Chapter 9 Restoration Through Reform

Chapter 9 Restoration Through Reform - Chapter 9...

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Chapter 9 Restoration Through Reform Confucian Reform After the upheavals described in the last chapter, it is amazing that the Qing survived at all until 1912. Restoration partially describes this feat. The Qing restoration ironically took place without strong imperial leadership: Emperor Tongzhi (r. 1861-1875) was a boy when he ascended to the throne and died without emerging from the shadow of his mother Empress Dowager Cixi or Prince Gong, who were the ones who wielded real power. Above all, Tongzhi s reign was presided over by an exceptional group of provincial officials who grew to prominence fighting rebels including Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang and Zuo Zongtang. These officials managed to reinvest the Qing dynasty with a sense of purpose, shore up the economy, and develop signific- ant new institutions. They sought nothing less than the re-establishment of the basic values of Confucian government. Zeng was the most passionate proponent of this Confucian idea. He espoused an austere yet eclectic philosophy that tried to reconcile different approaches to Confucian truth. Convinced that a spiritual collapse lay behind the crises, Zeng favored the rebuilding of schools and reinsti- tution of a strict Confucian curriculum. He had the allegiance of many in the Qing bureaucracy but he did not try to seize power. Zeng was not a narrow-minded reactionary conservative. He encouraged the use of the West- ern-officered Ever Victorious Army and saw the value of making selective use of Western tech- nology. In this matter, a scholar, Feng Guifen, influenced him. The answer to Chinese weakness, Feng said, lay in the greater skills of foreigners in four main areas: 1) utilizing all their manpower resources; 2) exploiting their soil to the fullest 3) maintain- ing close bonds between ruler and subjects; 4) ensuring the necessary accord of word with deed. Fend also preached a modernization of China s military. Zeng sent Yung Wing (first Chinese to graduate from an American university: Yale Class of 1854) to the U.S. to buy machinery necessary for establishing a small arsenal in China. (This trip sent him all over the world, marking a new era for Qing officials.) With these materials, an arsenal was established near Shanghai and then at Fuzhou. Schools for the study of mechanical skills and navigation were founded under the direction of foreign ad- visors. Technical works were also translated into Chinese.
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