An often neglected but meaningful practice in the history of Sino Western cultural interaction is the exchange of admiration for outstanding rulers between Chinese and Western reformers. As the Jesuits’ favourable portrait of Emperor Kangxi to Louis XIV of France, Kang Youwei recommended Russia’s Peter the Great highly to his emperor as the model to emulate. To Kang, Russia europeanized to become civilized and strong, overcoming the hindrances of backwardness, conservatism and former defeats by much smaller but advanced Western European nations. Similarly, China was just defeated by tiny Japan but should do much better if it also europeanized as it was comparatively much more advanced than Russia. Thus Kang recommended that Emperor Guangxu imitate Peter the Great to lead reform in China personally, to europeanize, and to determinedly deal with those who opposed change. Kang’s case demonstrated how desperate intellectuals can ofter “find” what they “look for” from selected models to justify their advocacies. Focusing only on alleged “similarities” they often unfortunately neglect the differences. Guangxu’s reform was aborted by the alert Empress Cixi, well before he could test the validity of the model of Peter the Great in China. Yet this first attempt in modern China to emulate a Western “examply” began a series of similar efforts in the next half a century.
|Translated title of the contribution||TX Peter the Great as Model for Emperor Guangxu: Kang Youwei’s Interpretation|
|Original language||Chinese (Simplified)|
|Number of pages||13|
|Publication status||Published - Sept 1998|