The Story of China Studies(8)

The Most Changeable Master— Liang Qichao(2)

After Duàn was removed from his office, military governors in provinces got together and formed a corps, then some provinces declared independence, Zhāng Xūn came to Beijing with five thousand soldiers to “mediate” the disputes between the president and the premier. Yet, this “intermediation” deceived both Lí and Duàn. As a matter of fact, Zhāng Xūn was instigated by Káng Yǒuwéi to put the former emperor back to his throne in Beijing. Lí was not able to detest anything, Duàn was not clear about Zhāng’s intentions. It was only when Zhāng Xūn got to Tiānjīn and the atmosphere of restoration became intense, they began to realize what was happening and were seized with panic. Liáng got together with Xiómg Xīlíng and tried to find some remedies hurriedly. Yet, the restoration became a fact in July 1917. Liáng then had to persuade Duàn to rise in opposition. The Mǎchǎng Mass Pledge in Tiānjīn was mostly conducted by Liáng. Liáng himself published a telegram on July the 1st opposing the restoration. His words analyzing the pros and cons in changing the state system were touching and sincere, it was more direct and penetrating than “Different to the So-Called State System Issue 异哉所谓国体问题者”. He said, “What good is there to political reform by changing the state system if our people in various walks of life all have consciousness and have remolded themselves for the better? The people of our country should not forget that under the imperial rule there was no serious and clean politics. Some people are blaming the republic system and trying to cover up the crimes of the former regime. If there are really good things left over from before we may put up with a child emperor (the former emperor was 12 at the time of this article—translator). Today, the commanders are rough and the soldiers are cunning; they have the child emperor under their arms and trying to give order to the country. If this was good politics, then the regimes of Wáng Mǎng and Dǒng Zhúo would have been a perfection. Those who hold such opinions are deceiving the country!” These words hit right on the core of the issue and giving fatal blows to those who supported restoration. He said also, “Qǐcháo is only a scholar, with no weapons in his hands, he could only use his mouth and pen to denounce what is wrong. He knows in a cage trouble would come after he voiced himself. Yet, in the name of justice, he could not keep silent because of fear. There are so many people with vigor and courage, who would be pleased to see people begin to take actions after reading my words.” Yet, he didn’t need others to take actions; he himself casted aside his pen and took actions and he was no longer satisfied with denouncing the restoration only with pen. He was now confronting with Káng Yǒuwéi face to face. After the One Hundred Days Reform in 1898, they only kept their accord in appearance, and in fact they differed deeply in heart. They had criticized each other openly over the issue of Confucianism; and now they tore off the veneer of mutual respect for a second time over a political issue. Liáng believed he was a political critic throughout, one not suitable for actual political activities. He would only take part in some activities as a statesman only when it was really necessary. This time, like in the “Campaign to Protect the State”, he could no longer keep his silence, and he was so indignant that he went to talk to Duàn in Tiānjīn, and he managed to have talked Duàn into agreeing to lead troops into Beijing. At that time, Duàn was the only person he could trust, for other military governors were not able to choose what to do. When Duàn rose up, some followers of Zhāng Xūn turned coat. Duàn eliminated Zhāng Xūn’s troops very quickly. As a result, Zhāng Xūn and Káng Yǒuwéi fled into the embassy area to seek protection. This was Liáng’s second political success, and his second support to the republic system as well.

So, now Duàn was the premier again and Lí stepped down. The former Vice President Féng Guózhāng became the President. After Duàn resumed his office, he declared war on Germany and Austria on August 14 of that year. However, Liáng this time didn’t walk away after the success, on the contrary, he became the Minister of Finance in Duàn’s cabinet (1917). He wished he could achieve his aspirations in finance, yet under the circumstances at the time, it was not possible at all. So, he resigned soon after. Having had such a setback, his political careen finally came to an end. Thereafter, there would be no actual political life for him. Since then or from the winter of 1918 he entered into his second writing period until his death.

This second writing period lasted for 11 years, and it began with his trip to Europe. The European War ended in 1918, and peace negotiations began. Many, including Liáng, cherished the hope for world peace. Since he was tired of his political career, he made up his mind to visit Europe to study the situations there after the war. He left in December, 1918 from Shanghai by ship. He said himself, “The purposes of the trip were first of all to learn something, to see how this unprecedented historic play would end, and therefore to broaden our vision; secondly, we were having a diplomatic, justice and human dream, thought that the peace talks would bring fundamental changes to unreasonable international relations in the whole world, and would lay a foundation for long lasting peace; and wanted to tell the world opinion our sufferings and resent about how badly we were treated, in the capacity of individuals, so that we could do out bit as a citizen.” (p.73, “Volume 1, Recent Works of Liáng Rèngōng 梁任公近著第一辑). While on board the ship, he wrote two or three articles for the second purpose that was to put in good words for China. “World Peace and China 世界和平与中国” was among these articles, which expressed hopes of the Chinese people on the peace talks, which was rendered into English and French later and several thousand copies of them were handed out. While in Europe, he visited London, Paris, he went to the battle fields of the war, he was in Italy and Swiss, he also went to Region Alsace and La Lorrine, which were the fuse to the war. He returned to China in the spring of 1920 having stayed in Europe for over a year. He talked about his disappointment of the trip later, he said he was totally disappointed of China’s diplomacy; as for his second purpose of the trip, which was more important to him, wasn’t really attained; as for his “learning, not much progress was made in the entire year that passed away so quickly.” It was true, in that year, aside from an unfinished “Notes on My Mind during the Trip to Europe 欧游心影录”, nothing was written at all; after he returned home, what he was writing was still what he focused on and studied about while he was working for “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” a dozen and more years ago, nothing new was produced. Therefore, he was not being modest when he said “not much progress was made in the entire year.”

Even though the themes and topics of what he wrote and talked about since his return were still what he focused on more than a dozen years ago in “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” period, yet the content and the way of his diction had taken a new look. Firstly, his researches went deeper and more specialized than before, he seemed entering into a period to discreetly attending to minutiae, very different from before when he was rather sloppy, young, impetuous and always forged ahead. A long essay like “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势” could have been finished in a matter of two or three months before, but now he had to devote much more care to it, and having worked on it for several years, he only finished “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论” (i.e. “The Fifth Part of Chinese History of Academics 中国学术史第五种”), he threw away “History of Chinese Buddhism 中国佛教史” and “The Third Part of Chinese History of Academics 中国学术史第三种” when they were half written. He said himself that he would “finish all the five parts in one year” (Part II, Prelude, “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”), but the other parts never made their appearances. Such an attitude could also be found in other works of his. Secondly, the way of his wording had become pale, simple and easy, no longer contained the power that could topple mountains and the electrical shock that was really suffocating. Even today, when we read his words in the “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)”, you would still be excited; yet, today, when reading his newer writings, it is no different from other academic works, that focused on content not on diction; thirdly, he changed his style. He was using the shallowest and fluent classical language, and he was using his unique political critique style to write all his works; but now he was using the fashionable language for his works. We can see from this change that Liáng had always been a strong person with light steps to keep himself abreast with the times.

However, there were quite a number of people who didn’t think Liáng’s words written after he returned home from Europe were touching because he threw away his own style and used the “national language”, which was not suitable for him. This is a ridiculous and groundless opinion. Judging from Liáng’s views and attitude in the last seven or eight years, how could he produce the articles like those in the “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” written seventeen or eighteen years ago and stirred up big waves in the society? Moreover, the works of this second period were not all written with the “national language.” Water in the stream lands down all of a sudden from top of a valley, it would surge forward with mighty strength in waves and roar, the mountain rocks on the sides can only look on, and can not check its advancement; however, when it gets to a plain, it becomes silent and unhurried, it flows on slowly and softly without rushing and thundering. This is the age and the times that worked, that was his attitude towards writing that formed his unhurried and soft style, there wasn’t any other reason.

In between his return from Europe till the “Double Ten” (the Republican National Day) Festival in 1920, the works he wrote amounted approximately to one million characters. He did count himself in the prelude of “Volume 1, Recent Works of Liáng Rèngōng 梁任公近著第一辑), “Those that have put into print include almost fifty thousand words in “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”, almost sixty thousand words in “Cases of Studying Mò Zǐ 墨子学案”, almost forty thousand words in “Textual Research and Connotation of the Classic of Mò Zǐ 墨经校释”, almost a hundred thousand words in “Methods of Studying Chinese History 中国历史研究法”, almost thirty thousand words in “Textual Research of ‘On Belief of the Great Vehicle’ 大乘起信论考证”. It included three of my lectures in almost one hundred thousand words. The rest are the unfinished or the that to be revised, which include approximately fifty thousand words in “Feelings Expressed in Chinese Verses 中国韵文里头所表示的情感”, thirty thousand words in “Teaching Method of Chinese Language 国文教学法”, forty thousand words in “Cases of Studies of Confucius 孔子学案”. I totally threw away “A Brief History of China Studies 国学小史稿” and “Manuscripts of the History of Chinese Buddhism 中国佛教史稿”, each was of almost forty thousand words. There were also articles carried in newspapers and journals that amounted to three hundred thousand words. Putting all of them into one book in less than one million words, which was all I spent my time and mind on in the last two years and a half.”

What he wrote immediately after were “The Life of Táo Yuānmíng 陶渊明”, “The Biography of Mr. Dài Dōngyuān 戴东原先生传”, “The Philosophy of Dài Dōngyuān 戴东原哲学”, “World Outlook and Science 世界观与科学”, “The Geographical Layout of Modern Studies 近代学风之地理分布”, “On History of Localities 说方志”, “List of Important Books for Entrance into China Studies and Ways to Read 国学入门书要目及其读法” and so on. There was also the draft of “The History of Chinese Culture 中国文化史” to be polished and “On Social Organizations 社会组织篇” was put to print already.

Having had a holistic view of this “second writing period” of Liáng, we can see four centers in his research. The first is his research on Buddhism. He enlarged the part about Buddhism in “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势”, which was written over a dozen years ago. Despite that “History of Chinese Buddhism 中国佛教史” was not finished, several other sizable essays were completed, for instance “The Early Influx of Buddhism 佛教之初输入” written in 1920, “A Chinese Overseas Student 1,500 Years Ago 千五百年前之中国留学生”, “Buddhism and the Western Regions 佛教与西域”, “The Relationship between Indian Historic Sites and Buddhism 印度史迹与佛教之关系”, “Translation of Buddhist Classics 佛典之翻译”, “Translated Literature and Buddhism 翻译文学与佛典” and so on. His emphasis was on the period when Buddhism was first brought into China. His studies on this part is really profound, many material was gathered by him with painstaking efforts. This is of course very different from a dozen years ago when he was merely introducing research results by the Japanese. In 1921 while he was lecturing in the Southeast University in Nánjīng, he also spent time for research at the China Buddhist College. “Textual Research of ‘On Belief of the Great Vehicle’ 大乘起信论考证” was completed in this year; in 1922, he wrote “The Relative Relations between Indian and Chinese Cultures 印度与中国文化之亲属的关系”, which can be seen as the ripple from his studies of Buddhism.

The second is his research on masters in the pre-Qin period. This was an augmentation of the part of pr-Qin Thinking in “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势”,however, the content was entirely different from before. The works completed in 1920 include: “The Philosophy of Lǎo Zǐ 老子哲学”, “Verification on the Chronicle of Mò Zǐ 墨子年代考” and “A Critical Emendation of the Classic of Mò Zǐ 墨经校释”. The second year, i.e. 1921, he completed “Cases of Studying Mò Zǐ 墨子学案”. Liáng’s studies of Mò Zǐ were very deep before, he had published “The Details of Mò Zǐ 墨子微”. The studies now were very different than that in his young days. “The History of Pre-Qin Political Thinking 先秦政治思想史” was published in 1922. The third is his research on the Qing Dynasty academic thinking. This was also an augmentation of the part of the Qing academics in “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势”. He said himself in this respect, “My basic concepts today are not so different from those 18 years ago. Only that my observation on micro level is more precise. What’s more, some words I put forward at that time were for a purpose, and the conclusions were often biased;--I therefore will change all these, only using 10 or 20% of what I wrote before.” (Prelude to “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”) This outline was published in 1920. Systematic as it is on the Qing academics, they are mostly general remarks. What evoked more thinking was his criticism on the “Contemporary Classic” movement started by Káng Yǒuwéi and himself before. Besides that, he also delved deeply into research on Dài Dóngyuān, as can be proofed by the following works: “The Biography of Mr. Dài Dóngyuān 戴东原先生传”, “The Philosophy of Dài Dóngyuān 戴东原哲学” and “Verification of The Bibliography of the Works, Emendation and compilation of Dài Dóngyuān 戴东原著述篡校书目考” (all these works were completed in 1923). He also wrote “China’s Field of Thinking at the Turn from Ming to Qing and the Representatives 明清之交中国思想界及其代表人物” (1924) and “The School of Yán Yuán and Lǐ Gōng and Contemporary Trend of Education 颜李学派与现代教育思潮” (1923).

The fourth is his research on history. Again, this was an augmentation of his “New Historic Studies 新史学” written a dozen years ago. The works in this respect include “The Geographical Layout of Modern Studies 近代学风之地理分布” (1924), “Studies of Nationalities in Chinese History 中国历史上民族之研究” (1922), “Historical Statistics 历史统计法” (1922), “Method of Chinese Historic Studies 中国历史研究法” (1922) and “On History of Localities 说方志” (1924). “Method of Chinese Historic Studies 中国历史研究法” is the first chapter of his “Draft of the History of Chinese Culture 中国文化史稿”, which is bigger in size than his “The History of Chinese Academics 中国学术史”. There was “On Social Organizations 社会组织篇”, which was not published yet.

All the above mentioned works are closely related to his studies over ten years ago. Therefore we say the works of Liáng Rèngōng in his second writing period are deepening and augmentation of the studies in his first period. Yet, there are also works quite different, for instance, there are several articles about “World Outlook and Science 世界观与科学” (1923), secondly, a few essays on Chinese poetry, such as “Studies of Qū Yuán 屈原研究”, “Dù Fǔ, the Great Lover 情圣杜甫”, “Táo Yuānmíng 陶渊明” and “Feelings Expressed in Chinese Verses 中国韵文里头所表示的情感” (all completed in 1922). He wrote fewer articles on current affairs, and was executing what he didn’t really put into action what he said in “How Shall I Serve the Country Later 吾今后所以报国者”, “From now on, I shall not be involved in the political forums, not because that I am tired of it, but, it is really difficult, and I have to be cautious. Since I have little interest in political forums, my interest in political organizations would be much less.”

Two or three years before his death, even though he gave continuous lectures at the Qinghua School, he completed almost no gigantic works. His last years were the most depressed; half of the reason of his sadness was his loss of his wife Mrs. Lǐ, who died of illness in 1927; the other half was his own poor conditions, one of his kidneys was removed at a hospital in Beijing, yet he did get better and died of kidney disease. He said,I have not been in a good mood, because of hard conditions. Since the Lantern Festival, my wife has been ill for six months; she left me all of a sudden on the Mid-Autumn Day. She suffered untold pains, the doctor told us her disease was incurable when it was first found. In the past six months, what I heard was only her groans, what I saw was tears of my children. My loved son left for a long trip shortly after my wife’s funeral, and in between a gang of thieves looted our home. I felt so num being among so many changes with the snow storm outside, and I was wondering if it was the end of my life. I sat alone, not knowing what time it was. For all who have feelings, he got to be sad or happy sometimes. I have been so lively and totally enjoyed myself, but now I am totally deflated. (Trifles in My Agony 痛苦中的一点小玩意儿).

He was not able to totally resume his good mood in the few years later. After all, he is a stronger man, even though he was deflated, he still worked hard. In his illness, he still gave lecture, read books and kept writing. A few months before his death, he sought pleasure in reading Ci-poetry and singing verses. He planed to write “The Chronicle of Xīn Jiāxuān 辛稼轩年谱”. While on a hospital bed, he asked someone to collected related material for him. When he learned “Local History of Xìnzhōu Prefecture 信州府志” and other books were collected, he was so happy that he left the hospital with these books to work on the project. However, his poor health could no longer provide any more support. He ceased his life in the hospital in Peking on the nineteenth of this last January, and “The Chronicle of Xīn Jiāxuān 辛稼轩年谱” became his last unfinished book.


Everyone has a sense in knowing oneself; but fewer have an incisive judgment of their own shortcomings and weakness; everyone can at a time tell others about his own strong points or weakness; but fewer can correctly and clearly analyze their strong points and weakness and disclose them to the public without any reservation. Mr. Liáng Rèngōng was such a person who can correctly and clearly analyze their strong points and weakness and disclose them to the public without any reservation. Even though some people praise Mr. Liáng Rèngōng while others criticize him, yet who could scold him as thoroughly as himself? Who could swear at him as accurately as himself? Who could flatter him as appropriately and properly as himself? The best material in a biography would be the records by the hero himself; and the best criticism material would be the criticism by the hero himself. That may not be appropriate for another person, yet it is most appropriate for Mr. Liáng Rèngōng.

What he was most flattered about or most castigated on was his “readiness for change.” He was the same in learning, in political activities and in his literary style. He wrote at his early days “A Hero Who Is Good at Changing 善变之豪杰” (On Freedom at the Room of Icy Drinks 饮冰室自由书), and there are such words in it, “A good person’s mistakes are as discernable as solar and lunar eclipse; all would look up at him once he corrected his mistakes. I shall be open and upright like a true man, act as my mind wishes till perfection, and my method will change with the time and conditions, and change with the development of my mind, yet my objection will remain the same.” Besides, one famous saying of his was always on his lips, “I’d rather challenge myself of yesterday with myself of today.” Earlier in his political career, he was a royalist, then he cooperated with Yuán ShìKǎi, then he supported the political system of the Republic and opposed Yuán ShìKǎi, later he opposed Zhāng Xūn and the restoration of the Qing court. It is an opposition between a royalist and one resisting restoration and only in a matter of six or seven years, his political views became so different. Was this “capricious” as many blamed him about? In his earlier days of learning, he was immersed in exegetics, then he engaged in “contemporary classic” movement, he wrote about the forged classics, talked about transforming systems, and then he opposed Káng Yǒuwéi’s standpoint of protecting royal system and respect Confucianism, then he engaged in categorization of ancient books. It is an opposition between transforming the system and opposing Confucianism as a religion and only in a matter of a decade, his views changed to the opposite side. Was this what some people jeered him as “having no fixed ideas”? Yet, we should understand him. Behind his “constant change”, he had the firmest reasons that he had to follow and the clearest ideas. If he was too stubborn to change, he would have been legged behind, degenerated and joined the ranks of the leftovers of the Qing Dynasty; if he didn’t change his contribution to China and his achievement would have been reduced to zero. His “readiness to change” and his “constant change” are what he is the greatest of and what can most sufficiently proof his open, above-board and upright personality. What he “changed” was not his aim or purpose; he only changed his method, he changed it with the change of “time and conditions” and with “the development of his mind”. His aim and purpose was to love his country. “Despite changes of his method, his patriotic mind remained unchanged.” Anything that was good for the country, for the thinking of the people, he would make the change with no hesitations at all; he would execute the change and advocate the change himself. Because of his love of the country, he also “loves peace and detests disorder” (A Notice to Follow Countrymen from the Army, Collection of Shield Handle 盾鼻集,在军中敬告国人). That was why he was afraid of a fierce war that might be caused by the change of state system at the time around 1911, and at the turn of 1912, he even went so far as to cooperate with Yuán Shìkǎi out of fear that the foundation of the state might be repeatedly shaken and the strength of the people might have been exhausted. It was out of his love of the country, he fought twice for the republic to protect the state body and the country, for he could not bear the repeated changes of the state system and leaving chances to ambitious schemers. It was out of his love of the country, he fought against his own views some years back and tried hard to explain the difference between protecting the country and protecting the religion of Confucianism. Some words at the beginning of “Royalist Preaching Does Not Have to Resort to Confucianism 保教非所以尊孔论”:

What I write in this article is in total opposition of my views of some years ago, so I am using my own spear to fight against myself. I dare not to keep silent about whether I am right today and was wrong yesterday. Is it a progress in thinking or a backward step? I wish to judge this matter the way the readers do.

Such a ridicule was brought about by the constant change in Liáng’s thinking and viewpoints, and I don’t know if the thinking of the readers was progressive or backward!

Being a sensitive person, Liáng had rich feelings, and if there was an obvious change around him, he would stand up to meet it and respond to it. This could be one of the reasons of why he was “ready to change”. Take a trifle, in the dispute on “world outlook and science”, because some friends of his took part in it, he also jumped into it. A few years ago, a few scholars gave a “List of Books on China Studies”, according to the list, they were researching on Mò Zǐ, Dài Dóngyuān, Qú Yuān and Indian philosophy, this aroused again his interest in these themes, which he had put aside a long time ago. Liáng was always ready to accept good advice, he didn’t really stick stubbornly to his own set views; On the contrary, he could throw away his own opinions completely and take others’ views. This might be another reason for his “readiness of change.” He was studying the exegetic theories of Dài Dóngyuān, Duàn Yùchāi and Wáng Yǐnzhī, yet after his meeting with Káng Yǒuwēi he threw away all what he had learned. After he got to Japan and read books written by Japanese, he tried his best to absorb them. During his middle age years, the adoption of national language was very popular, which was strongly opposed by all stubborn die-hards, yet he took it over right away in writing his own articles with no regret whatsoever in giving away his own writing style, which was a banner of his own school. We can see in here the broadness of his mind and so unsticking was his ideas.

Liáng had one more strong point or weakness—or what he was most criticized about—was that he was “anxious to put into use” his theory, or in another word, a negative word, he was “craze”. Before he was greatly irritated politically, he was always a statesman. Even though he knew his shortcomings, and said he was not good at political activities, yet seven or eight years ago, was there any moment he was not engaged in political activities, he was not in his political career? We don’t have to talk about the One Hundred Days’ Reform, we don’t have to mention 1912, we don’t have to refer to 1916, 17 and 18, we can only look at his days in Japan when he was running the newspapers of “Impartial Remarks (清议报)”, “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” and “State Style (国风报)”, was he engaged in political activities? Were his visits to Australia, the Americas and the Philippines political activities? Was there a little political significance for his trip to Europe in 1918? In his days with “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)”, he produced numerous works, which all paid attention to politics. A paragraph of his own words can best reflect his political career:

My career in the last two decades has been one in politics. Even though I had not worked in the government for a single day before last year, my relationship with domestic politics has never been ceased for a day. I relish immensely discussions with my pen or tongue. My countrymen didn’t know I am not really a talented man, yet, there are some people who are pleased to listen to me. My learning is shallow, I am not able to provide a systematic ideal or blaze a new trail for others to follow. I don’t have much experience in the society, having left the country for long, been away from social practices, so I am not able to give council to people or provide reference to causes in the society. My only hobby was to talk about politics while wringing my wrist and with my sleeves rolled up. I did make some noises outside the political forum, yet my interest, just like a sword in a case or a lantern in a tent, is obviously in politics. I have always tried to nurture a kind of person with words and opinions. Yet, what could be brought about would be my ideal political persons. (“How Shall I Serve the Country Later 吾今后所以报国者”)

It was this “craziness” about politics that urged him to come out to do something or contribute his bit to his country whenever a chance cropped up. There are two types of political figures: the revolutionary and the reformist. A revolutionary would have his platform, his theory to carry out thorough revolutions and constructions. A reformist is different, he does not necessarily have his platform, his constant theory that never changes; he does not wish to disturb the status quo, he does not have the ambition to overthrow the old and build a new; his only with is to try his best to reform, to do something good under the present circumstances. He will not overturn the existing strength unless he has to. He believes that with existing resources, the sacrifice would be the smallest and the success would be the easiest. Mr. Liáng Rèngōng was such a reformist statesman out and out. The legendary Yí Yǐn who served the rulers of both Shāng and Xià five times, and Confucius in old biographies who would spent his day in anxiety if he was not able to see his King are such type of person. Since Liáng was such a reformist, it would not be strange for him to oppose revolution and stood for constitutional monarchy before the success of the 1911 Revolution; and he thought Yuán Shìkǎi could get along with before he revealed his true treacherous face; he didn’t think Duàn Qíruì was hopeless even when Duàn acted without any scruples. So, he tried his best to do something good. Since it was so remote to overturn the present situation, it would be nice to give a helping hand, to give a little reform, to do something nice, even it was only a tiny bit of things nice. Of course he kept on to be “crazy” like this, some people would ridicule him as “not choosing people to be a friend.” Yet, his heart was warm, bright and patriotic. We should pardon him a little bit even when he made friends with those who should never be friends. He was far better than those idlers who did nothing and those officials who were bribed and did things bad. On top of that, he put aside his reformist look and fought for justice, freedom and the integrity of our countrymen, such fighting would be enough to wash away the dirt of his political moderationism and tolerationism!


In academics, Liáng gave his own correct analysis and critiques of his achievement. His words are so honest and pleasing that rendered us to a hopeless position where we are not able to add one more word of praise:

In the field of thinking, Qǐchāo undermined a lot and constructed none. Qǐchāo was one of those to blame for the coarse and shallow thoughts in the late Qing period. Qǐchāo always gave such comments on the Buddha, “releases others from purgatory before he does that to himself, and that is the workings of the heart of the Bodhisattva”; Even though my works are big in number, they are mostly prompt thoughts at whatever I encountered. I once said, “When I read about the benign nature of man, I would naturally teach others about what people are when they are first born;” however, I didn’t realize if I haven’t mastered the words after “given the similarities of nature…” I might have not really understood the sentence of “when they are first born.” If I teach others like this, I would be misleading and telling something wrong. Qǐchāo stood for introduction to world learning without any limitation. Though there is anything wrong with this opinion, yet things to be introduced must be in its original, and the related background and development will have to be introduced at the same time, so that our countrymen could take it as a material for their studies; a job of such a magnitude will have to be done by a big number of people in different professions. Qǐchāo’s learning was broad but not exquisite. I wrote about things I newly learned as soon as I got into its scope, so most of what I wrote is either general or vague, some of them were even wrong. When I found out the mistakes and made corrections, what I revised is contradicting to my previous writings. To put it in fair terms, in the closed and deflated field of thinking twenty years ago, no new trail could be blazed without coarse and poorly conceived means. From this point of view Liáng Qǐchāo is the “Chén Shè” in the field of new thinking…Qǐchāo is totally opposite to Káng Yǒuwéi on one point, that is Yǒuwéi stuck most firmly to his views while Qǐchāo held no firm views, it is the same either in handling matters or in learning. Yǒuwéi used to say, “I finished my learning when I was thirty, no progress was made since and no progress was needed.” Qǐchāo was different, I was conscious and worry that I haven’t finished my studies, so everyday in the past dozens of years I was questing for knowledge. Therefore, people can give a conclusion to Yǒuwéi’s learning, but they can not do the same with Qǐchāo. Because Qǐchāo had no firm views, he sometimes yielded to social customs and gave up what he must keep. It can be said without any hesitation that Qǐchāo’s creativeness is far from Yǒuwéi’s. Qǐchāo’s “craving for learning” was the strongest, and the variety I was interested in was rich; I would be totally immersed in one subject once I began to delve into it, and I would throw aside other subjects; after a period of time, I would move to another subject and forget about the ones I worked on before. Because I was very concentrated, I could accomplish something; because I always move to other subjects, my studies have not been deep. In my inscriptions to my daughter Lìngxián’s “Diary at the Hall of Yìhéng 艺蘅馆日记”, I said, “The weakness of my learning is being too broad in my interest, therefore my learning is shallow and desolate; Another serious weakness was lack of persistence; I used to stop soon after I gained something. You can learn other things from me, but not these two points.” This can be said that I have a clear sense of knowing myself. (p. 147-149 “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”)Because his interest was so broad, he was not exquisite, not deep enough; because he wrote about things newly learned as soon as he got into the new scope, he could not avoid the shallowness and barrenness of the results. Yet, after all, he was China’s “Chén Shè” in the field of new thinking, not necessarily he has performed indelible merits, but he has endured great hardships along the turbulent road and his pioneering and homesteading achievement is great. He was not merely one Chén Shè, considering his imposing manner and the grand magnitude, he resembled somewhat to Lǐ Shìmín and Hū Bìliè , even though he didn’t form a government, his manner and magnitude were already awesome. In politics, he is a moderate reformer, cherishes very little ambition; yet in academics, he is a craving careerist. Nothing happens if he does not write; once he took up his pen he would have a huge setup, regardless of whether the scheme will be finally be finished. He tends to give a holistic plan to a thing or an academic issue; his studies would reach up to the remotest ancient times and down to the present time; he is never satisfied with something small, narrow, or especially delicate. For instance, when he wanted to talk about china’s academics, he wrote “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势”; when he wanted to talk about nationalities of China, he wrote “Observations of Nations in the History of China 历史上中国民族之观察”; when he wanted to talk about China studies, he wrote “A Brief History of China Studies 国学小史稿”; when he wanted to delve into the culture of the Chinese nation, he wrote “Draft of the History of Chinese Culture 中国文化史稿”. Each of the above called for a gigantic amount of work, but he went ahead without asking if he could succeed. His “The History of Chinese Academics 中国学术史”, according to his plan, was divided into five parts. Part I covers Pre-Qin academics; Part II covers that in the two Han periods, classics in the Six-Dynasties and the Metaphysics of Wei and Jin; Part III covers Buddhism in Sui and Tang; Part IV covers New-Confucianism of Song and Ming; Part V covers that in the Qing Dynasty. His “A Brief History of China Studies 国学小史稿” was originally his fifty lectures at the Qinghua School in 1920, and his speaking notes were more than a foot thick. We have not been able to see these notes, couldn’t tell what they contained. Yet, by looking at only the part about Mò Zǐ (“Cases of Studying Mò Zǐ 墨子学案” was printed), we could imagine how vast the entire book is. The most fearsome was his plan of writing “The History of Chinese Culture 中国文化史”. He first of all wrote a long prelude to the book entitled “Method of Chinese Historic Studies 中国历史研究法”. In his finished tiny part of “The History of Chinese Culture 中国文化史”, i.e. “On Social Organizations 社会组织篇”, we are able to see his complete plan for writing “The History of Chinese Culture 中国文化史”. This history of culture is of an immense scope, consisted of three parts in twenty nine chapters ranging from the chapter of dynasties to the chapter of editions that include printing, emendation and collection. It encompassed almost everything Chinese. I hereby copy it in its integrity in the follows:

Part I

The Chapter of Dynasties: The period of legends and the period without records, Zhou, Spring and Autumn period, Warring States period, Qin and the two Han periods, Three-Kingdoms, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Song and Liao.

The Chapter of Nationalities (1) Composition of the Han nationality, nationalities of the Southern barbarians.

The Chapter of Nationalities (2): Di and other northern minorities, Hu and other eastern minorities, Qiang and other western minorities.

The Chapter of Geography: The Central Plains, Qínlǐng and Lóngshān Mountain areas, Yōu and Bìn Prefectures, the region in between Chángjiáng and Huáihé rivers, the Yéngyuè area, Liáng and Yì Prefectures, the Liáohǎi region, the Mòběi area, the Western regions and Wèizàng region.

The Chapter of Government Systems (1): the enfeoffment system of Zhou, the prefecture and county system of Qin, the prefecture system of Han, the prefecture and town systems of the Three-Kingdoms, the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the Tang system of prefecture and towns on border lines, the suzerainty system of Tang, the prefecture and county system of Song, the province and fiefdom system of Yuan, the province and fiefdom systems of Ming and Qing, the suzerainty system of Qing, the State and Province constitutions of the Nationalist government.

The Chapter of Government Systems (2): the system of political power and the actual evolution, the division of political power and its evolution, the supervisory organs and evolution, the parliaments at the end of Qing and in the Nationalist period, the forms of shifting of power from legal department and administration.

The Chapter of Public Opinion and Political Parties: A general look at the rise and fall of the strength of public opinions in dynasties, the ban of parties in the Han Dynasty, Wáng Anshí and Sīmǎ Guáng of the Song Dynasty, the Dónglín party and Fùshè Society of the Ming, the so-called parties since the end of Qing and the Nationalist government.

The Chapter of Law: A shallow look at ancient laws, the compilation of codes in between the Warring States and the mid-Qing period and the evolutions, the Han laws, the Tang laws, the Ming and Qing laws and cases and the pandect of laws, the legislative cause in the past two decades.

The Chapter of Military Affairs: the evolutions of the army system, the evolution of weaponry, the evolution of tactics, comparison of big wars in dynasties, an outline of military affairs in the late Qing and of the Nationalist government, the navy.
The Chapter of Finance: corvee and tribute, rent and tax, exclusivity, public bond, expenditure and distribution, financial organs.

The Chapter of Education: the official education system and the selection system by way of examinations, private teaching, the college system since Tang and Song, modern schools and academic organizations.

The Chapter of Transportation: ancient road systems, official horse post in between the Han and Qing and its evolution, modern railways, river transportation in dynasties, the past and present sea transport, modern post and telegram.

The Chapter of International Relations: international relations and relations with nationalities in dynasties, the European and Asian relations before the Ming, the Sin0-Japan relations after the Tang, the Sino-Dutch and Sino-Portuguese relations since mid-Ming, Sino-Russian relations since early Qing, Sino-British, Sino-French relations since mid-Qing, Sino-American relations since late Qing.

Part II

The Chapter of Social Organizations: the matriarchal system, marriage and family, patriarchal clan system and the system of clans, classes, rule by townships, cities.

The Chapter of Food: the three ages of hunting, livestock and farming, the carnivorous, grain eating, non-staple food, cuisine, the narcotics, special treatment of rice, salt, tea, wine and tobacco.

The Chapter of Dress and Adornment: silk, arrowroot fiber, leather, adornment, official dress with design marked ranking in dynasties and evolution.

The Chapter of Housing: three types of residence since recorded history, a quick look at ancient palace, a quick look at mediaeval palace, the influence of the transport and architecture of the western regions, the interior adornment, cities and fort, wells and channel.

The Chapter of Workmanship: the three ages of stone-ware, bronze ware and iron-ware, lacquer-ware, pottery, casting, weaving and dying, vehicle, boat, stationery, machinery and modern industries.

The Chapter of Commerce: A summary of ancient commerce, commerce in the Warring States, Qin and Han periods, foreign trade in between Han and Tang, Tang commerce, commerce of the Song, Liao, Jin, Yuan and Ming, foreign trade after the Kyakhta Agreement , foreign trade after the Nanjing Treaty, a general picture of modern domestic commerce.

The Chapter of Currency: the media of transaction before metal currencies, ways of circulation in dynasties and evolution, gold, silver, paper bank notes, the process of recent reform of the currency system, banking.

The Chapter of Farming: past and present agricultural products, past and present farming techniques, relief measures in time of disasters, proclamation, the rise and fall of the well-field and equal field systems, the tenant farmer system, forestry.

Part III

The Chapter of Language and Characters: the history of monosyllabic system and its evolution, a general picture of ancient and present dialects,
The Chapter of Religion, Rites and Customs: ancient and present superstitions; sayings of Yin-Yang school, sayings of divination prophets, the rise and spreading of Taoism, observations of the history of belief of Buddhism, the influx of Manichean and Judaism, the influx of Islam, the influx and spreading of Christianity, sacrificial ceremonies and improper sacrificial ceremonies in dynasties, funeral rites and funeral services, seasons and customs.

The Chapter of Academic Thinking (1): organizations that introduced ancient academic thinking; sources of thinking; the establishment of Confucian classics; the rise of masters in the Warring State period, the rise and fall of the six schools, namely Confucianism, Mohism, Taoism, Logicians, Legalist and Yin-Yang during the Western Han period; study of classics in the Western Han; study of classics in the Southern and Northern, Sui, Tang dynasties; translation of Buddhist classics; schools of Buddhism; the disputes, meeting and merging of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism; the rise of New Confucianism in the Song and Yuan; the Chéng Brothers, Zhū Xǐ, Lù Jiǔyuān and Wáng Shǒurén; the studies of Han and the studies of the Song in the Qing Dynasty; the general trend of academic thinking since late Qing.

The Chapter of Academic Thinking (2): historic studies, archaeology, medicine, calendar studies, mathematics and other natural sciences.

The Chapter of Literature: prose, poetry, the songs of Chu, Ci-Poetry, singing verses and novels.

The Chapter of Arts: fine arts, calligraphy, sculpture, architecture and embroidery.

The Chapter of Music: temperament, a quick look at ancient music, the influx of music from four foreign countries after the Han; the elegant (or the former King’s) music, the clear (or the last generation’s) music and the blended (with foreign style) music of the Tang, the change of tones in the Tang and Song dynasties; southern and northern melodies, instruments, dances and singing drama in the Yuan and Ming.
The Chapter of Editions: the handing down, copying and decoration of ancient books, classics carved on stones, the invention and progress of printing techniques, type character plates, official book collection since the Han, private book collection since the Ming, compilation of reference books; editing and printing of series of books; bibliography, graphics and rubbing of samples.

Let’s not discuss if the history of Chinese culture should be compiled and written in this way; let’s only ponder on the list of contents, wasn’t he extremely audacious to have put together such a vast and long list? Because of the excessive huge sizes of his plans, more often than not, his works could not come to a complete end; “The History of Chinese Culture” remained unfinished, even a smaller sized “The History of Chinese Academics” was unfinished for the same reason. This is of course a pity. While feeling pitiful, we could help us from thinking of Zhèng Qiáo who wrote “The Comprehensive History 通志”, and who was as ambitious, yet his “The Comprehensive History 通志” stands in contrast to “The History of Chinese Culture”, and he succeeded. Because Liáng was not concentrating, because he lacked perseverance, and because he spent much of his efforts in drab political activities, he turned himself into an unsuccessful Zhèng Qiáo. We do not only feel regretful for Liáng, we also feel regretful for the academic world of China. If this huge work was completed, may it have omissions or shallowness, it would be most instrumental to readers in China. He was aiming to simplify highly specialized knowledge and categorize the vast material into order. Such a book will not loose its readers even today or tomorrow when specialized scholars are plenty.


Finally, we have to mention his success in literature. I said in the foregoing that he was a good journalist. His writings on dailies may not be worth of keeping, there have not been many of the articles written by journalists that are literarily qualified. Yet, a best journalist is often an upper class writer; people like Addison, Macaulay and H.G. Wells are such journalists. Mr. Liáng Règōng is of course one of the few. There is a “Foreword” to the first edition of 《Collected Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室文集》, in which he said in modesty that writings like his about the situation of the time were not worth of saving, “The writings of us are not intended to be saved in some famous mountains or to be read a hundred generations later, but rather to say what we want to say in coping with the current situations. Yet, time never stops, it flies away, and in a wink it becomes nothing. The entire situation, nonetheless, is getting urgent daily, is liking a big rolling stone on the verge of a cliff, and the speed of change is beyond description. The ratio of change of this year is much more than that in the last century; therefore, the writing of today could only be used on newspapers, and be of some alarming value for a few months. And when the time has passed, they would only become peanuts.” Despite his modesty, his prose was worth of saving. Even though the time has passed, and the problems he dealt with are no longer problems, his articles like “A General Presentation of Reform变法通议” and others still have a touching magic power when read them. This is one of the proof that his prose writings should be saved. He wrote a fair critique on his own writing in “An Outline of the Academics of the Qing Dynasty 清代学术概论”:

Qǐcháo has never liked the style of Tóngchéng (the biggest prose school of the Qing Dynasty, named after a city in Anhui Province) School. When I began to learn writing in my childhood, I started with those of late Han, Wei and Jin periods, which respected brevity. I am now quite liberal, and I take simplicity and smoothness the most important, and from time to time I use some slang, rhythmical expressions and foreign grammar. I let my pen go without any restraints; I have some followers and they call my way of writing “a new style”. However, the older people hate the way I write and they branded it as “a wild fox”. Yet my writings are in clear consecutions, rich in feelings and to readers they have a different magic power. (p. 142)

To put it squarely, Liáng’s prose is not a piece of flawless pearl, neither a nobly beautiful essay, yet, it has its own value, and the biggest value lies in “simplicity and smoothness … and from time to time I use some slang, rhythmical expressions and foreign grammar”, which knocked down the old and lifeless style of the Tóngchéng school and that of the Six Dynasties. Using his style, teenagers were able to write freely in expressing their minds, no longer limited by the rigid set format and style. In this sense, he was the vanguard in reforming writing style a few years ago. In this respect, his merits could stand abreast with his achievement in academics. Huáng Zūnxiàn was doing the same work of emancipation in the field of poetry, yet Liáng’s influence was greater, because prose was more powerful than poetry. As for his prose itself, there are some redundant sentences and words; his magic power could only bewitch teenagers, and when they grow up they would find his prose somewhat shallow. He once made a comment on Gōng Zìzhén , “When you first read ‘The Collection of Essays of Gōng Zìzhén定庵文集”, you would be shocked, but gradually you would find it shallow.” Such comments were used by quite a number of critics onto Liáng himself.

Prose took a larger part of his literary works with very few poems; all his Ci-poetry, singing verses and legends putting together are not enough for a book. He is not a poet at all. Even though his poems are small in number, they sound unyielding, over-powering, bold and unrestrained; sharing the same tones with his prose. He was fond of poems of Lù Yóu and Cí of Xīn Qìjī, naturally his poems and Cí writing was influenced by these two poets. Take his “Unrealized Aspirations 志未酬”:

My aspirations have not been attained;

My aspirations are unattained;

When will your aspirations be attained?

Aspirations can not be measured, while Attainment can not be timed.

There is no end to the progress of the world,
So, my hopes have no end.

Agonies of the common people are prolonging;

And my sympathy for them is mounting.

There’s a higher hill when you’ve scaled up;

Waves after waves on the high seas.

Even a hundred years are spent heroes,

After all how much can be accomplished?

Little accomplishment as there might be,

We still have to work hard.

Without these little accomplishment,

There will be much more regrets in our lives.

Let’s hope the future is broad even though remote,

Would anyone feel numb and are not touched?


Men should be determined to devote for the country,

Go forward and never stop.

What aspirations would be there if they are attained!

I am risking into a chance to end this article by the above poem. “Men should be determined to devote for the country, Go forward and never stop.” These two sentences are enough to sum up the entire life of Liáng.

February, 1929, Shanghai

In Memory of Mr. Liáng Rèngōng

By Liáng Shūmíng

Today is the 14th anniversary of Mr. Liáng Rèngōng’s death. Zháng Xùguāng, Zhōu Zhīfēng and other friends of mine suggested that I should write something to commemorate. Last year after I returned from Hong Kong to Guìlín, my friends asked me to write an article in commemoration of the second anniversary of the death of Mr. Cài Jiémín . Since I was a student of both Mr. Cài and Mr. Liáng, it would be my inescapable duty to write something in commemorating Mr. Liáng. In the article about Mr. Cài, I pointed out what his greatness was and how grateful I was for having trust from him and to be his student. I shall write more or less the same in this article.

A. What Is His Greatness

To know Mr. Rèngòng’s greatness, we have to make a comparison with his peers. Mr. Cài was one of his peers. Both of them make the greatest contribution to China in the last 50 years in the field of academics, in introducing new ideas and smashing old conventions and advanced the country forward. What was odd was that he was eight years younger than Mr. Cài, yet his exerted his influence earlier. He started working at the beginning of the last five decades, and forty years back the entire realm of ideology was his. Some thirty-five years ago, Chinese politics were governed by the Constitution Movement, in which he was the mainstream. During his prime time, Mr. Cài, who was elder, kept silent (as a matter of fact Mr. Cài made his debut also quite early, yet he wasn’t known by the public). It has been twenty-four years since Mr. Cài established his position during the May 4th Movement. Post European War thinking and ideas began to flow in since this movement, and further caused the nationalist revolution. Therefore, we say it is only in the recent two decades he could influence the holistic political situation.

During his prime time, the public in general was enlightened and led by Mr. Rèngōng; his ubiquitous strength was next to nobody shortly Zháng Shìzhāo, Chén Dúxiù and Hú Shìzhī. We could not find another person who exerted so extensive and powerful influence like him. Mr. Káng was his teacher; Rèngōng was enlightened and led by him. Yet in a matter of years, Rèngōng’s profile was far better than Káng, and he overshadowed Káng. We should note that such a period wasn’t long. The times when he was on the political stage (twice, once in 1913 and the other in 1917) was no longer his period. When it got to the May 4th Movement, he had to follow the tide of the time. After 1919 and 1920, he and his friends like Jiǎng Bǎilǐ (蒋百里), Lín Chángmīn (林长民), Lán Zhìxiān (蓝志先) and Zháng Dóngsūn (张东荪) gave up political activities, organized “New Learning Societies”, published “Liberation and Reform 解放与改造” and series of books by the “Common Knowledge Society共学社” and lectured in universities in the north and south. All these activities were inspired by the new practices started by Mr. Cài at Peking University.

In terms of the length of influence in the society, Rèngōng was next to the others all. Therefore there were such comments as: his appearance was like a long comet or wild Chinese viburnum lighting up the surroundings, yet disappeared in a moment, indicating that his influence in both politics and academics was not prolonged. This is just what Rèngōng was special and unique. (see Chén Bózhuāng’s correspondence in the 13th issue of “Ideas and Times 思想与时代”) I agree with such a comment. Great as they all are, their greatness varies from person to person, and we should not speak of their greatness in general terms. The greatness of Rèngōng was his swift sensitiveness and his ability to bring out the meaning and pass it onto others. He was extremely good at absorbing different thinking and academics, and then brought them into full play; yet his thoughts were not profound and implicative, and they could not go very far. He was not such a person who could not get understanding by people of his time, yet with time passing by, more value were found in him by others. That was why he got such a big name nation-wide when he was only thirty or so years old, and Mr. Cài had to wait until he was over fifty. That is also why his influence was greater than Mr. Cài space-wise, but not time-wise as with Mr. Cài.

In the past, each of Liú Bāng, Emperor Gāozǔ of Hàn and Hán Xìn had his own talents. Hán was good at commanding soldiers and Liú was good at commanding generals. Cài and Liáng are similar to this pair. Mr. Cài can be compared to Emperor Gāozǔ of Hàn who didn’t have to go to the expeditions east and west himself, yet gathered around him a group of heroes to try and accomplish something great while Rèngōng can be compared, in studies and writing, to Hán Xìn who could command a great number of soldiers, and the more soldiers the better, and he himself would be the vanguard in charging forward. His influence to others was direct, and this was something Mr. Cài was not able to do.

Rèngōng was passionate to other people, he had more desires, his hear was pure and naive. This was where he was adorable and great. Yet, he had more failures caused by his lack of persistence and steadiness.

B. Gains and Losses of Mr. Rèngōng

When remembering past virtuous men, we should usually commend their meritorious deeds. However, in my case, I always harbor a feeling of remorse for him. His academic accomplishment rested in quantity rather than in quality. I shall not to details about that because of limit of space. I shall only deal with his gains and losses in politics today.

There were two camps in the politics of the Qing Dynasty, namely the driving out Manchuria revolutionary camp and the constitutional monarchy camp. Rèngōng was in one of the camps—basically on the side of the constitutional monarchy, and was its leader. Even though at last the revolutionaries triumphed, the Chinese people owed much to him in their awakening of political thinking, and he provided immense help indirectly to the success of the 1911 Revolution. People of our country should remember his deeds and he himself should feel gratified for his contribution. In early Nationalist government days, Sòng Jiàorēn wanted to introduce a cabinet of parties, which was in agreement with the long cherished dreams of Rèngōng. It was agreed between them that Rèngōng would give a full support to Sòng. After Sòng was assassinated, much to our regret, the chances of cooperation between the two parties were gone. Yuán Shìkǎi, then, tried every means to win him over, he was at this time goaded by the Nationalist party, and he formed a Progressive Party to confront the Nationalist. When Xióng Xīlíng was asked to form the cabinet, the Progressive Party seemed to be in the background to provide support. He then could not escape from the responsibilities of having counter signed Yuán’s order to dissolve the parliament. With the parliament dissolved, parties had no ground to exist, and Xióng’s cabinet fell apart. Rèngōng by now was bitterly remorseful for having politics derailed and the overall situation deteriorated. This was his first failure in his political career. Of course, what had happened was caused by various reasons, Rèngōng should not be the only one responsible. Yet, the unavoidable thing to do was that historic books blamed it on virtuous men, and virtuous men blamed themselves.

Because Mr. Rèngōng did regret for his wrong doings, when Yuán was trying to restore the imperial system, he rose up to overthrow Yuán. He did his best and outmost in overthrowing Yuán. If the building of the Republic was a most meritorious thing the Revolutionaries did, then the credit of re-building the Republic should go to Mr. Rèngōng. Historians would record the facts down on history; I shall not go into details. Yet, this is the first great and indelible thing Rèngōng did in politics for the country.

Much to our regret, Rèngōng’s father passed away during the process of overthrowing Yuán. After Yuán fell, he had to be in mourning apparel for some time, and he was not able to serve in the government. And that gave a chance for him to assist Duàn Qíruì to power in 1917. In between he also apposed the restoration of feudalist system by Zhāng Xūn and Kāng Yǒuwēi. He was truly credible to what he said several dozen years ago—“I love my teacher, but I love truth even more.” His opposition to Zhāng and Kāng could be taken as his second contribution to the state. With the failure of the restoration, the Republic was re-built a second time. Rèngōng joined hands with Duàn in the government, which smelled much of a cabinet of the Progressive Party. It should have been like this with Rèngōng in power. Yet, at this time, he did something that shouldn’t have been done, that was his refusal of resuming the parliament and formed a brand-new parliament, which led to a war safeguarding the laws and civil wars in consecutive years because of sabotaging the legal order. This was his second most serious mistake in his political life. Unlike the previous failure, this time he could not pass the buck to others. We students could only feel sorry for this aging gentleman, and his political career thus came to an end.

To give a summary to Mr. Rèngōng’s entire life, his greatest achievement was not in academics, not in specific deeds, but in welcoming the opportunities of the new century, in shaping a new trend, in touching the heart of the people nation-wide and in securing a shift of the Chinese society in history. This is quite identical to what I said when remembering Mr. Cài whose greatest achievement wasn’t in academics or specific deeds, but in shaping a trend, pushing forward the entire situation and influencing later generations.

C. My Own Gratitude toward Mr. Rèngōng

I was one of whose who had been intensely and deeply enlightened by Mr. Rèngōng in my early days. In terms of age, I am twenty years junior. I wasn’t able to read when he was running “Current Affairs 时务报” and “Impartial Remarks (清议报)” when he was a bit over twenty; when he was launching off the “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” when he was thirty, I still could not read much. When I got to fifteen, “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” might have been suspended, yet I satisfied myself in reading after I managed to collect six big volumes of “The Collected Paper for the New People (新民丛报)” in the years of 1902, 1903 and 1904 and one volume of “New Novels 新小说” of one entire year (in all over six million characters), and one thick book of “The Debate between Constitutionalists and Revolutionaries 立宪派与革命派之论战” (a collection of all articles of debate between Rèngōng with Wāng Jīngwèi and Hú Hànmīn). I soaked myself in these books for three or four years. When I was eighteen, “State Style (国风报)” happened to come out and I was able to continue with my reading. This was a richer and more realistic education for me than the five years in the middle school. Even today, thirty years later, it is still very useful for young people to read these articles. The pity is that we can no longer find original newspapers, where there were articles written by others and overages of current affairs that are also important and took up some 80% of the content, that these articles can be found in 《Collected Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室文集》. Thinking of this even today, I still feel that this was the happiest thing I did to read these articles.

The works written by Mr. Cài are not many, neither were those by him I have read. But I was also attracted by his thinking as well. I came to know him in 1916 by the introduction of Mr. Fàn Jìngshēng (范静生). Yet, I had never called on Mr. Rèngōng. Because, my own father, who admired Rèngōng so much that he called on him four times since he turned home from abroad, but was never given the chance to see Rèngōng; at the same time, he wrote two letters to Rèngōng, and none got a reply. So, I dared not to take the liberty to go and see him. Rèngōng gradually learned about me, and one day in 1920, he even came to my home to see me together with Jiǒng Bǎilǐ (蒋百里) and Lín Zǎipíng (林宰平), and from then on I often exchanged visits. In 1925, a book I compiled that collected my father’s letters was published, and I gave Rèngōng a copy. In the book, my father regretted about not being able to see Rèngōng or get a reply to his letters. I also wrote to Rèngōng and drew his attention to this section and asked him to read it. He wrote back with several hundred words and with tears, in which he deeply blamed himself, and asked me to convey to my father when I offer sacrifices in the spring or autumn that he “would never forget Mister’s instructions.” He sighed over the fact that my father placed hopes of saving the country on him despite the cold shoulder treatment he encountered. My father would be pleased if he could know about how Rèngōng felt this matter, and I, as a son, am really grateful to him!

In the spring of 1929, I learned in Guǎngzhōu the terrible news of Mr. Rèngōng’s death, I felt really sad. Ever since we came to know each other, you had been encouraging me and kind to me, we had been discussing questions in learning, you were so modest in visiting me and seeking my opinions (you showed me your first draft of the book on Buddhism and asked me to comment), yet I haven’t returned your favor whatsoever. I had been pondering on two big issues: one, he didn’t really know what was the way out for the Chinese nation even though he run his head off in serving the state and was most anxious in finding a solution for China; two, he claimed he believed in Confucianism, yet liked very much to talk about Buddhism, but he didn’t have a genuine understanding of what life was even though he was a passionate and determined person on the issue. When I felt I had discovered some truth in the two issues and wanted very much to solicit his comments, he passed away to my surprise, and it was no longer possible for me to talk to him. I could only regret about this in the rest of my life. I write this article today, over ten years later, my memory of and gratitude to him still remain the same.

January 1943.

A Brief Account of Liáng’s Contributions

As you may have noticed, the first few years of the 20th century marked the prime time of Liáng’s cultural creation. In 《Complete Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室合集》, there are 718 articles on politics, economic, ideology and academics, and 431 of them were written before 1911, which is over 50%; The total number of characters was 9.2 million, of which 4.53 million were written before 1911, which is almost 50%. The essence of his cultural creation can be summarized as the following:

1. In political culture, he held that state should be publicly owned; the state itself is the highest form of reason and everybody should abide by; and the state should be a “republic”.

2. In economic culture, he held that economic development should be realized by way of competition; foreign capital should be utilized in a rational way; banking system should be established and reform was called for in finance and tax matters.

3. In legal culture, he stood for rule by law, not rule by men; the first enemy of rule by law was theory of none interference, which was quite influential in the Spring and Autumn period; another enemy was rule by men in Confucianism; the third enemy was rule by rites and the final enemy was rule by power.

4. In religious culture, he concluded the role of religion as (1) leading to unity; (2) providing hope; (3) freeing people from worries; (4) providing social norms; (5) giving resolution to people.

5. In social culture, he thought the criteria of a “new citizen” should be: having strong sense of social ethics; a thinking of “state first”; entrepreneurship; consciousness of one’s own right; freedom of thinking; self-governing; self-respect; unity; determination; obligations; physical strength and self-cultivation.

6. In academic culture, he reviewed academics from the point of view of “times”, he verified “times” with academics. Academics were a product of a time, and a yardstick of the civilization of that “time”. Let’s get into more details of this point:

We should note that Liáng divided the 2,000 years of China’s academics into seven phases in his “The General Trend of Change in China’s Academic Thinking 论中国学术思想变迁之大势”: the time before the Spring and Autumn period was the embryo period; the hey days were from the end of the Spring and Autumn period to Warring States period; the two Han dynasties were a period of unity in Confucianism; the Wei and Jin were periods for the splendor of Taoism; the Southern, Northern dynasties and the Tang Dynasty were a time of unity in Buddhism; the Song and Yuan dynasties were a time of mixture of Confucianism and Buddhism; the Qing Dynasty was a time of decline of China’s academics.

Liáng gave the following reasons for the hey days of China’s academics: 1) cultural accumulation before and after the Western Zhōu period, which constituted a base for later development; 2) the shift from a serf society to a feudal society provided driving power for academic and cultural development; 3) freedom of speech created a favorable academic ambience; 4) extensive contacts enhanced academic communications; 5) the advancement of language and characters ensured smooth flow of thoughts; 6) the emergence of new type of scholars provided sources of talents; 7) lecturing was such a fashion that it promoted contending among different schools.

Modern scholars were sometimes at a loss facing such a prosperous scene. Liáng divided the scene into two parts: the north and the south; he also found out three major stalks: Taoism, Confucianism and Moism. In such a way, the academic mapping was very clearly drawn. The so-called southern school was centered around Lǎo Zǐ and with Zhuáng Zǐ, Liè Zǐ (列子) and Yáng Zhū (杨朱)as disciples and with Xǔ Xíng and Qū Yuán in the branches. The northern school was centered around Confucius and with Mèng Zǐ (孟子) and Xūn Zǐ (荀子) as disciples, under which there were the Qí Sect headed by Guǎn Zǐ (管子) and Zóu Yán (邹衍); the Qínjìn Sect headed by Shén Bùhài (申不害), Shāng Yāng (商鞅), Lǐ Lí (李悝) and Hán Fēi (韩非); and the Sòngzhèng Sect headed by Mò Zhái (墨翟), Dèng Xī (邓析) and Huì Shī (惠施). The Confucius school was the biggest, within it there were such branches as well-to-do branch(小康派), the great harmony branch (大同派), convergence (of the heaven and men) branch (天人相与派), the temperament branch (心性派), the textual research branch (考证派)and the recording and compiling branch (记纂派). The next biggest was the Taoists, within it there were such branches as the philosophical theory (哲理派), the pessimistic (厌世派), the scheming (权谋派), the pleasure (纵乐派) and the secret (神秘派). The Moist was the smallest, within it there were such branches as mutual love (兼爱派),the roving martial arts men (游侠派) and the logicians (名理派). The two schools and three stalks finally ended in six schools, namely: the Confucianism, the Moism, the Logicians, the Legalist, the Yin and the Yang and the Taoism. Liáng held that in comparing with the schools in India and Greek of the same period, what were strong about them was their focus on actual problems and stress on the human side; Their weak points were lack of theoretic depth, physical experiment, debate and selection; the Chinese schools had strong sectarian bias, cherished worship of things old and tended to be conservative and the respect of masters by disciples was overly stressed.

The scene of a hundred schools contending turned into history with the unification of the country by Emperor Shǐhuáng of Qin and the consolidation of the feudal systems in the two Han Dynasties. Liáng was not in favor of such a change, he said: Politics in the west change with the academic thinking while in China academic thinking changes with politics. He thought this in China was a deficiency, because being controlled by politics, academics would not be able to develop independently, freely, competitively and healthily, and further, it could not provide soul to the society. “It is not a fortunate thing in China to be unified by Confucianism in academics; on the contrary, it is a big misfortune.” (p. 38-39, the 7th volume of 《Complete Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室合集》) Liáng divided Confucian scholars in both Qin and Han Dynasties into two groups: the lecturers and the writers. There were four branches in the lecturers: (1) those who taught Confucianism without any creation; (2) those who upheld the rule of emperors with doctrines of Confucius; (3) those who interpreted Confucianism with natural phenomenon; (4) those who did the textual researches. Among the writers, Liáng cited the following seven and affirmed their achievement: Dǒng Zhòngshū (董仲舒), Sīmǎ Qiān (司马迁), Liú Xiàng (刘向), Yáng Xióng (杨雄), Wáng Chōng (王充), Wáng Fú (王符) and Zhòng Chángtǒng (仲长统). He pointed out that even though feudal ethics was enforced, the society was stable in both Qin and Han Dynasties, and there was no competition in academics owing to the unity by Confucianism.

There was major shift in the academic world in the ensuing Three-Kingdom and the Six Dynasty periods—Taoism replaced Confucianism. Liáng held that Buddhism ruled in the Tang Dynasty. He drew a table of over ten branches of Buddhism in the Tang, which could be grouped into three schools: the Hinayana Buddhism or the Minor Vehicle (小乘教), the Doctrines of the Great Vehicle Provisions (权大乘教) and the Mahayana Buddhism (大乘教). He thought Chinese Buddhism was very creative, unique and philosophical, in particular, the Mahayana school was most developed in China with numerous branches. He pointed out, “Buddhist philosophy was complimenting with China’s original philosophy, which mainly dealt with personnel and state matters, very little about nature…ever since the introduction of Buddhism into China, China’s philosophy displayed its splendor in the revival of academics in the Song and Ming dynasties because of the development of Buddhism in the Sui and Tang Dynasties.” (p. 76-77, the 7th volume of
《Complete Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室合集》)

Liáng didn’t give much details about the period of mixture of Confucianism and Buddhism. He held the opinion all his life that the academics of the Qing was most fruitful in its four stages: the first was from late Ming to the reign of Emperor Kángxī, and the themes of studies were centered around the two Chéngs, Zhū Xǐ, Lù Jiǔyuān and Wáng Shǒurēn; the second was during the reigns of emperors Yōngzhèng, Qiánlóng and Jiājìng, and the themes of studies were centered around the Han and Song dynasties; the third was during the reigns of emperors Dàoguāng and Xiánfēng, the themes of studies were centered around contemporary and ancient classics and the fourth state was during the reign of Emperor Guángxù, and the themes of studies were centered around Mencius, Xún Zǐ, Confucius, Lǎo Zǐ and Mó Zǐ. He concluded that “the 200 years of academics in our dynasty was like silk reeling from the 2000 years or peeling of spring shoots, the more we reel or peel, the closer we are at the core. This is also like chewing sugar canes, the more you chew, the better the taste. This is a very unique phenomenon.” (p. 102, the 7th volume of 《Complete Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室合集》)

Liáng took the beginning years of the 20th century as a period of dramatic changes in Chinese academics and culture. The influx of western ideas through Japan would no doubtedly influence the ways of thinking of that generation and stimulate the development of Chinese academics. So, Liáng was not opposed to the introduction of western ideology, instead he said, “It is universal in biology that when the two opposite sex is combined, the results of their product would be improved. This can be applied to every thing else of the same nature. There were five countries with old civilizations, yet they were far away from each other and separated. The European civilization came into being when two civilizations of Egypt and the old Iran met by way of the Mediterranean; later when the Arabs moved to the west and the Crusader conducted its expedition eastward, the European and Asian civilizations had an intercourse, a happening that shook the earth and the heaven and served again as a proof to the universal truth of combination of two opposite sex. During the Warring State period in China when the civilizations of the south and north met, the Chinese ancient academics scaled up to its zenith, Chinese academic thinking blossomed again during the Sui and Tang Dynasties when contacting with the Indian civilization. Now all countries on the globe are neighbors, yet the civilizations of Egypt, Old Iran, India and Mexico have ceased, and that’s why nothing new could be produced even we interact with Europeans. There are only two civilizations today on earth: the western civilization represented by Europe and the United States and the eastern civilization represented by China. The 20th century is an age of marriage of the two civilizations…the western beauty will certainly give birth to our family a nice boy to boost our kindred.” (p. 4, the 7th volume of 《Complete Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室合集》) These words of Liáng reflected his holistic view on the general trend of the changes of Chinese academics over 2,000 years. These words also expressed his aim of studying the history of changes in Chinese academics. His summary of such a history is: to develop traditions in China Studies while absorbing western civilization, and to create something new in academics and culture in the blending of western and Chinese cultures.

Liáng Qǐchāo is one of the leading founders of the revolution in China’s historic studies, in which he put forward a series of new ideas.

He held that among all learning in the world, history is most broad, profound and critical, and that only historic studies are “a mirror for the citizens, a source of patriotism.” (p. 1, the 9th volume of 《Complete Writings in the Room of Icy Drinks饮冰室合集》) He pointed out there were four problems with the old historic studies in China: the first is that there was only the recognition of an imperial court, but not the state; the second is that there was only the recognition of individuals, not groups; the third is the only recognition of old sites with no current affairs in consideration; the fourth is the only recognition of facts without any consideration of ideals. So, historians were only narrators, not critics or selectors; or followers not creators.

He firmly believed that history must give an account of social evolution, of human evolution; history must show what are the generally accepted truth and norms.

He attached importance to the quality of historians, whom, he believed, should have ethics to be loyal to historic facts, broad knowledge, and insight and right techniques.

Liáng’s most remarkable contribution to the method of historic studies was he clearly defined the special relationship between historians and history. He laid down key points and a basic procedure of historic studies, which are very unique. (Please refer to the table on the next page.)

The features of his historic studies are the following:

1) He gave a prominent place to the study of the history of nationalities. Such a study was aimed to raise “national consciousness”—which can be interpreted as a self-consciousness before others. He held the concept of a “China man” was formed in the ancient times; the concept was an aggregation of nationalities. He pointed out, “our nationality referred to ourselves as ‘Multiple Xie’, to distinct ourselves from ‘Yi夷’—eastern tribes and ‘Di狄’—northern tribes. So the name of “Multiple Xia” was a manifestation of national consciousness, and such a consciousness could be traced back to the times of “Yǔ禹”, because at that time culture was being spread, tribes communicated frequently and a common language was found; tribes moved to higher places to live to avoid flood, where they became closer in face of natural disasters; they were more conscious of themselves when contacting Miáo and other tribes. His conclusions of the study were: (1) the Chinese nation is a most complicated and most solid nation; (2) such a nation was formed by paying the highest price; (3) the nation will not decline in the future, but will be expanded.

2) He was very particular on the review of geology, years and culture. For instance he gave 18 reasons to why the Yellow River region was the birthplace of the Chinese nation and culture.

3) He spent more time on current issues. He dealt in detail with the Tàipíng Uprising, the Westernization Drive, the Sino-Japanese War, the One Hundred Days’ Reform, the Boxers Uprising, the 1911 Revolution, the May 4th Movement and etc.

4) His way of presenting history was unique. He engaged readers. People thought he was talking about today while he was discussing history; people felt he was describing life, customs and culture while he was discussing changes of dynasties.

Liáng also wrote a number of biographies, more influential ones are: “The Biography of Mr. Nánhǎi Káng”, “Lǐ Hóngzhāng—Major Events in the Last 40 Years in China” written in 1901; “The Biographies of Zháng Bówàng and Bān Dìngyuǎn” and “The Biography of King Língwǔ of the State of Zhào—the First Great Man after the Yellow Emperor” written in 1902; “Yuán Chǒnghuàn—the First Important Person of the Ming Dynasty” and “Biographies of Eight Great Men in China’s Colonization” written in 1904; “Biography of the Great Navigator Zhèng Hé” written in 1905; “Wáng Jǐnggōng” written in 1908 and “The Biography of Guǎn Zǐ” written in 1911. These biographies were widely read at the time and his purpose of providing examples or lessen for his peers was realized. The success owed a great deal to his deep delving into historic data and material.

We should also take note of his philosophical studies. He was opposed to “ism” or sticking to any one theory. We think he is basically an objective idealist. The following thoughts of his are quite original:

1. Heroes are products of certain historical periods, the more history is developed, the little the room for heroes. Not only heroes create time, time also produces heroes; the history till now is one of the struggles of heroes.
2. Life is a combination of one’s outlook plus science, social responsibilities and one’s interest. A man should live in his interest. An interest is similar to electrical power, the more you rub, the more power you have. Responsibilities may seem heavy, yet when you fulfill them, you are rewarded with much pleasure.

3. Confucianism is the soul of Chinese philosophy, the ultimate purpose of this doctrine is to “cultivate self and pacify others”. He didn’t see eye to eye with the “down with Confucian Shop” slogan of the May 4th Movement, and held that Confucianism didn’t go against science. He held the representative thinking of the philosophy of Confucius were “The Book of Change” and “The Doctrines of the Mean”. He also analyzed why these thinking became popular in China.

4. The great merit of Lǎo Zǐ was that he created a systematic philosophy for China, he put forward many issues for later generations to study. He opposed the opinion that the philosophy of Lǎo Zǐ was pessimistic; he hold that Lǎo Zǐ was positive and progressive, he wanted to accomplish in his “in-action”, to forge ahead while retreating; he wanted people handling their problems in life in a wise and dialectic way; he wanted the society to be harmonious, creative and the state became stronger gradually.

5. He treated Dài Dóngyuān (ie. Dài Zhèn) as a “vanguard in sciences” and a “revolutionary builder in philosophy”. Dài created a way of research, which is quite identical to that in modern science, and which is to “remove coverings and seek facts”; he also advocated sentimental philosophy in opposition to the empty talks in the New-Confucianism of the Song Dynasty.

6. Expounding Wáng Yángmíng’s convergence of “knowing and doing”: (1) there isn’t any doing without knowing; (2) to know is the intention of to do; to do is the practice of knowing; to know is the beginning of to do and to do is the result of to know; (3) real knowledge ends with doing and sensible and prudent doing is knowledge.

7. He summarized pre-Qin thinking as “Four Schools”—Confucian, Taoist, Moist and Legalist schools; “Four Trends”—Non-rule, rule by rites, rule by men and rule by law; “Four Similarities”—using natural laws in politics; divine right of emperors; ideal society, from well-to-do to the Great Harmony; to work for the best interest of “天下—tiánxià, which means the country or the space under heaven”, and everyone ended up with working for the existing regime. Liáng held these similarities are the features of the political thinking of the Chinese in general.

8. Outstanding research of Buddhism. His works “A Brief Account of the Rise and Fall of Buddhism in China 中国佛法兴衰沿革说略” and “Development of Buddhism in China 佛教教理在中国之发展” provided answers to such questions as: Why Buddhism can develop in China and what impact Buddhism gave to China.

Liáng was deeply involved with education all his life and with Qinghua University in particular. The first lecture he gave at Qinghua was in 1914, during which time he quoted two hexagrams from “The Book of Change”, namely “qián乾” and “kūn坤”. “The epitome of ‘qián’”, he said in the lecture, “is for gentlemen to encourage themselves, like the motion of the sky, which is endless and never stops…while the epitome of ‘kūn’ implies the generosity of man in handling matters and the broadness of mind that is like the earth that carries everything.” Since then Qinghua School took the original words from “The Book of Change”—厚德载物,hòu dé zǎi wù, which means “a generous and solid virtue that can carry things”—as the motto of the school. He then came and stayed at Qinghua at the end of the same year for ten months for purpose of reading and writing. The second time he lectured there was in January 1917 when he talked about how to be a good person, how to do things right and how to study. The lectures he began at Qinghua in 1920 was a series entitled “A Brief History of China Studies国学小史”, which he delivered in fifty sessions and the notes of these talks evolved into a book of two hundred thousand characters—“The Academics of Recent 300 years of China中国近三百年学术史”. As a matter of fact, six years earlier, he told the faculty of Qinghua at a meeting, “Aside from learning things western, Qinghua students should also study things Chinese, because China studies are the foundation of our country. Without China studies, one can hardly attain meritorious achievement.” In February 1922, Liáng was formally appointed as a lecturer of Qinghua and in the fall of 1925, he was appointed as a master at the China Studies Institute of Qinghua. On that post, he lectured on “History of Chinese Culture”, “Ways of Reading and Examples”, “Confucian Philosophy” and “Methods of Studying History”. The disciplines he provided tutorship are “History of Chinese Literature,” “History of Chinese Philosophy”, “The Academics in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties”, “The Academics in the Qing Dynasty”, “History of China”, “Methods for Historic Studies”, “Confucian Philosophy”, “History of Sino-Foreign Exchanges” and “Chinese Literature”.

Liáng used to say, “a soldier dies in the battle field, a scholar dies on the platform.” He led a regular life, he got up at five every morning and then kept working for at least ten hours, during which time, he seldom received any visitors. In 1928, his kidney problem became worse. He went to Peking Union Medical College Hospital for treatment, yet, the doctor there removed a benign kidney from him. His life was in real danger. At that time, western medicine was weak. To safeguard western medicine and science, he refused to ask for compensation and apology. He wrote on paper such words: “I do not wish people take my case as an excuse and come up with a reactionary theory and to block the ways ahead for China’s medicine.” On January 19, 1929, his heart stopped bumping. His last stroke was his devotion of his body together with his warm, unselfish heart and his matchless talent. Lǎo Zǐ said, “He who died yet not deceased would live long”. Liáng is such a person who is still living in the heart of millions as a great man of letters, a hero, a prophet, a man of great merits, and most importantly a master of China Studies.