*Gēngshēng or 更甡
|''Notes:''||?''K'ang Yu-wei: A Biography and a Symposium'' gives Guǎngxià 廣夏|
Kang Youwei , was a scholar, noted and prominent political thinker and of the late Qing Dynasty. He led movements to establish a constitutional monarchy and was an ardent Chinese nationalist. His ideas inspired a reformation movement that was supported by the Guangxu Emperor but loathed by Empress Dowager Cixi. Although he continued to advocate for constitutional monarchy after the foundation of the Republic of China, Kang's political ideology was never put into practical application.
Kang Youwei was born on March 19, 1858 in , Guangdong province. According to his autobiography, his intellectual gifts were recognized as a child by his uncle. Therefore, from an early age he was sent by his family to study the Confucian classics in order to pass the . However, as a teenager he was dissatisfied by the scholastic system of his time, especially its emphasis on preparing for the exams, which are artificial literary exercises done during examinations. Studying for exams was an extraordinarily rigorous activity, so he engaged in Buddhist meditation as a form of relaxation, an unusual leisurely activity for a Chinese scholar of his time. It was during one of these meditations that he had a mystical vision which became the theme for his intellectual pursuits throughout his life. Believing that it was possible to read every book and "become a sage" he embarked on a quasi-messianic pursuit to save humanity.
Kang called for an end to property and the family in the interest of an idealized future Chinese nationalism, and cited Confucius as an example of a reformer and not as a reactionary, as many of his contemporaries did. He argued that the of the were to bolster his claims. Kang was a strong believer in constitutional monarchy and wanted to remodel the country after ; These ideas angered his colleagues in the scholarly class who regarded him as a .
Kang, along with his famed student, Liang Qichao, were important participants of a campaign to modernize China now known as the Hundred Days' Reform. The reform introduced radical change into the stale Chinese government, and angered conservatives who feared losing power due to the influence of the reformers. The conservative faction's most powerful member, , ended the reforms and ordered Kang through death by a thousand cuts. Kang fled to Japan, where with Liang he organized the Protect the Emperor Society, travelled throughout the promoting constitutional monarchy and competing with the revolutionary leader Revive China Society and Revolutionary Alliance for funds and followers.
After the Qing Dynasty fell and the Republic of China was established in 1912 under Sun Yat-sen, Kang remained an advocate of constitutional monarchy and with this aim launched a failed coup d'état in 1917. General and his queue-wearing soldiers occupied Beijing, declaring a restoration of Emperor Puyi on July 1. This incident was a major miscalculation. The nation was highly anti-monarchist. Kang became suspicious of Zhang's insincere constitutionalism and that he was merely using the restoration to become the power behind the throne. He abandoned his mission and fled to the American legation. On July 12, Duan Qirui easily occupied the city.
Kang's reputation serves as an important barometer for the political attitudes of his time. In the span of less than twenty years, he went from being regarded as an iconoclastic radical to an anachronistic pariah without significantly modifying his ideology.
The best-known and probably most controversial work of Kang Youwei was the ''Da Tongshu'' . The title of this book derives from the name of a utopian society imagined by Confucius, although it literally means "The Book of Great Unity." The ideas of this books appeared in his lecture notes from 1884, and encouraged by his students, he worked on this book for the next two decades, but it was not until his exile in India that he finished the first draft. The first two chapters of the book were published in Japan in the 1900s, however the book wasn't published in its entirety until 1935, about seven years after his death. In it Kang proposed a utopian future world that would be free of political boundaries, ruled by one central government, but under democratic rule. In his scheme, the world would be split into rectangular administrative districts which would be self-governing under a direct democracy, although oddly still loyal to a central world government.
His desire to end the traditional Chinese family structure defines him as an early advocate of womens' independence in China.
He reasoned that the institution of the family that had been practiced by society since the beginning of time was a great cause of strife. Kang hoped it would be effectively abolished. Replacing the family would be state-run institutions, such as womb-teaching institutions, nurseries and schools. Marriage would be replaced by one-year contracts between a woman and a man. Kang considered the contemporary form of marriage, in which a woman was trapped for a lifetime, to be too oppressive. Kang believed in equality between men and women and believed that there should be no social barrier barring women from doing whatever men can. From this point of view, Kang also advocated the idea that homosexuality should be permitted, as presumably there are no differences in love between men and women and between a man and a man.
Kang saw capitalism as an inherently evil system and believed that government should establish socialist institutions to overlook the welfare of each individual. At one point he even advocated that government should adopt the methods of "communism", although it is debated what Kang meant by this term. He was surely one of the first advocates of Western communism in China. In this spirit, in addition to establishing government nurseries and schools to replace the institution of the family, he also envisioned government-run retirement homes for the elderly. It is debated whether Kang's socialist ideas were inspired more by Western thought or traditional Confucian ideals. Lawrence G. Thompsom believes that his socialism was based on traditional Chinese ideals. His work is permeated with the Confucian ideal of ''ren'', or ''humanity''. However Thompson also noted a reference by Kang to Fourier. Thus some Chinese scholars believe that Kang's socialist ideals were influenced by Western intellectuals after his exile in 1898.
Notable in Kang's ''Da Tong Shu'' was his enthusiasm and belief in bettering humanity with technology. This was unusual for a Confucian scholar during his time. He believed that Western technological progress had a central role in saving humanity. While many scholars of his time continued to maintain the belief that Western technology should only be adopted to defend China against the West, he seemed to full-heartedly embrace the modern idea that technology is integral for advancing mankind. Before anything of modern scale had been built, he foresaw a global telegraphic and telephone network. He also believed that technology would reduce human labor to the point where each individual would only need to work 3 to 4 hours each day, a prediction that will be repeated by the most optimistic futurists later in the century.
When the book was first published it was received with mixed reactions. Due to Kang's support for the Guangxu Emperor, he is seen as a reactionary by many Chinese intellectuals. People of this camp believed that Kang's book was an elaborate joke, and that he was merely acting as an apologist for the emperor as to how utopian paradise could have developed if the Qing dynasty was not overthrown. Others believe that Kang was a bold and daring proto-Communist who advocated modern Western socialism and communism. Amongst those in the second school was Mao Zedong, who admired Kang Youwei and his socialist ideals in the ''Da Tongshu''. Modern Chinese scholars nowadays often take the view that Kang was an important advocate of Chinese socialism, and despite the controversy ''Da Tongshu'' still remains popular. A Beijing publisher included it on the list "One hundred Most Influential Books in Chinese History." http://www.white-collar.net/wx_hsl/gdwx/book100/index.html In the end, judgements of this remarkable individual may have been products of time and of place, and the future of Kang Youwei may take a form unknown to any of them.
Kang was poisoned in the city of Qingdao, Shandong in 1927. He was 69.
Kang's daughter, Kang Tongbi was a student at Barnard College.