The Intellectual Chinese Kang Youwei
2009.05.18

The 24th year of the Reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty, Kang Youwei who launched the Reform Movement in 1898 shocked the world.

The former residence of Kang is located in Sucun village Nanhai district Foshan; it takes about 40 minutes to there from Guicheng by car.

In the late night of March 19, 1858 (the 8th year of the Reign of Emperor Xianfeng in the Qing Dynasty) a baby was born with his clear and sonorous crying in a common two bedrooms brick house which stands in Fulongbao Sucun village of Nanhai district Foshan (it was called Yingtang, and now there is management area of Danzao Town). The baby’s father-Kang Dachu was deep in the great joy, he immediately wrote a letter to tell about to his father- Kang Zanxiu who was working as a civil service official in Qinzhou and he also desired father could name for his son. Kang Zanxiu was so happy when he received this glad news, he named for his grandson of “Youqin”, and he also composed a seven-character-regular-verse for this grandson, as an expression of his hope and the solace for his wife who just leave him forever. The long distance between two cities and the inconvenience of traffic at the time to cause the letter in a slow transaction, but Kang’s families were all agog for baby’s name. Therefore, baby had a name of “Youwei” from his granduncle who called Kang xue xiu. “Youwei” was containing the meaning of a great ability when this baby grows up, that was the wish of the whole Kang’s families. Finally they received the letter, but the name of “Youqin” was belated to use.

Kang was born in traditional bureaucrat family which was inheriting and passing on the Chinese Neo-Confucianism in every generation. In the era of “the west culture crossover with the East”, youth Kang well-read and he began his tough time to looking to the truth from western civilization, for a salvation of all suffering people at that time. Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, as a result of defeat the Qing government was forced to accept the humiliation of ceding territory and paying indemnities. Kang organized more than a thousand candidates from different provinces to signed a letter to Emperor Guangxu, they requested the government refuse of all unequal treaties, Kang also put forward of “capital movement, the retraining of soldiers, political reforms” which was been known as “ a letter to Emperor” in the history. Thereafter, Kang and the Reformists organized the society around the country, set up some schools, and established the newspapers; Kang began to widely publicize his claim of Constitutional Reform.

During 1888 to 1898, Kang expound and proof his political opinions once by once, he even wrote his petition to government for 7 times, and made a scheme to rescue the nation which was stand for putting Constitutional Monarchy into main system. He was supported by Weng Tonghe and others, Emperor Guangxu issued the Imperial Edict of “Ming Ding Guo Shi” and formally declared to start the Constitutional Reform on June 11, 1898. Unfortunately, Empress Dowager Cixi launched the palace coup on September 21 of the same year, she restart to hold the court from behind a screen, imprisoned Emperor Guangxu, and also issued an order to kill Kang. The Reform of 1898 started on the bloody road.

Kang went to many states in 16 years when he was an exile, and kept looking for a scheme to rescue the nation and the people. However, Kang was deep in believe of Emperor, he set up the Royalist in oversea and debated fiercely with the bourgeois revolutionaries led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, he even participated Zhang Xun’s restoration farce in 1917, that became the biggest failure of Kang’s whole life. In the book of “Da Tong Shu” which was been completed in the declining years by Kang, he described the Eastern Utopia as: “no states, no emperor, everyone gives love, everyone is equal, everyone shares the same world, everyone shares the harmony.”

For Kang, there are many different judgments of the historians, In “On the people's democratic dictatorship”, he was honored as “The Intellectual Chinese” by Mao Zedong, and Mao said: “Hong Xiuquan, Kang Youwei, Yan Fu and Sun Yat-sen were all great leaders of finding the truth from Western civilization before the Chinese Communist Party of China appear. Kang was born in Nanhai, therefore he also been known as “Mr. Kang Nanhai” or “Mr. Nanhai” by people.