Sunday, April 6, 2014

The View from South Windsor: Kang Tongbi's Newly Discovered Cache of Documents, 1904-1905

Kang Tongbi in her room at the home of Dr. Mary Starr Tudor, 621 Main St., South Windsor, Connecticut, 1904; private collection, Beijing.

A new, on-the-ground picture of Kang Youwei’s first American sojourn in 1905 and the internal workings of the Baohuanghui is being revealed by a just-discovered collection of documents. Sold on eBay in fall 2013 by a New Hampshire auctioneer, the collection is now in a private collection in Beijing. The owner has provided scans of the materials to a small group of scholars associated with the book project, A Chinese Reformer in Exile: Kang Youwi and the Chinese Empire Reform Association in North America, 1899-1909 in return for documentation and analysis of the materials. We hope to share these documents in the future.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Who Was Homer Lea (1876-1912), and Why Should We Care? Myth and History in the "American Century" Book Review Essay by Roger R. Thompson

We are pleased to re-publish this substantive China Review International essay on Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune by Lawrence M. Kaplan, 2010. The review also evaluates previous studies of Lea by Eugene Anschel, Frederic Chapin, Key Ray Chong and Clare Boothe Luce. 

Homer Lea was probably more deeply involved with the Baohuanghui from 1900 to 1905 than any other American. From the beginning of their relationship Lea's conception of his role in the organization clashed with Kang's, but it took many years before Kang finally rejected Lea, who turned to the much more receptive Sun Yat-sen.

Kang was impressed with Lea's display of brilliance in a variety of fields--military strategy, politics and even finance. Kang clearly respected Lea's ability to help realize the Baohuanghui goal of training Chinese youth in modern military tactics. Lea's initiative in forming the Western Military Academy overcame Kang's earlier disappointment about Lea's unfulfilled promises to raise American forces for the Baohuanghui's 1900 Qin Wang uprising in China, not to speak of Kang's anger about Lea's publicity-filled send-off from the US. 

Thank you to the author, China historian Roger R. Thompson, Western Washington University, a specialist in late Qing and early Republican history, and to the University of Hawaii Press, which has given permission for publication in Baohuanghui Scholarship.  

"Who was Homer Lea and Why Should We Care?" by Roger Thompson, China Review International 19:1, 9-23, 2012.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Play the Baohuanghui Guessing Game--Unidentified Chapters

The Baohuanghui had at least 150 chapters, but we are still identifying where they were located. Here are  names of chapters in towns found in Baohuanghui documents that we can't identify by their geographical names. Remember that these would be pronounced in Cantonese.   Those in blue have been identified since we first posted this list.

The basis of this list (#1-48 below) is a 1908 document  naming 94 chapters that made donations for a Baohuanghui headquarters building. It is found in 《捐建帝国宪政总会所买地征信录published in Kang Youwei yu Baohuanghui (pp. 529-537) . Thanks to Gao Weinong for pointing us to this list. We have added other unidentified chapters as we have found them. These chapters could be in the Americas, Asia, Australia (although we believe have fully identified Australian chapters), the Pacific or Africa. We don't believe there were chapters in Europe.

For already identified chapters, see the document  Mapping the BaohuanghuiAs chapters are idenfied, they are added. Especially useful have been the 1901 and 1913 International Chinese Directories, thanks to Philip Choy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Drifting Stranger from 20,000 Li Away: Kang Youwei in Canada

A drifting stranger from 20,000 li away;
Long white sideburns of 40 years time [born 1858];
Turning to look at the Milky Way and enjoying the bright moonlight;
Most rare on Wen Dao [Coal Island] to chat with fellow villagers;
Ashamed to shock the neighbors with the troubles and disasters of our party;
Ashamed of having accomplished nothing for our fellow countrymen;
Afraid this may be a separation forever from my native place . . .
Kang Youwei spent Mid-autumn Festival, 1899, with a fellow countryman, Su Shiyi, on a rocky forested island near Victoria, BC, talking about "the past, our relatives, our friends, and our country. When I thought of our country, I could not help but worry. I wish to send this message to all that they may know how I feel as an exiled man."  Su recorded the poem as Kang spoke it aloud, and it was printed to mail around the world. [View the full poem at the UCLA Digital Library Tom Leung Collection #135.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Baohuanghui on Mott Street, New York City Chinatown

7-9 Mott St. ca 1905, Detroit Publishing Col, BHH on 4th floor

New York City was a Baohuanghui stronghold from the early days of the organization in the United .States.  Mott Street buildings would eventually house the chapter headquarters, its newspaper, an armory, and a school.  Although it's not clear when the chapter was founded, the New York Tribune of July 17, 1900 gives some evidence that the local association had formed as early as 1899 (most likely after the San Francisco chapter was organized on October 26).  In the Tribune article about rumors of a pro-Boxer secret society forming in New York:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CINARC Analyzes Artifacts in Victoria's CERA Building

This May after the WCILCOS conference, several of us ferried from Vancouver, BC to Victoria for a brief but thrilling visit to the first building of the Chinese Empire Reform Association, the guests of Ian and Wendy Sutherland, owners of this beautifully restored building. 
Examining the time capsule. 

Baohuanghui historians Robert Worden and his wife Norma Chue, Evelyn Hu-DeHart, and Jane Leung Larson were fortunate to be joined by Ben Bronson and Chuimei Ho of the Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee (CINARC)Ben and Chuimei's  report on items found in the building's time capsule and the large donor plaque (with identities of the largest donors, including Kang Youwei) can be found at New Finds at the Empire Reform Association Headquarters .


New Finds at the Empire Reform Association's Headquarters

Monday, May 28, 2012


Mapping the Baohuanghui has been updated with many new additional chapters added thanks. This remains a preliminary table of known locations of Baohuanghui chapters, organized geographically with original organizational divisions if these are known. The goal is to create a chart of cities with associated businesses, schools, and newspapers; dates of existence; and local leaders, in both Chinese and English. Please leave a comment with corrections and additions.  Also see "Play the Baohuanghui Guessing Game" for chapters whose Chinese names we haven't been able to link with actual towns or cities.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

AAS Panel: A Chinese Reformer in Exile: Kang Youwei and the Baohuanghui as Transnational Chinese History

March 16, 2012:  from left:  John Fitzgerald, Belinda Huang, Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Zhongping Chen, Robert Worden, and Jane Leung Larson (chair)
John Fitzgerald

How does one write a transnational Chinese history of Kang Youwei’s years in exile and the reform movement he led while abroad?  After reading our papers about Kang Youwei in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the Australian Sinologist John Fitzgerald pictured “historiographical continents colliding,” grinding together Chinese history, North American history, with Chinese diasporic studies in the middle.  He proposed a world historical perspective that took into account the movements of people, the hardening of state boundaries (as expressed, for example, in the Chinese Exclusion Policy in the U.S.), and increasing nationalism on all sides, alongside shared visions on both sides of the Pacific of a future one-world utopia—Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, which influenced Kang Youwei’s Datong Shu. 

Fitzgerald speculated that Kang was perhaps the best-traveled writer of his time with the highest access to power. In North America alone, he visited 50 cities and towns in the U.S. and 10 in Canada, and spent many months living and traveling in Mexico.  Traveling around the world, Kang had “ready entrée into elite society, not just Chinese communities.  Mayors, Governors, Governors General, the U.S. President, the Secretary of State, even the King of Sweden drops by for a cup of tea!”