During the anti-Qing Taiping Rebellion (1851-64), Hong Rengan (洪仁玕), who once stayed in Hong Kong, put forward A New Treatise on Aids to Administration (《資政新篇》) for reforming the political and economic system of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (太平天國, or Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace). Most of his inspiration came from Hong Kong. Wang Tao (王韜), who lived in Hong Kong much longer than Hong, had a better understanding of Hong Kong. A famous scholar from the Chinese mainland, Wang lived in Hong Kong for about 20 years and was familiar with various aspects of Hong Kong society. While assisting James Legge in translating Chinese classics into English, he carried out field trips to Western countries such as Britain and France. These experiences helped him in developing his reform ideas.
In 1874, Wang founded the Universal Circulating Herald (《循環日報》) in Hong Kong. In the following decade, he wrote a lot of political commentaries in the newspaper, which were later compiled into Taoyuan wenlu waibian (《弢園文錄外編》, The Collection of Wang Tao’s Essays) to advocate his reform ideas in various aspects of the existing system, including personnel, military, education, and law. Economically, he suggested developing businesses such as machine-produced textile, mining of iron, coal and various metals and minerals, constructing railways, and developing ship transport. He also advocated the establishment of private companies. Politically, Wang advocated the constitutional monarchy. This showed the significance of anti-autocracy under the social conditions of China at that time.
Hong Rengan, a distant cousin of Hong Xiuquan (洪秀全), the Heavenly King of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, was bestowed the title of “Ganwang (干王)”, or “Shield King”. Hong Rengan once lived in Hong Kong. In 1859, he put forward A New Treatise on Aids to Administration for reforming the political and economic system of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Most of his inspiration came from Hong Kong.
Famous scholar Wang Tao moved to Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland for about 20 years. The inspiration he got in Hong Kong helped him develop reform ideas, which were influential to the reform movement in modern China.
James Legge was a famous British sinologist. In 1867, he invited Wang Tao to visit his hometown in Scotland and continue to help him translate Chinese classics. Wang thus had the opportunity to visit countries such as Britain and France.
Chongyou yingjing (《重游英京》, Revisiting Capital of Britain) and Bali shenggai (《巴黎勝概》, Scenic Spots in Paris) depict what Wang Tao saw in London and Paris. These two pictures are included in Manyou suilu tuji (《漫游隨錄圖記》, Selections from Jottings from Carefree Travels), in which Wang recorded the travels during his lifetime.
Included in Manyou suilu tuji these two pictures depict the traffic and power supply facilities in London (left), and the appearance of the Louvre in Paris (right). Wang was impressed by the infrastructure and cultures of Britain and France.
Manyou suilu tuji includes the views of Hong Kong during the 19th century. The picture on the left depicts Victoria Peak, Sheung Wan, Central and Ha Wan (present-day Wan Chai). The picture on the right depicts the scenery of Central and Pokfulam in Hong Kong. Wang Tao’s experiences in Hong Kong and Western countries broadened his horizons. He gained new insights that helped him develop reform ideas.
Wang Tao was the Chief Editor of The Chinese Mail (《香港華字日報》) during his stay in Hong Kong.
Wang Tao founded the Universal Circulating Herald in Hong Kong in 1874. It was the first newspaper that reflected the opinions of the Hong Kong Chinese.
Wang Tao’s political commentaries in the Universal Circulating Herald were compiled into Taoyuan wenlu waibian for publication. The book promoted his ideas of political reform.
Wang Tao Memorial Hall in Suzhou (蘇州) houses a couplet (right) by Kang Youwei (康有為) gifted Wang. Wang’s thoughts influenced the Self-strengthening Movement, the Hundred Days’ Reform, and the Constitutional Movement.
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