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East Asian History Sourcebook:
Emperor Kuang Hsu: Attempted Reforms, 1898

The Peking Gazette continued to come daily bringing with it the following twenty-seven decrees in a little more than twice that many days. I will give an epitome of the decrees that the reader at a glance may see what the Emperor undertook to do. Summarized they are as follows:

1. The establishment of a university at Peking.

2. The sending of imperial clansmen to foreign countries to study the forms and conditions of European and American government.

3. The encouragement of the arts, sciences and modern agriculture.

4. The Emperor expressed himself as willing to hear the objections of the conservatives to progress and reform.

5. Abolished the literary essay as a prominent part of the governmental examinations.

6. Censured those who attempted to delay the establishment of the Peking Imperial University.

7. Urged that the Lu-Han railway should be prosecuted with more vigour and expedition.

8. Advised the adoption of Western arms and drill for all the Tartar troops.

9. Ordered the establishment of agricultural schools in all the provinces to teach the farmers improved methods of agriculture.

10. Ordered the introduction of patent and copyright laws.

11. The Board of War and Foreign Office were ordered to report on the reform of the military examinations.

12. Special rewards were offered to inventors and authors.

13. The officials were ordered to encourage trade and assist merchants.

14. School boards were ordered established in every city in the empire.

15. Bureaus of Mines and Railroads were established.

16. Journalists were encouraged to write on all political subjects.

17. Naval academies and training-ships were ordered.

18. The ministers and provincial authorities were called upon to assist--nay, were begged to make some effort to understand what he was trying to do and help him in his efforts at reform.

19. Schools were ordered in connection with all the Chinese legations in foreign countries for the benefit of the children of Chinese in those places.

20. Commercial bureaus were ordered in Shanghai for the encouragement of trade.

21. Six useless Boards in Peking were abolished.

22. The right to memorialize the throne in sealed memorials was granted to all who desired to do so.

23. Two presidents and four vice-presidents of the Board of Rites were dismissed for disobeying the Emperor's orders that memorials should be allowed to come to him unopened.

24. The governorships of Hupeh, Kuangtung, and Yunnan were abolished as being a useless expense to the country.

25. Schools of instruction in the preparation of tea and silk were ordered established.

26. The slow courier posts were abolished in favour of the Imperial Customs Post.

27. A system of budgets as in Western countries was approved.

I have given these decrees in this epitomized form so that all those who are interested in the character of this reform movement in China may understand something of the influence the young Emperor's study had had upon him. Grant that they followed one another in too close proximity, yet still it must be admitted by every careful student of them, that there is not one that would not have been of the greatest possible benefit to the country if they had been put into operation. If the Emperor had been allowed to proceed, making them all as effective as he did the Imperial University, and if the ministers and provincial authorities had responded to his call, and had made "some effort to understand what he was trying to do," China might have by this time been close upon the heels of Japan in the adoption of Western ideas.


Source

From: Isaac Taylor Headland,  1859-1942.:  Court life in China: the capital, its officials and people, (New York, F.H. Revell, c1909), Project Gutenberg Etext 523


This text is part of the Internet East Asian History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.

© Paul Halsall, July1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu