Gongche Shangshu movement

Last updated

The Gongche Shangshu movement (simplified Chinese :公车上书; traditional Chinese :公車上書; pinyin :Gōngchē Shàngshū), or Petition of the Examination Candidates, [1] also known as the Scholar's Petition to the Throne, [2] was a political movement in late Qing dynasty China, seeking reforms and expressing opposition to the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. It is considered the first modern political movement in China. Leaders of the movement later became leaders of the Hundred Days' Reform.



In 1895, China was defeated by Japan in the First Sino-Japanese War and was forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ceded Taiwan and Liaodong to Japan in perpetuity, and imposed reparation obligations of 200 million taels of silver on China. At the time, the imperial civil service examination was in progress in Beijing. When news reached the candidates, they became agitated, especially candidates from Taiwan whose province was about to become Japanese.

Five days after the signature of the treaty, on April 22, civil examination candidates led by Kang Youwei signed a ten-thousand-word petition to the Emperor, against the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The petition had 5 main points:

After the Qing Government refused, on May 2, thousands of Beijing scholars and citizens protested against the Treaty of Shimonoseki in front of the Ducha Yuan.


The name of this incident, Gongche Shangshu, literally means "Public Vehicle Petition". Gongche, or "Public Vehicle", was a poetic name for civil service candidates from various provinces, and is an allusion to the practice in the Han dynasty where candidates would be transported to the capital by publicly funded transport.


Although the movement was unsuccessful in asking the Qing Government to start reforms, many people in the traditional Chinese community began to realise the importance of reforms. Leaders of the movement such as Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Tan Sitong and Yan Fu started publishing newspapers in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities, thus raising the attention of the emperor, who later invited them to enter the government to implement reforms. Although both the movement and later the reforms in 1898 failed, many scholars in big cities turned from supporting the traditional thinking to support reforms or revolution.

Related Research Articles

History of China Account of past events in the Chinese civilisation

The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty, during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient historical texts such as the Book of Documents, the Records of the Grand Historian and the Bamboo Annals mention and describe a Xia dynasty before the Shang, but no writing is known from the period, and Shang writings do not indicate the existence of the Xia. The Shang ruled in the Yellow River valley, which is commonly held to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. However, Neolithic civilizations originated at various cultural centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River. These Yellow River and Yangtze civilizations arose millennia before the Shang. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations and is regarded as one of the cradles of civilization.

Treaty of Shimonoseki 1895 treaty ending the First Sino-Japanese War

The Treaty of Shimonoseki, also known as Treaty of Maguan in China and Treaty of Bakan in the period before and during WWII in Japan, was a treaty signed at the Shunpanrō hotel (春帆樓), Shimonoseki, Japan on 17 April 1895, between the Empire of Japan and Qing China, ending the First Sino-Japanese War. The peace conference took place from 20 March to 17 April 1895. This treaty followed and superseded the Sino-Japanese Friendship and Trade Treaty of 1871.

Li Hongzhang

Li Hongzhang, Marquess Suyi was a Chinese politician, general and diplomat of the late Qing dynasty. He quelled several major rebellions and served in important positions in the Qing imperial court, including the Viceroy of Zhili, Huguang and Liangguang.

Empress Dowager Cixi Chinese empress (1835-1908)

Empress Dowager Cixi was a Chinese empress dowager and regent who was the de facto supreme ruler of China in the late Qing dynasty for 47 years, from 1861 until her death in 1908. Of the Manchu Yehe Nara clan, she was elected as a concubine of the Xianfeng Emperor in her adolescence and gave birth to a son, Zaichun, in 1856. After the Xianfeng Emperor's death in 1861, the young boy became the Tongzhi Emperor, and she became the Empress Dowager. Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency, which she shared with Empress Dowager Ci'an. Cixi then consolidated control over the dynasty when she installed her nephew as the Guangxu Emperor at the death of the Tongzhi Emperor in 1875, contrary to the traditional rules of succession of the Qing dynasty that had ruled China since 1644.

Guangxu Emperor 11th Emperor of Qing-dynasty China (1875-1908)

The Guangxu Emperor, personal name Zaitian, was the tenth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, without Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898. He initiated the Hundred Days' Reform, but was abruptly stopped when the empress dowager launched a coup in 1898, after which he became powerless and was held under house arrest until his death. His era name, "Guangxu", means "glorious succession".

The Hundred Days' Reform or Wuxu Reform was a failed 103-day national, cultural, political, and educational reform movement that occurred from 11 June to 22 September 1898 in late Qing dynasty China. It was undertaken by the young Guangxu Emperor and his reform-minded supporters. Following the issuing of the reformative edicts, a coup d'état was perpetrated by powerful conservative opponents led by Empress Dowager Cixi.

Kang Youwei Political thinker and reformer

Kang Youwei was a prominent political thinker and reformer of the late Qing dynasty. His increasing closeness to and influence over the young Guangxu Emperor sparked conflict between the emperor and his adoptive mother, the regent Empress Dowager Cixi. His ideas were influential in the abortive Hundred Days' Reform. Following the coup by Cixi that ended the reform, Kang was forced to flee. He continued to advocate for a Chinese constitutional monarchy after the founding of the Republic of China.

Liang Qichao

Liang Qichao was a Chinese social and political activist, journalist, and intellectual who lived during the late Qing dynasty and the early Republic of China. His thought had a significant influence on the political reformation of modern China. He inspired Chinese scholars and activists with his writings and reform movements. His translations of Western and Japanese books into Chinese introduced new theories and ideas and inspired young activists.

Tan Sitong

Tan Sitong, courtesy name Fusheng (復生), pseudonym Zhuangfei (壯飛), was a well-known Chinese politician, thinker and reformist in the late Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). He was executed at the age of 33 when the Reformation Movement failed in 1898. Tan Sitong was one of the "Six gentlemen of the Hundred Days' Reform" (戊戌六君子) and occupies an important place in modern Chinese history. To many contemporaries, his execution symbolized the political failure of the Qing Dynasty's reformation, helping to persuade the intellectual class to pursue violent revolution and overthrow the Qing Dynasty.

Zhang Zhidong

Zhang Zhidong was a Chinese official who lived during the late Qing dynasty. Along with Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang and Zuo Zongtang, Zhang Zhidong was one of the four most famous officials of the late Qing dynasty. Known for advocating controlled reform and modernization of Chinese troops, he served as the Governor of Shanxi Province and Viceroy of Huguang, Liangguang and Liangjiang, and also as a member of the Grand Council. He took a leading role in the abolition of the Imperial examination system in 1905. The Red Guards destroyed his tomb in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution. His remains were rediscovered in 2007 and reburied with honors.

Ronglu Qing dynasty politician and military leader

Ronglu, courtesy name Zhonghua, was a Manchu political and military leader of the late Qing dynasty. He was born in the Guwalgiya clan, which was under the Plain White Banner of the Manchu Eight Banners. Deeply favoured by Empress Dowager Cixi, he served in a number of important civil and military positions in the Qing government, including the Zongli Yamen, Grand Council, Grand Secretary, Viceroy of Zhili, Beiyang Trade Minister, Secretary of Defence, Nine Gates Infantry Commander, and Wuwei Corps Commander. He was also the maternal grandfather of Puyi, the last Emperor of China and the Qing dynasty.

Han learning, or the Han school of classical philology, was an intellectual movement that reached its height in the middle of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) in China.

The Progressive Party was a political party in the Republic of China from 1913 to 1916.

Kang Tongbi

Kang Tongbi was the daughter of Kang Youwei, a Chinese reformer and political figure of the late Qing dynasty and early Republican era.

Yao Qisheng, courtesy name Xizhi, was a Chinese regional official, diplomat, and statesman during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor in Qing Dynasty China. Yao was a pivotal figure in the Qing empire's annexation of Taiwan.

Lin Xu

Lin Xu, courtesy name Tungu (暾谷), was a Chinese politician, scholar, songwriter and poet who lived in the late Qing dynasty. He was also a student of Kang Youwei, a prominent official who was one of the leaders of a reform movement in the late Qing dynasty.

New Text Confucianism is a school of thought in Confucianism that was based on Confucian classics recompiled in the early Han dynasty by Confucians who survived the burning of books and burying of scholars during the Qin dynasty. The survivors wrote the classics in the contemporary characters of their time, and these texts were later dubbed as "New Text". New Text school attained prominence in the Western Han dynasty and became the official interpretation for Confucianism, which was adopted as the official ideology by Emperor Wu of Han. Represented by Confucians such as Dong Zhongshu, this school advocated a holistic interpretation of Confucian classics and viewed Confucius as a charismatic, visionary prophet, a sage who deserved the Mandate of Heaven but did not attain kingship due to circumstances. The school competed with Old Text Confucianism in the later Han dynasty and its dominance waned as the latter became the new orthodoxy. The school fell into obscurity during the chaotic period after the fall of the Han dynasty and remained so until late Ming dynasty in the 17th century.

Six gentlemen of the Hundred Days Reform

Six gentlemen of the Hundred Days' Reform, also known as six gentlemen of Wuxu, were a group of six Chinese intellectuals whom the Empress Dowager Cixi had arrested and executed for their attempts to implement the Hundred Days' Reform. The most vocal and prominent member in the group of six was Tan Sitong. Kang Guangren was notable as the younger brother of the reformist leader Kang Youwei. These executions were a part of the large purge in which about 30 men were arrested, imprisoned, dismissed from office, or banished. In many cases the family members of these men were arrested as well.

The following lists events that happened during 1904 in China.

Cantonese nationalism refers to the movements for independence of Guangdong from the People's Republic of China. These movements wanted to establish an independent and autonomous political entity. In modern China, this idea has been put forward by others including Kang Youwei's followers and Ou Jiajia. Kang Youwei's followers later opposed the claim. In his book "New Guangdong", Ou Shi put forward the idea of establishing "Guangdong of Guangdong". In 1911, there was a revolution. At the end of October 1911, members of the Guangdong Alliance Chen Jiongming, Deng Jun and Peng Ruihai organized civil army uprisings throughout Guangdong. On November 9, Chen Jiongming led his troops to restore Huizhou. On the same day, Guangdong announced independence and established the Guangdong Military Government of the Republic of China. On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, and Guangdong Province became a province in the Republic of China. In the early years of the Republic of China Guangdong Province drafted the "Guangdong Provincial Draft". This is inspired by the idea of autonomous provinces. The draft passed by the Guangdong Provincial Assembly on December 19, 1921. However, this proposal for the future planning of Guangdong Province did not receive sufficient support, and it was aborted as the Soviet forces intervened in the Far East and the KMT and the Communist Party went northward.


  1. Sebastian Riebold (May 2020). Revisiting the Sick Man of Asia": Discourses of Weakness in Late 19th and Early 20th Century China. Campus Verlag. pp. 102–. ISBN   978-3-593-50902-0.
  2. Kun Qian (4 December 2015). Imperial-Time-Order: Literature, Intellectual History, and China’s Road to Empire. Brill Publishers. pp. 57–. ISBN   978-90-04-30930-2.

Further reading