The Hundred Days’ Reform

Defeat at the hands of Japan spurred another bout of self-strengthening in China.

A new generation of reformers, led by Zhang Zhidong and Yuan Shikai, began to replace Li at the head of the ziqiang movement. Zhang coined what became the most famous phrase of the movement:

“zhongxue weiti, xixue weiyong (中学为体, 西学为用)

Chinese learning should remain the core, but Western learning should be used for practical use.” (Wealth and Power, page 76)

In the summer of 1898, the 27-year-old Guangxu Emperor briefly broke free from his minders and began enacting sweeping reforms, known as the “Hundred Days’ Reform.”

Guangxu distributed the Dissenting Views of Feng Guifen to his staff, and invited more radical reformers like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao to the palace. But fearing a loss of their grip on power, Cixi and conservatives quelled Guangxu’s independent streak after only 102 days had passed, before any real reforms could take root.