Principles of the Constitution (1908)

Last updated
Outline of Imperial Constitution
LaunchedOn 27 August 1908 [1]
Promulgatedby Qing government
Other namesOutline of the Constitution Compiled by Imperial Order

The Principles of the Constitution of 1908 (simplified Chinese :钦定宪法大纲; traditional Chinese :欽定憲法大綱; pinyin :Qīndìng Xiànfǎ Dàgāng), also known as Outline of Imperial Constitution, [2] or Outline of the Constitution Compiled by Imperial Order, [3] was an attempt by the Qing dynasty of China to establish a constitutional monarchy at the beginning of the 20th century. It established a constitutional monarchy and confirmed some basic rights of citizens, while imposing some limitations on the power of the monarch. [4]


Since this outline of the constitution was not democratically formulated, but was promulgated in the name of the Guangxu Emperor by the Empress Dowager Cixi, it was called the "Outline of Imperial Constitution". [5]

Main contents

Outline of Imperial Constitution was based on the "Constitution of the Empire of Japan", and consists of 23 articles, including the body text "Powers of the Monarch" (君上大权) and the appendix "Rights and Duties of Subjects" (臣民权利义务). [6]

Impact and evaluation

Although the Outline of Imperial Constitution was modeled on the Japanese Meiji Constitution, [7] it is the first constitutional document in Chinese history. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Constitutional monarchy Type of monarchy in which power is restricted by a constitution

A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchies differ from absolute monarchies in that they are bound to exercise powers and authorities within limits prescribed by an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Liechtenstein, Monaco, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Malaysia and Japan, where the monarch retains significantly less personal discretion in the exercise of their authority.

Emperor of Japan Head of state of Japan

The Emperor of Japan is the head of state and the head of the Imperial Family of Japan. Under the Constitution of Japan, he is defined as "the Symbol of the State and of the Unity of the People" and his title is derived from "the Will of the People, who are the Sovereign". Imperial Household Law governs the line of imperial succession. The Supreme Court does not have judicial power over him. He is also the Head of the Shinto religion. In Japanese, the Emperor is called Tennō, literally "emperor of God". The Japanese Shinto religion holds him to be the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. The Emperor is also the head of all national Japanese orders, decorations, medals, and awards. In English, the use of the term Mikado (帝/御門) for the emperor was once common but is now considered obsolete.

Emperor of China Sovereign of Imperial China

Emperor of China, or Huáng dì was the monarch of China during the Imperial Period of Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political theory, the emperor was considered the Son of Heaven and the autocrat of All under Heaven. Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism replaced Legalism as the official political theory and succession theoretically followed agnatic primogeniture. The succession of emperors in a family line was known as a dynasty.

A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of government, but not necessarily a particular monarch. Most often, the term royalist is applied to a supporter of a current regime or one that has been recently overthrown to form a republic.

Empress Dowager Cixi Chinese empress

Empress Dowager Cixi (Chinese: 慈禧太后; pinyin: Cíxī Tàihòu ; Manchu: Tsysi taiheo;, of the Manchu Yehe Nara clan, was a Chinese empress dowager and regent who effectively controlled the Chinese government in the late Qing dynasty for 47 years, from 1861 until her death in 1908. Selected as a concubine of the Xianfeng Emperor in her adolescence, she 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.

1911 Revolution Revolution in China that revolted against the Qing Dynasty, making the Republic of China

The 1911 Revolution, also known as the Chinese Revolution or the Xinhai Revolution, ended China's last imperial dynasty, the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and resulted in the establishment of the Republic of China on 1 January 1912. The revolution was named Xinhai (Hsin-hai) because it occurred in 1911, the year of the Xinhai (辛亥) stem-branch in the sexagenary cycle of the traditional Chinese calendar. The revolution marked the end of 2,000 years of imperial rule and the beginning of China's early republican era.

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.

Zaize Fengen Zhenguo Gong and acting Beizi

Zaize, born Zaijiao, courtesy name Yinping, was a Manchu noble of the Qing dynasty. He is best known for supporting reforms and advocating the adoption of a constitutional monarchy system in the final years of the Qing dynasty.

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.

Constitutionalism is "a compound of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law".

The United States Constitution has had influence internationally on later constitutions and legal thinking. Its influence appears in similarities of phrasing and borrowed passages in other constitutions, as well as in the principles of the rule of law, separation of powers and recognition of individual rights. The American experience of constitutional amendment and judicial review motivated constitutionalism at times when they were considering the possibilities for their nation's future. Examples include Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, his contemporary and ally Benito Juárez of Mexico, the second generation of 19th-century constitutional nationalists José Rizal of the Philippines and Sun Yat-sen of China, and the framers of the Australian constitution. However, democratizing countries often chose more centralized British or French models of government, particularly the Westminster system.

Late Qing reforms, commonly known as New Policies of the late Qing dynasty, or New Deal of the late Qing dynasty, simply referred to as New Policies, were a series of cultural, economic, educational, military, and political reforms implemented in the last decade of the Qing dynasty to keep the dynasty in power after the invasions of the great powers of the Eight Nation Alliance in league with the ten provinces of the Southeast Mutual Protection in the Boxer Uprising.

Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet Position of the Qing Government

The Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet was the office of the Prime Minister created on 8 May 1911 in the late Qing dynasty, as part of the imperial government's unsuccessful attempts at creating a constitutional monarchy in China.

Constitutional oath of office of China

The constitutional oath of office of China is the oath or affirmation that is used in China — which is referred to either as: the People's Republic of China or the Republic of China.

Jiang Shigong is a Chinese legal and political theorist, currently a professor at Peking University Law School, and a researcher on Hong Kong affairs. He is a "conservative socialist" exponent of Xi Jinping Thought and opposed to liberalism in China. Jiang previously worked at the Hong Kong Liaison Office from 2004 to 2008, and has advised the Chinese government on Hong Kong on subsequent occasions. Among his major ideas are his theory of the "absolute" or unwritten constitution of China embodied in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and his argument for the supremacy of the state as an "ethical entity" and the embodiment of the people's drive towards self-transformation. One of the main Chinese translators of Carl Schmitt, Jiang is a notable promoter of Schmitt's political theory in China.

The Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor was an official decree issued by the Empress Dowager Longyu on behalf of the six-year-old Xuantong Emperor, who was the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, on 12 February 1912, as a response to the Xinhai Revolution. The revolution led to the self-declared independence of 13 southern Chinese provinces and the sequent peace negotiation between the rest of Imperial China with the collective of the southern provinces. The issuance of the Imperial Edict ended the Qing dynasty of China, which lasted 276 years, and the era of imperial rule in China, which lasted 2,132 years.

The Nineteen Articles, short for Nineteen Major Articles of Good Faith on the Constitution (宪法重大信条十九条), also known as Doctrine of Nineteen Articles, 19 Fundamental Articles, was a constitutional document, and the only constitution of the late Qing dynasty, which was promulgated by the Qing government on November 3, 1911.


  1. Yong'an Ren; Xianyang Lu (13 May 2020). A New Study on the Judicial Administrative System with Chinese Characteristics. Springer Nature. pp. 22–. ISBN   9789811541827.
  2. Jiang Mei (2005-01-05). "Cultural Interpretation on the Outline of Imperial Constitution". CNKI .
  3. Jacques deLisle; Avery Goldstein; Guobin Yang (5 April 2016). The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 238–. ISBN   978-0-8122-2351-4.
  4. Journal of Capital Normal University. Capital Normal University. 1998.
  5. Xu Chongde (2003). History of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Fujian People's Publishing House. ISBN   978-7-211-04326-2.
  6. Xia Xinhua (2004). The History of Constitutionalism in Modern China. China University of Political Science and Law Press. ISBN   978-7-5620-2576-4.
  7. He Qinhua; Zhang Jinde; Deng Jihao (2009). History of the Procuratorial System. China Procuratorial Press. ISBN   978-7-5102-0133-2.
  8. China Constitutional Development Research Report, 1982-2002. Law Press. 2004. ISBN   978-7-5036-4691-1.

Further reading