Sunday, January 14, 2024

UCLA Tom Leung Baohuanghui Collection Online

詩手稿 題: 思羅生西湖故宅 "Thinking of My Home in Westlake Park," a poem to Tom Leung by Kang Youwei, March 9, 1906; #107 [Courtesy UCLA Digital Collections]

The full collection of documents saved by Tom Leung (1875-1931) or Tan Zhangxiao 譚張孝, founder of the Los Angeles chapter of the Baohuanghui, is online at UCLA Library Digital Collections found here.  For the first time, it is possible to examine the original documents, many of which were published by Fang Zhiqin in 1997 and 2008 in Kang Liang yu Baohuanghui:  Tan Liang Zai Meiguo Suo Cang Tsailiao Huibian 康梁與保皇會: 譚良在美國所藏資料彙編  [Hong Kong, Xianggang Yinhe Chubanshe].  Thanks to UCLA's Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library and to librarian Hong Cheng for overseeing this project to completion.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Mapping the Baohuanghui

Mapping the Baohuanghui is frequently updated as we learn of additional chapters and activities. As of April 2022, the table has entries for 231 chapters in the Americas, Asia, Australia, the Pacific, Africa, and Europe. Baohuanghui chapters are organized geographically under the original organizational divisions if these are known. Also listed are associated businesses, schools, and newspapers. 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. 

Play the Baohuanghui Guessing Game--Unidentified Chapters

The Baohuanghui had more than 200 chapters, but we are still identifying where they were located. This document lists the Chinese 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) 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, Africa, and Europe. Chi Jeng Chang has composed his own list of chapters based on the 1908 document as well as a March 7, 1904 list in Hong Kong Shang Bao of 134 signatory chapters to a petition supporting the anti-Russian movement and the 1907 donor plaque in the Victoria, BC Baohuanghui building. 

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

A separate list follows with many Canadian chapters whose place names are still unknown, thanks to the research of Zhongping Chen, University of Victoria and Chi Jeng Chang, Vancouver, BC.

Please leave your best guesses in the Comments field.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Kang's Ideal Southern California Town--Redlands?

On his first day in the city, Kang told the Los Angeles Herald, “I have found Los Angeles one of the most progressive cities I have met during my travels.”  In fact, Kang came to see Los Angeles as a prime example of Western “material civilization” and gave it prominence in his "Essay on National Salvation through Material Civilization" (Wuzhi jiuguo lun), whose preface was written in April 1905 while in the city.  By "material civilization," Kang meant the advancements brought by science and technology, not only convenience and efficiency, but happiness. 

In Kang's view, the steam engine powered steamships, locomotives, factories, and electricity generating stations—and along with other technological innovations like the automobile—were the keys to creating a Datong-like environment where people could enjoy urban affluence close to nature. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Using Contemporary Newspapers and Magazines to Track Kang Youwei and the Baohuanghui

Coverage in local and national newspapers of Kang, the Baohuanghui and its affiliated businesses and activities was plentiful and widespread in North America, reflecting popular interest in Kang and his organization. This was especially true for Kang's first trip to the United States in 1905, when he visited about 50 towns and cities between February and December. Kang received breathless coverage in the American press, allowing us to trace his travels almost day to day. We can now correct the timeline found in Jung-pang Lo's“Sequel to the Chronological Autobiography," K'ang Yu-wei: A Biography and A Symposium.

For example, Lo ("Sequel," p. 198) writes:“By June 1905 [the fifth lunar month], feeling much better, [Kang] left Los Angeles for Washington, D.C., arriving there on June 10.” From local newspaper reports, supplemented by correspondence, we now know that Kang left Los Angeles on May 8 by train and stopped for speeches and meetings in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, and Zion City, and arrived in Washington, D.C. on June 8. Coinciding with this month of travel was the announcement in Shanghai of a nation-wide anti-American boycott to protest Chinese Exclusion policy. Kang began promoting the boycott and recruiting American support during his trip to D.C.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Baohuanghui Badges and Medals: Kang Youwei’s Schemes to Develop Credentials and Raise Funds, 1904–1905

One of the more common artifacts of the Baohuanghui is its membership badge (huipai), which has been sold on Chinese auction sites, dug up in American archaeological sites (Butte, Montana Chinatown), and found inside the 1905 time capsule hidden in Victoria’s Baohuanghui building (shown in photo). We now have records of 22,000 membership badges produced in 1905, most of them destined for US chapters, but also Canada and Mexico. 

The Kang Tongbi South Windsor Collection includes correspondence, invoices, and other documents that describe the design, production, payment, and dissemination of the medals and badges. Kang’s daughter, Kang Tongbi, then a college preparatory student living in Connecticut, was responsible for managing production and distribution of badges in 1904-5. It was Kang Youwei himself who devised the scheme to design, produce and sell the badges.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Research on Kang Youwei and the Baohuanghui in North America: Sources and Methods

Kang Youwei in Los Angeles, 1905
Private collection, Jane Leung Larson
In March 2018, Chinese scholars specializing in Kang Youwei convened in Kang’s birthplace, Nanhai, Guangdong, to commemorate the 160th anniversary of his birth and 120th anniversary of the 1898 Hundred Days of Reform. Those of us coming from North America focused on Kang’s experience in the New World from 1899 to 1909. In particular, we made use of the source materials from South Windsor, Connecticut and Los Angeles that have illuminated our knowledge of Kang’s activities in Canada, the United States and Mexico. 

Jane Leung Larson spoke on “Research on Kang Youwei and the Baohuanghui in North America: Sources and Methods.”  She contrasted the relatively open access to resources on Kang and the Baohuanghui in North American archives, libraries, and the internet with the much more restrictive research environment in which Chinese historians work.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Charter 08's Qing Dynasty Precursor

This article is re-published to salute the life and work of Chinese political reformer Liu Xiaobo. Liu died in custody on July 13, 2017 at age 61, effectively executed by his government as he languished in prison with untreated liver cancer. Inside China, few have heard of Liu, who was imprisoned for his involvement in the Charter 08 petition movement calling for constitutional and political reform. Sadly, the world also abandoned Liu even after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. 

Charter 08's Qing Dynasty Precursor by Jane Leung Larson with commentary by Chinese Australian scholar Feng Chongyi (who was himself detained on his last visit to China) first appeared in Asia Pacific Journal in July 2011. Kang Youwei's 1908 constitutional petition is a forerunner of Charter 08, comparable not only as a comprehensive program to reform China's autocracy but for how the Chinese government responded. The article opens:

Over the gulf of one century and two revolutions, two groups of Chinese petitioners drafted remarkably similar blueprints for political reform. Both groups sought civil rights and political responsibilities for Chinese citizens and a Western-influenced form of constitutional government to replace rule by autocracy. Today, China’s autocratic government is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, and in the waning years of the Chinese empire, it was ruled by the Qing dynasty. The striking differences between these petition movements are as instructive as their similarities, reflecting not only the qualities of the movements themselves but the radically different political environments—inside and outside China—from which they emerged.

In 2008, Charter 08 declared that “freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind, and democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.”[1] Charter 08’s drafters, of whom the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is the most prominent, describe themselves as inheriting China’s historical legacy of political reform. They called for a citizens’ movement “so that we can bring to reality the goals and ideals our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years.” They credit the 1898 Hundred Days of Reform led by the Guangxu Emperor to transform China into a constitutional monarchy with being China’s “first attempt at modern political change,” and the first sentence of their petition reads, “A hundred years have passed since the writing of China‘s first constitution.” 

Indeed, this decade, 1898 to 1908, foreshadowed what has been more than a century-long sporadic, often marginal, and as yet unfulfilled movement to eliminate China’s autocratic system and give Chinese people the right to take part in national affairs. As Charter 08 acerbically notes, with “the revolution of 1911, which inaugurated Asia’s first republic, the authoritarian imperial system that had lasted for centuries was finally supposed to have been laid to rest.” All too soon, “the new republic became a fleeting dream.” And, finally, “the ’new China’ that emerged in 1949 proclaimed that ‘the people are sovereign’ but in fact set up a system in which ‘the Party is all-powerful’. . . . Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics.

[1]China’s Charter 08,” translated from the Chinese by Perry Link, New York Review of Books, January 15, 2009