During the years 1895 to 1898 the Chinese reform movement was a remarkable success and then a conclusive failure in Hunan. For the first time, ideas emanating from the intellectual ferment in the treaty ports were actively implemented in the conservative provinces. Members of the Hunanese elite joined with government officials in a broad program of modernization. But in late 1897 and early 1898, as foreign powers pressed for concessions in China, a new leadership gradually took control of the Hunan reforms. Led by Liang Chʻi-chʻao, this group was intensely influenced by the teachings of Kʻang Yu-wei. By March it had broadened the scope of institutional change and had widely popularized Kʻang's ideas. Members of the elite, who at first had supported reform, became alarmed as the movement became more radical. They disagreed sharply with the Kʻang Yu-wei group over reform objectives, and after a bitter controversy during the spring of 1898, they suppressed Kʻang's teachings and ostracized his followers. By the summer of 1898 they had reasserted their domination over provincial affairs.

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