The Asianist Imagination of the Late Qing Reformists Huang Zunxian, Liang Qichao and Tang Caichang as Examples

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2023 - 2023 (lopend)

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Abstract

The late Qing Reformists were a Chinese political faction that advocated for a transition from monarchy to constitutional monarchy in the 1890s, and rose to prominence by leading the Hundred Days' Reform movement (1898). As the first Chinese subscribers to Asianism, they had an early understanding of Japanese Asianist ideas and advocated a union of Asian countries centered on China and Japan. This paper examines the discussions on Asianism held by Huang Zunxian 黄遵宪, an early Reformist representative, Liang Qichao梁启超and Tang Caichang 唐才常, later Reformist representatives. They shared similar experiences of traveling, living in exile in Japan, publishing newspapers and spreading reformist ideas, and advocating for "Sino-Japanese integration," "the doctrine of Asian revival," and "resistance to the West." Influenced by Japan's early Asianism, Huang Zunxian, the Imperial Chinese Embassy's Counsellor posted in Tokyo, Japan, published Korea Strategy朝鲜策略 in 1880, proposing that China and Korea become good allies and presenting a geopolitical map of the emerging modern East Asia. In 1898, Liang Qichao wrote the Preface to the Japanese book Dadong Hebang Xinyi大东合邦新义 and translated the Japanese political novel Strange Encounters with Beautiful Women佳人奇遇記, both of which called for Asian unity through book publication. Tang Caichang launched an uprising in 1900, supported by the Japanese Asianist group Tōa Dōbunkai (East Asian Common Culture Society), with the goal of overthrowing Cixi慈禧and establishing the constitutional monarchy of Guangxu光绪, but it was ultimately declared a failure. It is clear that Asianist thinking in late-nineteenth-century China went beyond simple acceptance of Japanese Asianism. Asianism was seen as a path to reform China by the Reformists, who used it in foreign policy, cultural publishing, and revolutionary action.