Zheng Guanying 1842-1922/3

Born in Xiangshan, Guangdong province, he benefited from his native place's early exposure to Western contact, and was an influential early reformist in China. Unlike most late-Qing reformists, he belonged to the merchant class, and had never passed the civil service examination. Zheng went to work in Shanghai at the age of seventeen. He took the opportunity to study English in the evening classes operated by the Anglo-Chinese School in Shanghai (founded 1850). He worked as a comprador in Butterfield & Swire before he was forty-one, set up as a merchant on his own and took an active part in public service. In 1884, during the Sino-French War, he was commissioned by the chief of defence in Guangdong to gather intelligence in French-controlled Vietnam. Travels to the South is a record of this journey. Another travel journal, Diaries of Seafaring, records his commissioned tours of Southeast Asia and southern China in 1883 and 1892. He was also interested in practical social and economic improvement, and his collected works on reform issues include Vital Remedies, On Change and Words of Alarm in Times of Peace.