Kang Youwei (K'ang Yu-wei) 1858-1927
Kang Youwei (1858-1927)
A native of Nanhai, Guangdong province, Kang came from a wealthy family of scholar-officials. He was an accomplished classical scholar with a knowledge of the West gleaned from Western books in translation. He and Liang Qichao fled abroad after a coup by the Empress Dowager Cixi in 1898. Kang spent a total of sixteen years in exile, visiting over forty countries on five continents, and promoting the Society to Protect the Emperor (est. 1899) and its successor the Society for Constitutional Government (1903). To this end Kang and Liang were also involved in two failed insurrections against Cixi in 1900. Kang made his most extensive travels in the West in the years 1904-1909, visiting twenty European countries and North America. He returned to China in 1914, after the establishment of the Republican state. Settling in Shanghai, he was closely involved in a plot to restore the Qing emperor in 1917 and remained loyal to the dynasty until his death. Among his best known work is the Datong shu [Great Harmony], in which he laid out his utopian vision for the world. He was also a fine poet, identifying himself closely with Du Fu and seeing himself as a sage with a mission to save China.