The Taiping Rebellion and the Anglo-French Expedition to China set off a shock among the Qing (清朝) officials. They came to realise that the emulation of Western industry and military technology was needed to strengthen their weak country facing foreign invasions. The first Qing reform was thus launched under the rallying call of “self-strengthening” and “wealth-building”. Some significant advocates of this Self-strengthening Movement had deep connection with Macao, a long-established meeting place of the East and West.
Before the First Opium War, Protestant organisations set up the Morrison Memorial School in Macao. Local Chinese children including Yung Wing (容閎) and Tang Tingshu (唐廷樞) were admitted to receive Western education from an early age, who later became significant participants of the reform movement. Zheng Guanying (鄭觀應), another representative of the Western Affairs Camp, travelled between his hometown Xiangshan County (香山縣) in Guangdong Province (廣東) and Macao since his childhood, during which he witnessed the advanced Western technologies and the plight of his people and country. Since 1884, Zheng moved to Macao for retirement and worked on his book Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity (《盛世危言》) that influenced many reformers and revolutionaries in modern China.
Left: Elijah Coleman Bridgman, a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), was one of the founders of Morrison Memorial School. Right: A Brief Account of the United States of America published in 1861. Bridgman wrote this book to introduce the United States to the Chinese people. With the promotion of the American missionaries, many Chinese students chose to study in the United States in early years.
Samuel Robbins Brown (left) was a missionary of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCA). He became the Headmaster of Morrison Memorial School in Macao in 1838. When he returned to the United States in 1847, he took Yung Wing, Wong Fun (黃寬), and Wong Shing (黃勝) with him to study at Manson Academy in East Windsor (right).
Left: Yung Wing graduated from Yale College (now known as Yale University) in 1854. Right: My Life in China and America written by Yung. Born in Xiangshan County, Yung studied at Morrison Memorial School as a child and later continued his study in the United States as the first Chinese students studying abroad. After returning from the United States, he participated in the Self-strengthening Movement and promoted plans for Chinese children to study in the United States.
Tang Tinggui (唐廷桂) was born in Xiangshan County and went to Morrison Memorial School with Yung Wing. He once served as the chief translator at the Custom House in Shanghai (上海) and actively participated in developing modern industries.
Tang Tingshu, the younger brother of Tang Tinggui, studied at Morrison Memorial School with his brother and Yung Wing. An active participant in developing modern industries during the Self-strengthening Movement, Tang Tingshu established the first cement plant in mainland China after his study tour at Green Island Cement in Macao.
Green Island Cement in Macao
Left: Zheng Guanying at the age of 60. Right: a waxwork of Zheng’s (right) daily life scene in the Mandarin’s House (Zheng Guanying’s Family House) in the Xiangshan Commercial Culture Museum in Zhongshan (中山), Guangdong Province. Born in Xiangshan County, Zheng participated in the management of government-managed enterprises, such as Shanghai Machinery Weaving Bureau and Shanghai Telegraph Bureau during the Self-strengthening Movement. He moved to Macao and worked on his book Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity after he retired in 1884.
The office building of China Merchants Steam Navigation Company in Shanghai. Li Hongzhang appointed Zheng Guanying the company’s deputy to manage its business in 1882.
The Mandarin’s House in Macao where Zheng Guanying wrote the Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity after he retired in 1884.
The Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity (provided by Kiang Wu Hospital Charitable Association, cited from “Macau Memory”, Macao Foundation)
Photo courtesy of Mr. Alex Lou, Vice Chairman of The Heritage Society (pictures 6 and 9), Macao Foundation (picture 10), Fotoe (pictures 3, 5, 7, and 8), and misc. photo sources.