Feng Guifen


feng guifenFeng Guifen (1809-74, Wade-Giles: Feng Kuei-fen) was a Chinese scholar, writer and reformer of the mid 19th century. He is best known as the ideological father of the Self Strengthening Movement. Born into a family of affluent landlords in Jiangsu province, Feng worked in both academia and the public service. He spent a good deal of time in Shanghai, where he came into frequent contact with Western merchants and diplomats. Like other neo-Confucians he despised Western foreigners, condemning them as barbarians – but Feng also recognised the need for China to adapt and embrace Western methods and technologies. In 1861 Feng published Jiaobinlu Kangyi (‘Essays of Protest’). These essays suggested a host of improvements and reforms, including changes to government, bureaucracy and fiscal collections. They also listed a number of specific scientific reforms and engineering projects. Despite these sweeping proposals. Feng was adamant that Chinese society should remain fundamentally Confucian. He was eager to copy and embrace Western technology and knowledge – but not the structures and values of Western society. Feng died in 1874 but his writings had a strong influence on later reformers, including Li Hongzhang, Kang Youwei and the Guangxu Emperor.


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