Sunday, May 1, 2016

Boise, Idaho Signboard for the Imperial Constitutional Association

Signboard from Baohuanghui
Building, Boise, Idaho
Courtesy of Asian American
Comparative Collection,
University of Idaho,
This is the only extant example of a Chinese Empire Reform Association (CERA) signboard. It comes from a CERA building that was constructed after Kang Youwei visited Boise, Idaho from October 18 to 25, 1905. We do not know when this building at Seventh and Front Street was completed, but  on February 26, 1907, the local reform association led a parade with a 20-man dragon that ended at this address ("Chinese Lion to Protect Joss," Idaho Statesman, February 21, 1907). The CERA building was one of several new Baohuanghui buildings erected beginning in 1905 in Victoria, BC and Los Angeles, among other places. The Boise brick and stone building was to cost about $3,000 to build, with two stories (ground level for retail use, the second floor for the CERA meeting hall) ("Chinamen Plan $3000 Building," Idaho Statesman, November 14, 1905).

Seals "Kang Youwei yin" and "Gengsheng."
Courtesy of Asian American Comparative Collection,
University of Idaho, AACC-2015-20.

"Diguo Xianzhenghui" or Imperial Constitutional Association is carved and painted on the wood signboard. On the left are two seals, the top reading "Kang Youwei yin" (the seal of Kang Youwei) and the bottom " "Gengsheng" ("born again"--Kang Youwei's nickname during his exile). Because Kang changed the name of CERA in Chinese from Baohuanghui, or Protect the Emperor Association, to Xianzhenghui on the lunar new year (February 13, 1907), we know the sign dates from 1907 or later.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Baohuanghui in Montana and Beyond: Discoveries and Interpretations from the Concordia International School in Shanghai

Kang and his traveling party visited the Original Mine (copper) in Butte, Montana Sept. 29, 1905. Kang Tongbi South Windsor collection, privately held in China. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Chinese Empire Reform Association of Marysville, California, 1904

Courtesy of Community Memorial Museum, Yuba City, California

An unusual poster from California's third largest Chinese community, Marysville, illustrates both the unity and the diversity of the Baohuanghui. The poster [here in higher resolution] was printed from a glass plate donated to Yuba City's Community Memorial Museum and brought to our attention by volunteer curator Patricia Justus and historian of Marysville Chinese, Paul Chace.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Baohuanghui Archives

Baohuanghui Archives are publicly available archives either online or in libraries,  not in private collections or on websites with restricted access. This is a Google doc that you may download.

Please comment on additions or corrections to this document at

A Chinese Reformer in Exile: Kang Youwei and the Chinese Empire Reform Association in North America, 1899-1909

A book in progress . . . 
By Robert L. Worden (Library of Congress, ret.) and Jane Leung Larson (independent scholar) With Zhongping Chen (University of Victoria), Chen Xuezhang (independent scholar, Guangzhou), and Evelyn Hu-DeHart (Brown University)

A Chinese Reformer in Exile will be a narrative history of the North American decade (1899 1909) of the radical Qing reformer, Kang Youwei, and his political movement. 

Our book will fill a critical gap in late Qing political history and in the biography of China’s most famous reformer. This will be the first book in English devoted to Kang’s exile and transnational political organization, the Baohuanghui or Chinese Empire Reform Association (CERA). Traversing the United States, Canada, Mexico, and China, this will become an authoritative reference for historians of the Chinese diaspora as well as political scientists studying Chinese dissidents, Chinese political organizations, and the development of Chinese liberalism.

We demonstrate that Kang’s fifteen years in exile—especially the decade spanning his visits to North America—were the most productive in his life. Kang embraced a new persona as politician, statesman, business speculator, and inveterate traveler, while assiduously adding to his already voluminous written legacy of books, essays, letters, and poems. North America inspired Kang’s transformation from a utopian philosopher into a more practical visionary consumed with the material world, which he now believed was the means of national salvation for China.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Kang Tongbi Collection of South Windsor, Connecticut--New England AAS Presentation

American academics previewed the newly-discovered South Windsor collection of Kang Youwei and Baohuanghui documents at the New England conference of the Association of Asian Studies on October 4, 2014. 

Linked here is Jane Leung Larson's PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes. A more detailed exploration of the collection is in Larson's paper.