The Most Changeable Master— Liang Qichao(1)

During the period between the 1911 Revolution and the May 4th Movement in 1919, a person who influenced such important figures in the modern history of China as Hú Shì (胡适), Chén Dúxiù (陈独秀), Lǔ Xùn (鲁迅) and Guó Mòruò (郭沫若) was Liáng Qǐchāo (梁启超). Hú Shì who acquired his doctorate in the United States and a professor at Peking University advocating the New Cultural Movement and the vernacular speech fervently as the leader in the academic field during the May 4th Movement wrote in his “Myself in the Forties”, “When you read the clear and fluent articles written by Mr. Liáng, the strong passion in them urged you to follow him and to think with him…I have gained endlessly from Mr. Liáng. Thinking back now, I learned most from two distinctive articles--《On New People》and 《The General Trend in China’s Academic Thinking》.” Gù Jiégāng (顾颉刚) who was known for his research and verification of historical facts said, “Liáng Qǐchāo’s articles are so plain and fluent, so rich in feelings, which I never found in ancient essays. So aside from the lessons given by my private tutor, I chose the journals that carried such articles as ‘The Sayings of Teenagers of China(少年中国说)’ and ‘My Advice to the Onlookers(呵旁观者文)’, which were so vehement and it was a sheer pleasure to read.” Guó Mòruò wrote in his memoir “My Teenage Days”, “To give devil his due, Mr. Máo…was charged with the mission of the times, that was fighting against the feudalist fort from the standpoint of free thinking. Before his refreshing and sharp words, almost all old thinking, old habits were blown down to the ground like fallen leaves by a wild wind and lost their splendor…He was a powerful representative of the bourgeois revolution age.”

Máo Zédōng (毛泽东),one of the founders and the most influential leader of the Chinese Communist Party, was no exception. There were a few whom Máo admired, and one of them was Liáng. Máo tried to imitate Liáng, for instance, one of Liáng’s pen name was “Rèn Gōng任公”—“Duke of Duty”, Máo gave himself a pen name “Zǐ Rèn子任”—“Son of Duty”,using the same “任”. Máo often read time and again “The Collected Paper for the New People 新民丛报”, which was edited by Liáng, he studied carefully articles written by Liáng and sometimes he wrote some comments down, for instance, he wrote down comments after reading “On New People 新民说” and “The Theory of Knowledge of the Great Master of Politics Chamberlen政治学大家伯伦知理之学说” . From the exhibited newspaper of “The Collected Paper for the New People” in the Memorial Hall at his hometown Sháo Shān, we can see some of his comments contained recommendable views. Máo appreciated highly Liáng’s motto: “Myself today should fight against myself yesterday” and he kept telling others about it. Máo used to put Liáng’s name before Káng Yǒuwéi’s when talking about the One Hundred Days Reform, unlike everybody else. He named his student organization “The Society of the New People”, apparently following the name of “The Collected Paper for the New People”. He said to Edgar Snow that it was only until the May 4th Movement Chén Dúxiù and Hú Shì replaced Liáng and Káng as models in his mind .

So, now let’s get to know the person who possessed great charisma and influence over his peers. I have selected two biographies, from among a dozen and translated by myself, written by two important men of letters in modern China, Zhèng Zhènduó and Liáng Shūmíng . I shall then feature on his contributions in various fields.

Mr. Liáng Rèngōng

By Zhèng Zhènduó
Mr. Liáng Rèngōng had been active in the literary world for over thirty years; he never stopped even for a single day. There are quite a number of students he taught personally; there are even more of those who learned how to read and write because of him, who began to know the general world situation and who acquired some common knowledge of learning because of him. He was only fifty-six this year, in the prime of his life; some thought he must be an old hand belonging to the old times because he had been in the literary world for so long. As a matter of fact he was a vigorous and strong adult who had been following our times closely. Unfortunately, this strong adult passed away on January nineteenth lunar calendar this year! I have been melancholy for a long time since this piece of bad news! I never thought this strong adult would cease his life in the middle of the way. I don’t want to write anything just for the occasion. However, I can not but write something for Mr. Liáng—I know there would be many who will write as well—the impression he left on me has been too deep.

In literature and art, he stirred up a team of prose writers who acted like a life scout and smashed the lifeless literary world. In politics, he benchmarked a style with a big column of followers. In academics, he also left a deep print, not really because of his research in depth, but of his efforts to popularize learning. In journalism, he created some models; he is, at least, the best and the greatest journalist of modern china. The influence of many scholars was short-lived. Those of Liǎo Píng (1852-1932), the master of classics, is gone by; so was that of Káng Yǒuwéi and Zhāng Tàiyán. Yet the influence of Mr. Liáng Rèngōng has not been gone by, even though it has been lingering for over thirty years. The influence and strength of many scholars and men of letters were often limited, limited to a number of people, to one section of the society and to a locality. But that of Mr. Liáng Rèngōng is omnipresent and ubiquitous—even though some people would rather not to say so.

Would there be some detailed study on Mr. Liáng Rèngōng who was so closely related to the politics, literature, art and academics over the recent thirty years and whose influence and strength were so omnipresent and deeply felt?
When talking about a person’s biography, his own words of course are most reliable. Heading the 《Collected Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室文集》 , which was published for the first time and in the year when he was thirty years old, was “Talking about Myself when I am Thirty”. In this article he gave a rather detailed description of an important period before he was thirty, during that time he run the newspaper “Current Affairs 时务报” and the School of Current Affairs, he organized the submission of a petition for reform signed by over three thousand provincial candidates to the imperial examination, the One Hundred Days Reform, the publication and distribution of “The Collected Paper for the New People” and “The New Novels”. This writing will then only give a brief account to these events. I shall also use his own descriptions of his deeds since his thirty years. There is also mentioning of himself in “An Outline of the Qing Dynasty Academics.”

Mr. Liáng Rèngōng’s given name is Qǐchāo (启超) , his adult name is Zhuórú (卓如), he often signed his name as “the Master of Room of Icy Drinks”, and Rèngōng (任公) was his pen name. His father was Bǎo Yíng (宝瑛) with an adult name of Lián Jiān (莲涧) and his mother’s sur name is Zhào (赵). As an islander of the southern most China, that is the Xióngzǐ Town of Xīnhuì County of Guǎngdóng Province, the town is on an island at the mouth of the Xījiāng River joining the sea. He was born on January 26, in the 12th year during the reign of Emperor Tóngzhì (同治) lunar calendar (February 23, 1873). This was a most critical time for China because of foreign aggressions; this was also a time of influx with mighty power western science and culture; all things old ranging from daily necessities to social and political organizations, from old sutra, classics to thinking and life were damaged and crumpled, in stead, something brand new and foreign crop up. Mr. Liáng was born in such a great time, and he became a leading role in it. He, at the age of 4 or 5, “clung to the knees of my grandfather who taught me the “Four Books” and the ‘Book of Songs’, I slept with my grandfather during night and in the day, the grandfather told me about ancient heroes, philosophers, fine words and conducts, how difficult state affairs were, as witnessed by the fall of both the Song and Ming dynasties. I studied the history of China and the Five Classics from my father after I became six. I mastered the eight-legged composition when I was eight. At the age of nine, I was able to write articles as long as over one thousand characters. At the age of 12, I passed the county level examination and became a candidate for the provincial examination. Everyday I studied lessens necessary for imperial examination…yet I had more interest in poetry. My grandfather and parents taught me Tang Poetry, was intoxicated in it far more than the eight-legged articles…my father was stern, aside from studies, he made me to labor. In case of a trivial slip, my father would berate me, ‘Do you think you are a normal son?’…I came to know the exegetics of Duàn Yùcāi and Wāng Niànsūn and was obsessed in it.” His mother died when he was 15. He joined the Xuéhǎitáng (meaning the Hall of the Sea of Learning) School and left it before graduation. The school was established by Ruǎn Yuān (阮元,the then Governor of Guangdong) out of his intoxication of exegetic studies, which was so developed during the reign of Emperors Qiánlóng and Jiāqìng, so the school was more devoted to the exegetics than lessens for the imperial examination. He passed the provincial examination when he was 17 and became a “Jǔ Rén”—a candidate for the imperial examination in the capital. The chief examiner, Mr. Lǐ Ruìfēn was so impressed with Liáng’s talents that he offered to marry his sister to Liáng. The next year, his father went to Beijing with him, yet he failed the examination. On his way home, he got hold of a book entitled “A Brief Geography of the Globe” (complied by Xú Jìshē and published in 1849) and realized what the world was. In the fall of the same year (1890), he called on Káng Yǒuwéi together with his school mate Chén Qiānqiū. This was the first meeting between Liáng and Káng, a meeting that generated a dramatic change in the life and thinking of Liáng. In his “Talking about Myself when I am Thirty”, there is a paragraph describing the meeting, which is really touching:

I called on Mr. Nánhǎi (Káng’s adult name)…because Qiánqiū was already his student and respected him as a tutor. Since I became a provincial candidate to the imperial examination in my teenage, I have learned something about the exegetics, which was quite popular at the time, I felt a bit complacent about myself. Yet, when this tutor was criticizing, questioning and sorting out so clearly the old learning in the past hundreds of years, which he mastered so well, his words sounded like a surging sea wave and a lion’s roar. We came in at the early hours of the day and left in the evening. Having been lectured during all the time, it was a head-on blow to me and I felt as if cold water was pouring on my back. I felt I have lost my fort, not knowing what to do. I was shocked, and at the same time pleased; I was remorseful, I was hating myself, I was doubting and I was fearing…I shared a room with Qiánqiū, but was not able to get into sleep. We called on him again the next day to ask him how we should carry on our studies. He briefed us on the “philosophy of the mind” by Lù Jiǔyuān and Wáng Shoǔrén , outlined for us the historic studies and studies of the West. Since that movement, I was determined to say farewell to the old learning and leave the Xuéhǎitáng School to be a student of Mr. Nánhǎi. It was from then on I began to know what to learn in my life time.

As from 1891, Káng began to lecture at the Ten Thousand Wood Thatched Cottage in the provincial capital of Guangdong. He touched on the sources of the academics in the thousands of years in China, history and politics, gains and losses in transitions; he also deduced some conclusions by comparison with other countries. Liáng and other students took notes everyday. He said himself in “Talking about Myself when I am Thirty”, “Most of my ability of learning was acquired in that year.” When Káng was writing “The New Learning and the Forged Classics新学伪经考”, Liáng helped to proof-read; when Káng was drafting “Verifications on How Confucius Changed the Systems”, Liáng was tasked with composing a small part. In October of the year, Liáng went to Beijing to get married with Ms. Lǐ. His grandfather died of illness the next year. Liáng spent three years at the Thatched Cottage. Respectful as Liáng was to Káng, he also held different opinions from his teacher in some cases. For instance, when “drafting ‘The New Learning and the Forged Classics’, I was not happy with his dogmatical style, even though I shelved my idea and never mentioned it; my teacher like to quote from books of omen to mystify Confucius, I don’t really agree with that.”

In 1894, Liáng was 22. He went to Beijing again, where he had numerous contacts with well known personages of the capital (“Talking about Myself when I am Thirty”). “The most tacit fellow learners are Xià Zéngyoù and Tán Sìtóng . Xià was studying the theory of Góng Zìzhēn (龚自珍) and Liǔ Fénglù (刘逢禄) on contemporary literature, whenever he worked out some new ideas, they were shared with us friends…Tán studied about Wáng Fūzhī (王夫之),liked to talk about ‘name, reason and economy’, he talked a lot about the Great Unity to Qǐchāo after made him a friend, and he was feverish in actions. The studies of Qǐchāo were greatly influenced by both Xià and Tán.” (Page 139, “An Outline of the Qing Dynasty Academics”) The Sino-Japanese War broke out in June. Liáng made some remarks out of his rage. But no body listened. He read quite a number of books about the west at this time. He also studied mathematics, history and geography. In 1895, peace was concluded. Liáng, on behalf of 190 candidates from Guǎngdōng for the imperial examination, wrote a memorial to the emperor to state their opinions on the situation. Káng also wrote a petition, on behalf of three thousand candidates, for reform. Liáng followed Káng closely in this move, which could be said to be Liáng’s first political movement. In July, the Strengthening Society was formed in Beijing, and Liáng was elected one of its secretary. Yet, the society was forced to close down within less than three months. In 1896, Huáng Zūnxiàn , who started a newspaper named 《The Current Affairs News》in Shanghai, wrote a letter to Liáng and invited him to be a chief writer for the newspaper. Liáng thus began his journalist life. He wrote and published on the paper “A General Presentation of Reform变法通议”, which sounded out what people wanted to say, yet failed to say or failed to fully express themselves in his fluent, shockingly attractive words. The influence of this article was great. His unconventional style that could be found in any existing schools, his free and eloquent touch was very refreshing in the literary world of the day. In October 1897, Chén Bǎozhēn and Xú Rénzhù invited him to lecture in the school of current affairs in Hunan. At that time, Huáng Zūnxiàn happened to be in Hunan as the Imperial Inspector, and Tán Sìtóng was also home to help with local affairs. Hunan was abundant at that time with talents. The German Occupation of Jiāozhōu Gulf soon afterwards gave them a sharp sting.

There were only forty students in the school, yet, many of them were important political figures later. For instance, Táng Cáicháng (唐才常) was the one who initiated the first uprising in Hànkǒu and failed; Cài E (蔡锷) was a key role in organizing armed forces in Yūnnán to overthrow the imperial system of Yuán Shìkǎi. Everyday Liáng lectured for four hours on the day, and at night he reviewed the homework or notes of students, he sometimes wrote down comments of over one thousand words, and had to sit up all night. His comments touched on democratic rights, he sited facts and political failures in the Qing Dynasty; he also talked about academics and commented on almost all masters starting from Xún Zǐ down to those in the Han, Tang, Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. Students returned to their hometowns during annual holidays, and showed their notes to their relatives and friends, who were all surprised by what Liáng said in the notes. However, the reactionary opposition was very strong. “Collection of Writings to Support Values (翼教丛编yìjiàocōngbiān)” compiled by Yè Déhuí (叶德辉) and a few others was published. Zhāng Zhīdòng (张之洞) also wrote “Urging You to Study (劝学篇)”. These publications pinpointed Liáng, Káng and Tǎn, who were regarded at the time as great scourges. Liáng was 26 in 1898. In the spring that year, he was seriously ill and almost lost his life because of the illness, and went to Shanghai to see doctors. He went to Beijing again when recovered. At that time, Káng was busy with his Royalist Society, and Liáng tried very hard to help him with it. In April, recommended by Xú Zhìjìng (徐致靖), the Qing emperor order to establish an office to translating and publishing western books. “At the time, the imperial court was determined to reform, to change everything. The emperor trusted Mr. Nánhǎi deeply and listened to every word he said. Sìtóng, Lín Xù (林旭)、Yáng Ruì (扬锐) and Liú Guāngdì (刘光第) all took part in the new deal in the capacity of high officials.” (“Talking about Myself when I am Thirty”) Liáng worked actively among them as well. Yet, they run into a strong reactionary force, because the new deal took the emperor as its master, and all opposing forces went to the Empress Dowager and centered on her. The two forces were hostile to each other, the tension between them was like an arrow on the bowstring that could be triggered off at any time. It was at this time that one inspector found out among Liáng’s comments on the notes of students there were several dozen sentences castigating on the imperial court and advocating civil rights, and he wrote a memorial to the imperial court to expose Liáng. Thus, orders came to arrest related persons. Tán, Lín and four others were killed, and the emperor was put under house arrest. Thanks to the help of some British people, Káng managed to escape while Liáng managed to board a Japanese warship and got to Japan. The first phase of Liáng’s political life came to an end. A period of writing followed immediately after, and his influence was the biggest in this time when he was managing the newspapers of “Impartial Remarks (清议报)” and “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)”. “Impartial Remarks (清议报)” was launched off in October that year with one business man in Yokohama. In the newspaper, he was using his grand, mighty, shocking and warm words to arouse people, or you can say he was predominating in the public opinions. Having lived for one year in Japan, he “as able to read a bit Japanese, which brought a dramatic change in thinking.” Owing to the easy access to western academics, he got familiar with modern and ancient European thinking and politics; as a result, he suddenly found his method of studying Chinese academics and history was entirely different from before. The numerous academic articles carried on “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” later were products with strong influence from Japan. In the winter of 1899, the Reform Society in the American continent invited him to visit America; he went via Hawaii, where he stayed for over six months because the sea route was closed to prevent epidemic diseases. In June 1900, when he was departing for the American continent, the Boxer Uprising broke out and northern China was in chaos. He then left Hawaii and return to the west. When he got to Japan, news came that Beijing was lost to foreign powers. When he got to Shanghai, he learned that the uprising in Hànkǒu failed and Táng Cāicháng, the leader of the uprising was killed. He then hurried to Hong Kong from Shanghai, and finally landed in Australia via southeastern countries and India. He went back to Japan after stayed in Australia for six months. He thus started his time with “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” and his period of writing. At this time, the publication of the “New Novels (新小说)” was resumed. He tried to “present what has been learned and what was cherished to talents and people with aspirations in the hope that it could help a little bit in awakening the Chinese people.” (“Talking about Myself when I am Thirty”)In that decade from 1902 to 1911, except 1906 and 1909 when there were little written, he was really proliferous. In that decade his influence and strength was the strongest. On the one hand his compiled 《Collected Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室文集》to sum up his first 30 years, and on the other he started something new. Aside from a few commentaries needed by the occasions, his work “On Enlightened Dictatorship” and the fighting articles against those who stood for a “Republic”, his achievements could be outlined in six aspects:

The first is his advocacy of the concept of the “New People”, which he believed to be the starting point of political reform and which was to change the disposition of the Chinese people. He knew that without fine citizens, any form of political system would be meaningless, and all sorts of reform would not come to a good end. He therefore, discarded the “theory of reform” and “Royalism” with complexity and diversity, and concentrated on “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)”, so named because its focus was on the “ways to become New People.” He published his book “On the New People” in the paper at the initial stage, which said, “a country is a country because if accumulated people. People to a country are like the four limbs, organs, muscles, blood vessels and circulation for a body. The body can not be kept alive with broken limbs, wounded organs, muscles and blood vessels and dried blood circulation; similarly a country would not stand if its people are timid, foolish, and muddle-headed and can not be organized. If a body is to be kept alive and last long, the ways to keep its live will have to be made very clear; if a country wants to stand in security, affluence and respect, the ways to be New People will have to be made clear.” He later discussed such concepts as “social ethics”, “state thinking”, “enterprising”, “ideas of rights”, “self-governing”, “freedom”, “progress”, “self-respect”, “the masses of the people”, “generation and distribution of benefits”, “will power”, “idea of obligations”, “private ethics”, “the moral of the people” and so on. A few of these concepts stung deeply into the roots of our old nation. He was like an archbishop, sitting on the rostrum, roaring like a lion, trying to enlighten the people. He did the same with another paper “State Style (国风报)”, which was launched off in 1910. He wrote “On State Style” at the beginning, explaining why “the fate of a country, or the rise or fall of a country hinges on the style of the country.” He employed his writing capability and tried to change the timid and conservative state style.

The second was his introduction of western philosophy and economics, which included those by Thomas Hobbes, Benedictus Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Charles Robert Darwin, Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant and so on. His introduction was not based on the originals, but the paragraphing, excerpts or translation by the Japanese. However, because of Liáng’s fluent and limpid pen, most people in China were able to know a little bit about Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Baron de Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Such a situation was not brought about by the translations from originals by Yán Fù and other translators, but by Mr. Liáng’s retelling. The reason was that Liáng’s articles were simple and easy to understand, and that his works were widely spread. I always found it strange that there were so many who had mastered European languages and western academics, yet aside from a few like Yán Fù and Mǎ Jiànzhōng , most of them left no marks and made no voices and had given up their responsibilities; and that those who didn’t really understand western languages like Lín Qínnān and Liáng had achieved much more. In the eyes of both Lín and Liáng those who had mastered western languages were like babies. Even though there were shortcomings in the work of Lín and Liáng, do we then have the heart to blame them? Between Lín and Liáng, Lín did more than Liáng in quantity and Liáng was more influential than Lín.

The third was his sorting of China’s old thinking and theories with entirely new views and methods, which were not really created by Liáng, but rather were picked up by him from the works of Japanese. Yet, when these views and methods got into his mind and hands, he wielded them with freedom, plus his enchanting descriptive power, his generous and encompassing heart to melt people, and his solid mastery of old studies, his articles were totally different from those that were stating foreign theories or using foreign theories to analyze things Chinese. His words were neither drab nor obscure. Ordinary readers can comprehend his writings, which seem shallow, yet beautiful and profound. His shocking power in his words in these academic writing did not diminish at all. Important works in this aspect includes: “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势”, “The Theories of Master Mò Zǐ 子墨子学说”, “The Development of Chinese Jurisprudence 中国法理学发达史论”, “interpretation of the Onomastics of the Chinese Language 国文语原解” and “Verification of the Material for Making Ancient Chinese Coins 中国古代币材考” and so on. Among them, “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势” is most important, because there wasn’t anything like it before Liáng. He described, assessed and studied the academics over the last few thousand years in China, and the book can be regarded as China’s first “History of Academics in China” (no one has attempted to write the second one yet), or you can say it is a book that has been systematically sorted out in Chinese academic thinking. His drive, resolution and aspiration have outshone such talking as “shallowness” and “peddling of other’s stuff.” The book is divided in seven parts: 1, A Pandect; 2, The Embryo Age; 3, They Hey Day; 4, The Age of Unity under Confucianism; 5, The Age of Lǎo Zǐ; 6, The Age of Buddhism; 7, Modern Academics. A dozen years later Liáng wanted to reach deeper into the subject by writing “The History of Chinese Academics 中国学术史”; yet much to our regret, he was only able to finish its first part—“An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”. With his death, the hope of having this great work is gone for ever.

The fourth is his research on actual problems in politics and economy. At this time, his political thesis was not confined in advocating his own standpoint, or criticizing and trying to overthrow the old systems. Such a time, a time when he wrote “A General Presentation of Reform变法通议”. His focus was now on discussions of various actual problems to provide reference for the “construction period”. On the one hand, he cited examples from abroad; on the other he discussed problems facing the country. Among these problems, political issues centered around the matter of constitution; economic issues centered around currency and state debt. These issues were of immediate concern to the people at the time. In the former his works include “On the Rights of the Government and the People 论政府与人民之权限” (1902), “My Private Comments on Appointing Officials to Localities 外官制私议” (1910), “On Constitutional Law 立宪法议” (1900), “On Legislative Right 论立法权” (1902), “Definition of the Responsible Cabinet 责任内阁释义” (1911), “One Word or Two about Constitutional Politics 宪政浅说” (1910), “My Private Opinions on China’s Parliamentary System 中国国会制度私议” (1910) and “Similarities and Differences of Constitutional Laws in Various Countries 各国宪法异同论” (1899); in the latter, he wrote “The History of China’s State Debts 中国国债史” (1904), “China’s Currency Problems 中国的货币问题” (1904), “The Issue of the Influx of Foreign Capital 外资输入问题” (1904), “On Revision of the Law of Salt 改盐法议” (1910), “Comments on the Currency System 币制条议” (1910) and “My Fair Comments on Foreign Debts 外债平议” (1910) and so on.

The fifth is his study of history. Aside from being a political critic, his career was always one of a historian. His studies of Chinese academic thinking were done from the point of view of a historian. He criticized old historic studies as mistaken and absurd; he overthrew the most such disputable issues as “orthodox” and “calligraphy”. He held that history is not one of family names, not one of individuals, not one like a “list of ghosts” that gives descriptions of anecdotes or a book of geography, and that history is lively, it describes how men evolved, it provides truth and facts for “people of today to learn, to ponder for their use in administering state affairs.” His works in this respect include “New Historic Studies 新史学” (1902), “Descriptions of the History of China 中国史叙论” (1901). He also wrote something new for “people of today to learn, to ponder”, in this aspect, his works include “The Evolution of China’s Despotic Politics 中国专制政治进化史论” (1902), “Observations of Nations in the History of China 历史上中国民族之观察”, “The Biography of Mr. Káng Nánhǎi 南海康先生传” (1901), “Lǐ Hóngzhāng 李鸿章” (1901), “The Lives of Zhāng Bówàng and Bān Dìngyuǎn 张博望班定远合传” (1902), “The Biography of King Língwǔ of the State of Zhào 赵武灵王传”, “The Biography of Yuán Chǒnghuàn 袁崇焕传” (1904), “The Lives of Eight Great Persons of Chinese Settlement 中国殖民八大伟人传” (1904), “The Biography of Zhèng Hé 郑和传” (1905), “The Biography of Guǎn Zǐ 管子传” (1911), “The Biography of Wáng Jǐnggōng 王荆公传”, “The Life of the Hungarian Patriot Louis Kossuth 匈牙利爱国者噶苏士” (1902), “The Three Men who Built Italy 意大利建国三杰传”, “A Brief History of Athens 雅典小史”, “A Brief History of the Fall of Korea 朝鲜亡国史略” (1904) and so on. These are by no means ordinary biographies with plain descriptions; rather, they are hot words that lightened with sound and color.

The sixth is his literary creation. In this decade, aside from his historic studies, he also worked hard in pure literature and art. Since he launched off the journal “New Novels 新小说”, works by his peers were published in it. For instance, “The History That Stings 痛史”, “Strange Status as Viewed in the Two Decades 二十年目睹之怪现状” and “Nice Lives and a Wronged Case 九命奇冤” by Wǒfǒ Shānrēn, translated works by Sū Mànshū and others. His own works were also carried in it, take “New China’s Future 新中国未来记”, “The End of the World 世界末日记” (translation), “Fifteen Young Heroes 十五小豪杰” (translation) and so on. He also wrote some legends, such as “The Legend of Gray Dream 劫灰梦传奇”, “The Legend of New Rome 新罗马传奇” and “The Legend of Chivalrous Feelings 侠情记传奇”. He failed to finish all these legends, yet they were very much talked about at the time. He also wrote a great number of poetry during this period. His book about poetry was written at this time. He had deep understanding of the power of novels, as he said in “On the Relationship Between Novels and Organization of Masses 论小说与群治之关系”:

If you want to renew the people of a country, you got to renew the novels in that country first. If you want to renew moral standard, you got to renew novels; if you want to renew the religion, you got to renew novels; if you want to renew politics, you got to renew novels; if you want to renew customs, you got to renew novels; if you want to renew techniques, you got to renew novels. This also applies to the renewal of support by people’s heart and disposition. Why? Because novels have an incredible power to manipulate people.

Novels can manipulate people in four ways. One is “smoking”, “people are being baked in clouds and smokes as if being dyed when one gets into contact with black or red colors”, the second is “immersion”, “people would be soaked together with the novel”; the third is to “sting”, “people can not but feel abnormal all of a sudden.” The fourth is “elevating”, “the former three get into people form outside, a strength of elevation would then be produced from inside.” So, aside from “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)”, he resumed the journal “New Novels 新小说” out of his understanding of the power of novels. However, six months later, you couldn’t see much of his writing in it. He might have diverted his attention to something else. This decade, during which Liáng lived in Japan, was a time his influence and strength were the greatest, and was his most proliferous period. In the fourth edition of 《Collected Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室文集》 that was published in 1925, works completed in this decade occupied half of the total.

In 1903, the second year since the launching of both “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” and “New Novels 新小说”, he visited North America at the invitation of overseas Chinese in the Americas. This time he didn’t return half way. He took notes of what he saw and heard, and gave comments on various facts in history and in society. His notes and comments evolved into a book later—“Travel Notes of the New Continent 新大陆游记”. Another thing worth of mentioning was his gradual diversion from the road taken by Káng Yǒuwēi during this decade, even though they kept their cooperation in appearance. His “Royalist Preaching Does Not Have to Resort to Confucianism 保教非所以尊孔论” published in “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” marked his breaking away from Káng. He said, “Qǐchāo never talked about ‘the forged classics’ again after he became thirty, and very little about ‘restructuring the system’; however, his teacher Káng Yǒuwēi went all out to set up Confucianism societies and tried to turn Confucianism into a state religion. There were many followers. Qǐchāo disagreed and refuted this idea quite a number of times.” (p. 243, “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”) People used to address them as “Káng and Liáng”, but actually Liáng couldn’t sing the same tune with Káng a long time ago. Their dispositions are totally different: Káng was very persistent and consistent, never willing to make slightest change of his stand while Liáng was a liquid who would rather “challenge yesterday’s self with today’s self”, who never secluded himself and who always forged ahead.

In October 1911, the revolutionary army rose up in Wǔchāng, it quickly spread to provinces south of Yangtze River, and Nánjīng was also taken by the revolutionary army. Liáng, after being away for fourteen years, came back to China from Japan at this time.Because of the unclear situation, he stayed in Dàlián for some time to observe. After the south and north were unified, Yuán Shìkǎi, the provisional president, invited him to take the office of a vice minister at the Ministry of Justice. Liáng refused. At this time, the Nationalist Party was in confrontation with the Progressive Party (formerly the Republican Party). Yuán was trying to curry favor with the Progressive Party, which also needed Yuán to strengthen their position. Liáng, closely related to the Progressive Party, had to get into alliance with Yuán, and he came to Beijing to meet Yuán. As a result, after the meeting, Liáng became an actual politician from a pure political critic. Since then he began a seven-year un-natural life of a politician, which was his most unstable period, his writing ability was reduced and words he produced was the lowest. This period can be divided into three phases:

The first phase was a period of cooperation with Yuán Shìkǎi. In the cabinet organized by Xióng Xīlíng , Liáng was appointed the Minister of Justice. This was his appearance in the political stage after the One Hundred Days Reform. The cabinet, which was reputed as a “cabinet of famous personages” soon fell, and Xióng didn’t even have time to perform much. Liáng stepped down together with Xióng. Liáng achieved nothing this time on stage. He, however, didn’t give up; he didn’t thought Yuán couldn’t cooperate with. He was determined to do something, to perform and accomplish something under the then circumstances. The most difficult issue at the time was finance. A few years back he wrote articles about finance and currency (which were carried on the newspaper “Mediocre Words 庸言报”). He was determined to develop his own opinions and wrote “The Building of Banking System 银行制度之建设” to explain his viewpoints. The “Draft of Constitution of the Republic of China” of the Progressive Party was written by him. Yuán Shìkǎi built a mint and appointed Liáng as the its master in the wish that he could realize his viewpoints. Yet, Liáng run into problems he never encountered before, his ideas could not be executed at all. Actual problems were far from his theories. As a result, he had to resign after he finished writing “My Currency and Financial Policies 余之币制金融政策”. From then on, he gradually lost his hope on Yuán and became disgusted with political life and wanted to fade away. He wrote a heavy manifesto “How Shall I Serve the Country Later 吾今后所以报国者”, in which he said sincerely that he was not adapted to actual political activities. He said, “It would be appropriate if jobs in the society can compliment one another; it would be valuable if what one is good at can be put in use. Even though I worked in the day and thought over things in the night and exerted all my efforts in the current administration, what I could offer to the state is really not much, this can be seen in the results of my work in the previous year. Yet, if I devote the same amount of my efforts and my mind to something else, my contribution to the state would be greater!” He said further with determination, “So, from now on, aside from discussions about learning with a few friends, I shall cease all my relationship with political organizations. Even with my most respected teacher, the most familiar friends, I shall only discuss morality, justice and learning; I shall not listen to their political views, shall not have the slightest implicative responsibilities. I am not dissocial, but everyone has his own ways of thinking and he trusts what he trusts. Such a state of mind and way of thinking can not be shared by even those who are very close to you.” Since he was so deeply regretful of his past political career, he might wish to resume his “writing time”. Yet, at this time, a major social change was confronting him. The European War broke out; negotiations between China and Japan suddenly increased, because Japan wanted to seize the opportunity to gain extra rights and interests; the imperialist system drive was stepped up; Yuán Shìkǎi intended to change the title of the year into “Hóng Xiàn 洪宪” and rename the country as “Empire of China”, and he wanted to be the first emperor of the “Empire of China.”. All these major issues were pressing down hard toward Liáng, who was so sensitive to such matters, and he had to conceive ways to cope with them right away. He therefore entered into his second phase of his political career. This second phase was the period of the “Campaign to Protect the State”. He wrote “On the History of the European War 欧洲大战(战役)史论”; after he became the chief editor of “The Greater China Monthly 大中华月刊”, he wrote another article “My Sided View on the European War 欧站蠡测”. He and his peers were greatly hurt and upset by the negotiations between China and Japan at this time. He issued a series of comments with his sharp and heavy pen in “The Greater China Monthly 大中华月刊”, for instance, “A Fair Comment on the Recent Sino-Japanese Negotiations 中日最近交涉平议”, “Solutions to Pending Issues or New Requirements? 解决悬案耶新要求耶”, “Diplomacy outside Diplomatic Channels 外交轨道外之外交”, “Negotiations or Orders? 交涉乎命令乎”, “Demonstration or Challenges? 示威耶挑战耶” and so on. After these negotiations were finished, he wrote two more articles: “Talking about the Crime after the Heart-ache 痛定罪言” and “Heart Broken Words 伤心之言”. He never wrote anything sad or sorrowful, but this time he could not check his feelings. He said, “I deeply felt that world weariness can not help mobilizing the masses, I wished to write some heroic words and leave some hope so that the people of our country can be wakened up from their deadly feelings. However, at that time, I was hurt and oppressed by outside factors so much that I was almost unable to move my body. What use is there if these are not heart-broken words?” (“Heart Broken Words 伤心之言”) The imperial system drive was a bigger issue that upset Liámg even more. This time, he coped it with not only words, but actions. This drive was of course initiated by Yuán Shìkǎi, but in appearance started by a thesis written by a Mister Goodnow and a preparation committee’s urge on Yuán to become an emperor. All these took place in July 1915, Liáng wrote immediately “Different to the So-Called State System Issue 异哉所谓国体问题者” and published in “The Greater China Monthly 大中华月刊”. Only ten years ago, he was a chief supporter of constitutional monarchy, but right now he didn’t think it would work. He gave his reasons in “Different to the So-Called State System Issue 异哉所谓国体问题者” in a thorough, serious, bright and cynical manner. He held that in less than four years since August 1911, the political system changed so many times, “people of the whole country were wandering and didn’t know what to do.” He asked the supporter of the imperialist system, why “stir up waves and raise the devil to mislead public opinions and render the country to endless sorrow?” He was thinking for “the sake of Yuán and people in the preparatory committee” that such an effort would not do any good to the “head of the state”. At the time, he dared not “hope the article would have some effect. However, justice has died out throughout the country, if no one dared giving a correct opinion on this major issue, the will of the people would be entirely strangled. So, giving no thought of his own safety, he said what the people wanted to say.” (Yuán learned about this article before it was put to print, he sent somebody to bribe him with two hundred thousand dollars for not to published it. Liáng of course refused him and sent him a copy of the article. Soon after, Yuán sent anther person to threaten him saying, “You were fleeing for over ten years. You have had enough of that sort of life, why try it again?” Liáng replied, “I have rich experience in fleeing. I would rather flee than live in this filthy air.” The threatener’s tongue got tied and had to leave. Liáng was living in Tiānjīn at this time. His student Cài E (蔡锷), who was the military governor of Yúnnān after the revolution, was in Beijing. The two planed in secrecy actions of resistance. They decided in Tiānjīn that Yúnnān would declare independence after Yuán announced to be the emperor. The two pledged, “We shall die in case of failure, we’ll not flee. We shall resign if we succeed, we’ll not take any posts in the administration.” They then went to the south in secrecy. Cài went directly to Yúnnān while Liáng stayed in Shanghai. In December that year, Yúnnān declared independence and attacked Sìchuān. Lù Róngtíng (陆荣廷), a general in Guǎngxī invited Liáng to go over to discuss rebellion, he told Liáng, “I shall rise up in the afternoon if you come in the morning.” Many people advised Liáng not to risk his life in this trip. But he went ahead regardless of any dangers. He arrived in Guìlín in March of 1916 even though Yuán had placed a great number of spied along the coast, the railways. On the way, Liáng had to hide in the mountains for sometime, for ten days he didn’t take trains and walked on foot into Zhènnān Pass. When he got to Guìlín, Guǎngxī already declared independence. Soon after Guǎngdōng had to do the same. Yet, the situation in Guǎngdōng was not stable, Liáng went there to talk to Lóng Jìguāng in spite of dangers and was once almost killed. When the situation in both Guǎngdōng and Guǎngxī became stable, he returned to Shanghai to engage in something else. He learned then that his father Bǎoyīng had died of illness when he was travelling on foot to get into Guǎngxī. By now, the situation had changed immensely. Provinces like Zhéjiáng, Shǎnxī, Húnán and Sìchuān all became independent. Féng Guózhāng (冯国璋) in Nānjīng was also trying to rose in alliance with provinces along the Yangtze River. Yet, at this juncture, Yuán Shìkǎi suddenly died. Thereafter, the “Campaign to Protect the State” came to an end. Lí Yuánhóng (黎元洪) succeeded Yuán as the President and Duàn Qíruì (段祺瑞) was organizing the cabinet. Liáng was executing his pledge of “not to take any posts in the administration”, accepted no political appointments. However, soon after, another major event cropped up and got him into a whirlpool, he thus began his third phase of political life. The third phase was the “Campaign against Restoration” period. China kept strictly her neutral stand amid the European War, even though Japan, in order to take Qíngdǎo, occupied a few places in Shāndōng. Towards such an incident, China, like in the Japanese-Russian War, took no actions as if she hadn’t heard or seen what happened. It was only later when the US protested German blockage of the sea by submarines off the coast in Shāndōng, China voiced some protest. However, Germany turned a deaf ear to all these, and China had to cease diplomatic relations with both Germany and Austria. The Entente countries tried very hard to persuade China to join them. Liáng thought it was an opportune chance for China to raise her international profile. At the start of the war, he wrote “On the History of the European War 欧洲大战(战役)史论” and “My Sided View on the European War 欧站蠡测”, in which he foresaw the victory of Germany. But by now, he saw the gradual decline of German and Austrian troops. At this time, the political struggle between Lí Yuánhóng and Duàn Qíruì had come to a head. The struggle was in fact one for who should have more power, the president or the premier? Yet, the struggle was reflected on the issue of whether or not China should go into war. Duàn backed participation and Lí strongly opposed it. Liáng was on Duàn’s side because he stood for participation. The issue was never resolved due to fierce political struggles. At last, Lí deposed Duàn, and that caused un unexpected wave in the domestic politics.