Since the early 1800s, the term one hundred days has represented a political phrase, referring to a short period of concentrated political reform. In most cases, this period comes immediately after a new leader takes over a nation. The original Hundred Days took place between March and June of 1815, when Napoleon escaped from Elba, and King Louis XVIII reclaimed his throne. This was one of the results of the Battle of Waterloo. The Hundred Days of Reform in China (also known as the Wuxu Reform) was inspired by a similar event. After losing the Sino-Japanese war, the Emperor Guwangxu found his country to be in a major crisis. Desperate for change, the emperor hired the help of a young political activist named K’ang Yu-wei. At the age of only 27, K’ang had graduated with the highest degree (chin-shih), written two books on reform, and initiated several of his own political reform movements. K’ang impressed the court and convinced the emperor that China, like Japan, should form a constitutional government and do away with its monarchy.
On June 11, 1898, Emperor Guwangxu entrusted the reform movement to K’ang and put the progressive scholar-reformer in control of the government. Immediately, K’ang, with the help of a few other reformers, began work on changing China into a more modern society. Within days, the imperial court issued a number of statutes related to the social and political structure of the nation. First, K’ang planned to reform China’s education system. The edicts called for a universal school system with an emphasis on practical and Western studies rather than Neo-Confucian orthodoxy.
The new government also wanted to modernize the country’s examination systems and send more students abroad to gain firsthand knowledge of how technology was developing in other countries. K’ang also called for the establishment of a national parliamentary government, including popularly elected members and ministries. Military reform and the establishment of a new defense system as well as the modernization of agriculture and medicine were also on the agenda.
These edicts were threatening to Chinese ideologies and institutions, especially the army, which at the time was controlled by a few governor-generals. There was intense opposition to the reform at all levels of society, and only one in fifteen provinces made attempts to implement the edicts. The Manchus, who considered the reform a radical and unrealistic idea, suggested that more gradual changes needed to be made. Just three months after the reform had begun, a coup d’etat was organized by Yuan Shikai and Empress Dowager Cbd to force Guangxu and the young reformers out of power and into seclusion. A few of the reformer’s chief advocates who refused to leave were executed. After September 21st, the new edicts were abolished, and the conservatives regained their power.
Many Chinese civilians felt that the aftermath of the One Hundred Days of Reform was more detrimental to China than the short-lived failed attempt at reform. Immediately following the conservative takeover, anti-foreign and anti-Christian secret societies tore through northern China, targeting foreign concessions and missionary facilities. The violence of these “Boxer bands” provoked retaliation from the offended nations, and the government was forced to declare war on the invaders. By August, an Allied force made up of armies from nine European nations as well as the United States and Japan entered Peking. With little effort, north China was occupied, and foreign troops had stationed themselves inside the border. The court was ordered to either execute or punish many of its high officials under the Protocol of 1901. Rather than dividing up the occupied territory among the powers, the Allies settled on an “open door” trade policy. Within a decade, the court ordered many of the original reform measures, including the modernization of the education and military systems.
The traditional view of the One Hundred Days of Reform depicted Emperor Guwangxu and K’ang Yu-wei as heroes and Empress Dowager Cixi as the villain who refused to reform even though the change was inevitable. However, since the One Hundred Days has turned into a cliche related to political failures, historians in the 20th century often portray the Wuxu Reform as an irrational dream. The fact that the reforms were implemented in a matter of decades, rather than months, suggests that the conservative elites may have been more opposed to the immediacy of the proposed edicts rather than the changes themselves.
What were some of the reforms planned during the One Hundred Days of Reform in China?
Choose four answers from the list below, and write the correct letters, A-G, in boxes 1-4 on your Answer Sheet.
A Modernization of the school system
B Establishment of a parliament
C Focus on the study of Confucianism
D Reorganization of the military
E Abolition of elections
F Improvement of farming
G Initiation of foreign trade
Complete the sentences below about the reading passage. Choose your answers from the option given below.
5. China……………..with Japan.
6. Emperor Guwangxu put K’ang Yu-wei………………
7. After June 11, 1898 the reforms……………
8. People throughout China…………….
9. Yuan Shikai and Empress Dowager Cixi……………
10. The reforms…………..after September 21st.
11. Secret societies attacked…………
12. European, the US and Japanese troops……………
13. Eventually the reforms……………..
A overthrew the government after reforms were introduced B in charge of the reform movement
C were voted in D in prison E were abolished F lost a war
G began trade H foreigners in China I were executed J reform supporters
K occupied China L were initiated M opposed the reforms N were established