Hundred Days of Reform

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hundred Days of Reform


a period of moderate bourgeois reforms in China in the late 19th century. The Hundred Days of Reform began on June 11, 1898, when the Manchu emperor Tsai T’ien, known as Kuang-Hsü during his reign, promulgated the decree On Establishing a Basic Line of State Policy. It ended on Sept. 21, 1898, when the empress dowager, Yehonala (Ts’u-hsi), carried out a palace coup and rescinded the reforms. Thus, the period actually lasted 103 days.

The imperial decree of June 11, promulgated at the insistence of the Chinese bourgeois-landowner reform party led by K’ang Yu-wei, specifically called for reforms only in education. Nonetheless, it exuded determination to fight the conservative high officials and push through a policy of reforms. Tsai T’ien gathered about him a group of young reformers—students and supporters of K’ang Yu-wei—to draw up a series of reform edicts. In all, more than 60 edicts were issued; they concerned, among others, the educational system, the construction of railroads, plants, and factories, the modernization of agriculture, the development of domestic and foreign trade, the reorganization of the armed forces, and a purge of the government apparatus.

Objectively, the reforms were designed to create conditions for the capitalist development of China. However, the edicts, issued in great haste without explanations to the public, were sabotaged by court circles and the feudal bureaucracy; they remained essentially paper decrees. In order to break the resistance of the reactionary Manchu-Chinese court clique, the leader of the left wing of the reformers, T’an Ssu-t’ung, acting with the knowledge of Tsai T’ien, plotted to liquidate the leaders of the court clique. However, the conspirators were betrayed by General Yuan Shih-k’ai. Tsai T’ien was arrested, and the reform leaders were executed without trial or inquiry, except for K’ang Yu-wei, Liang Ch’i-ch’ao, and Wang Chao, who managed to escape abroad. Harsh repressive measures were taken against all participants in the reform movement. After the defeat of the reformers, the revolutionary-democratic current of the Chinese people’s national liberation struggle grew rapidly, led by Sun Yat-sen.


Tikhvinskii, S. L. Dvizhenie za reformy v Kitae v kon. XIX v. i Kan Iu-vei. Moscow, 1959.
Wu-hsü pien-fa [Reforms of 1898], vols. l–4. Shanghai, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.