Many of us who have studied the modern history of China first learned of the late nineteenth-century reform movement in texts with chapters or sections entitled, “The Hundred Days of Reform,” or “The Reform Movement of 1898.” In such works our attention was directed to that group of politically inexperienced idealists who sought to impose upon a recalcitrant bureaucracy and apathetic populace a series of reforms designed to rescue the empire from impending dismemberment at the hands of foreign powers. The main emphasis of these standard accounts was upon the events of 1898 and their significance in China's political history. During the past twenty years, however, scholarly interest in the reformers has shifted from a preoccupation with their activities in 1898 to a more general consideration of their intellectual antecedents and the ideological content of their reform programs. Studies along these lines have placed the events of 1898 in a broader historical perspective—as the climax of a movement that was more than a decade in the making. This recent trend in scholarship is reflected in the four papers of this symposium. Separately and collectively, these papers confirm what earlier studies have suggested, that the reformers' objectives in 1898 can best be understood in the context of an intellectual movement that assumed its distinctive characteristics during the decade of the 1890's.

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