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.
She highlighted the importance of comparative analysis of a variety of primary sources, sharing information and collaborating in research with a wide range of people inside and outside academia, and using the power of the internet for research and collaboration.

Larson’s paper and PowerPoint presentation illustrate some of sources and methods used by the team writing a book based on Robert Worden’s 1972 Georgetown University dissertation, “A Chinese Reformer in Exile: The North American Phase of the Travels of Kang Youwei, 1899–1909.” 


  1. That was a very nice presentation, Jane.

  2. Requesting response on a point of curiosity -- While visiting Union County Museum (Union, OR) last week I saw a medallion for Baohuanghui attached to a padded yellow silk jacket which must have been quite dazzling when new (if it is of the same date as the medallion). I think the jacket was found in La Grande, OR, which had a chapter. There is a name roughly inscribed on the medallion, 楊憲 (Yáng Xiàn, in Mandarin). A letter was found in a pocket of the jacket, also on display, referring to Baker, OR. (There is a translation by local Chinese informants which appears to be accurate but some apparent Cantonese usages and the running script throw me off a bit). I am intrigued by this particular story, and especially with the possible connections to his family and home back in China. I teach Chinese (Mandarin only, I'm afraid) in Georgetown, TX, with annual study abroad trips to Guangdong. Any help on this matter is appreciated.

  3. Hello Carl,
    I haven't heard of Yang Xian before but don't have detailed information on BHH members in most chapters, including La Grande and Baker. We have studied the BHH badges in much detail, their design, manufacture, distribution (and sale), and purpose. Do you have a photo of the jacket/badge? Does the letter refer to the BHH? Have you been in touch with others who have expertise on the Chinese of Eastern Oregon, such as Priscilla Wegars?

  4. Carl: perhaps you can reply via the contact box at the bottom of the page.