Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Association to Save China: How Baohuanghui Reformers Nurtured Chinese Citizenship and Set China on the Course to Revolution

Kang Youwei, September 1899
Chinese reformers in the late Qing failed in their mission to recast China as a constitutional monarchy and save it from what they feared would be a disastrous revolution.  Yet, some historians consider the 1911 revolution’s rupture with the past as unattainable without the reformers’ more than decade-long movement to inculcate the values and aspirations of citizenship, nation, and constitutionalism in the Chinese people.  The reform movement largely operated outside of China because of the prohibition against political associations and because Chinese living overseas measured their homeland’s backward government against their experiences abroad and sought change.

We can explore the overseas reform movement and its contributions to the 1911 revolution by a tour of ten documents from a little-known but once powerful global organization, the Baohuanghui (officially in English “Chinese Empire Reform Association”).  Through these documents, dated 1899 to 1906, we can trace the organization’s history and discover the dreams and fears that animated its large membership.  These documents are being displayed in the Hong Kong Museum of History this spring in an exhibition, Centenary of China’s 1911 Revolution. 

Download the full paper here.

1 comment: