Wang T'ao vs Chang Chih-tung

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Wang T'ao vs Chang Chih-tung

Wang T'ao vs

Chang Chih-tung

The Opium War in 1839 marked the end of

China's status as an independent civilization. The Opium War
introduced the power of western armies and technology that the Chinese
lacked. The war resulted in foreign intervention and control of Chinese
provinces and cities, but it was not until the Taiping rebellion (1850-1864),
the most disastrous civil war in human history, that the Ching government
and its people realized that reform was necessary. The "self-strengthening"
movement, one wave of reform, aimed to achieve stronger military
power while preserving the traditional way of life, and Wang T'ao was among
the most famous scholars advocating such reform. By the late nineteenth
century, conservative reactions swept the country, and scholars such as

Chang Chih-tung believed western techniques should only be used to defend
the Chinese way. This resistance to reform was held by three principles:

1) ancestral institutions should never be changed 2) successful government
depended on the men not the laws 3) teachings from China are superior to
those of the West. On the surface, it appears that Wang T'ao and

Chang Chih-tung dramatically differed in their thoughts of how and if China
should adopt western ideals. A thorough analysis of their work, however,
reveals the many similarities between the two individuals. Though
the two had different plans for achieving their objectives, their ultimate
goals was for China to excel and become great once again.

As a scholar, Wang T'ao had visited many
foreign countries including Japan and Europe, and by the time he became
a journalist, he had already established many contacts with the outside
world. Having such a background, Wang T'ao naturally believed that
although China should still follow the "Way of sages", she must adopt the

Western methods of defense and administration and renovate much of Chinese
society. In his published article, On Reform his views are expressed.

Wang T'ao believes that when China adopts the western methods it will surpass
the West, "a sailboat differs in speed from a steamship; though both are
vehicles." He does not ask the Chinese to invent new methods but
only to take advantage of their resources, "When new methods do not exist,
people will not think of changes; but when there are new instruments, to
copy them is possible." Although the West may be superior in terms
of techniques and technology; they bicker and fight among themselves and"indulge in insults". The Chinese should not follow their way of
life but only use their instruments. The Way of Confucius should
be followed and unchanged by all men for they must follow the three bonds
(subject to master and ruler, son to father, wife to husband) and the four

Cardinal virtues (decorum, righteousness, integrity, and sense of shame).

Wang T'ao believes reform within the government and Chinese way of life
is also necessary for China to become a nation on a par with the Western
nations. Among some of these reforms include: the abolishment
of the examination essays as a way to select civil servants, change the
currently inefficient training of the army and naval troops, change the
empty show of schools, and have the laws and regulation set by the government
be fair and just to all individuals. The most important reform, however,
is that the government should have the power to change customs so that
people could gradually be accustomed to their new environment. It
is the able people that can help China move forward, "the weapons we use
is in battle must be effective, but the handling of effective weapons depends
upon people." If China could properly govern its people and effectively
train its soldiers, then the nation can progress.

However Wang T'ao's ideals were not shared
by everyone. Many conservative reformers were content with the current

Chinese system and felt change was unnecessary. Among one of those
scholars was Chang Chih-tung, a leading figure during the end of the Manchus
rule. Although Chang Chih-tung was a moderate and avoided radical
measures, he was a firm supporter of neo-Confucianism ethics. He
sought to preserve Confucian traditions but also believed western administration
was as essential as western technology. On the surface, it seems
that Wang T'ao and Chang Chih-tung each have radically different solutions
for the incorporation of western influences on Chinese society, but if
we look thoroughly into their works, we realize there are also many similar
underlying principles between the two figures.

In Exhortation to Learn by Chang Chih-tung,
he emphasized the importance of maintaining the state, preserving the doctrine
of Confucius, and protecting the Chinese race. Similar to the ideals

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