, General Li was appointed the Civil Governor of Shensi. In October 1916, he was awarded the Third Order of Merit and the Second Order of Tashou Chiaho. In February 1919, he left Shensi and went to Kwangtung to join the Constitutionalist Government. There, while being in command of the Fourth Division, he was also in command of all Yunnanese forces stationed in that province. During the following three years, he held various posts throughout the province. Later, he was given command of the Third Division.
In 1922, after the Chihli-Fengtien war, when President Li Yuan-hung again assumed office, General Li went to Peking as a Member of Parliament (which re-assembled in August 1922), and was given the special appointment as Director-General of the Government Aeronautical Bureau. In October, he was made a member of the College of Marshals, given the title of ‘Yun wei’, and awarded the Second Class Wenhu decoration.
On October 29th, 1922, General Li was appointed Acting Minister of Agriculture and Commerce; and on January 4th, 1923, he was appointed the Minister. He was then awarded the First Class Tashou Chiaho decoration. In June 1923, he served, for a time, as Acting Premier when President Li Yuan-hung vacated his office.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 36.