Hundred Days' Reform

From Academic Kids

Hundred Days' Reform (戊戌变法 or 百日維新) was a 103-day reform from June 11 to September 21, 1898. The Qing emperor of China, Guangxu (1875-1908), ordered a series of reforms aimed at making sweeping social and institutional changes. This effort reflected the thinking of a group of progressive scholar-reformers who had impressed the court with the urgency of making innovations for the nation's survival. Influenced by the Japanese success with modernization and the Chinese defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, the reformers declared that China needed more than "self-strengthening" and that innovation must be accompanied by institutional and ideological change.

The imperial edicts for reform covered a broad range of subjects, including stamping out corruption and remaking, among other things, the academic and civil service examination systems, legal system, governmental structure, defense establishment, and postal services. The edicts attempted to modernize agriculture, medicine, and mining and to promote practical studies instead of Neo-Confucian orthodoxy. The court also planned to send students abroad for firsthand observation and technical studies. All these changes were to be brought about under a de facto constitutional monarchy.

Opposition to the reform was intense among the conservative ruling elite, especially the Manchus, who, in condemning the announced reform as too radical, proposed instead a more moderate and gradualist course of change. Supported by ultraconservatives and with the tacit support of the political opportunist Yuan Shikai, Empress Dowager Cixi engineered a coup d'etat on September 21, 1898, forcing the young reform-minded Guangxu into seclusion. Cixi took over the government as regent. The Hundred Days' Reform ended with the rescindment of the new edicts and the execution of six of the reform's chief advocates. The two principal leaders, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, fled abroad to found the Baohuang Hui (Protect the Emperor Society) and to work, unsuccessfully, for a constitutional monarchy in China. Another leader of the revolution, Tan Sitong, refused to flee and was arrested and executed.

In the decade that followed, the court belatedly put into effect some reform measures. These included the abolition of the moribund Confucian-based examination, educational and military modernization patterned after the model of Japan, and an experiment, in constitutional and parliamentary government. The suddenness and ambitiousness of the reform effort actually hindered its success. One effect, to be felt for decades to come, was the establishment of new armies, which, in turn, gave rise to warlordism.

Views of the Hundred Days' Reform have grown increasingly more complex and nuanced. The traditional view portrayed the reformers as heroes and the conservative elites, particularly the Empress Dowager Cixi as villains unwilling to reform because of their selfish interests.

However, some historians in the late 20th century have taken views that are more favorable to the conservatives and less favorable to the reformers. In this view, Kang Youwei and his allies were hopeless dreamers unaware of the political realities in which they operated in. This view argues that the conservative elites were not opposed to change and that practically all of the reforms that were proposed were eventually implemented.

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Reference

ja:戊戌の変法 zh-cn:戊戌变法

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