Yüan Shih-kai

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Yüan Shih-kai

Yüan Shih-kai (yüänˈ shēˈ-kīˈ), 1859–1916, president of China (1912–16). From 1885 to 1894 he was the Chinese resident in Korea, then under Chinese suzerainty. He supported the dowager empress, Tz'u Hsi, against the reform movement (1898) of Emperor Kuang Hsü, and she rewarded him with the vice regency of Zhili (now Hebei). As governor he suppressed the Boxer Uprising, winning foreign favor, which enabled him to build the strongest military force in China. During the revolution of 1911, he procured a truce in which Emperor Hsüan T'ung (Pu Yi) abdicated on Feb. 12, 1912, and Sun Yat-sen, president of the provisional government, resigned in Yüan's favor as President of a Republic. Opposition to Yüan's dictatorial methods soon developed. In 1914 he dissolved the parliament and on Jan. 1, 1916, he assumed the title of emperor. A rebellion in Yunnan forced him almost immediately to restore the Republic. He died in June.


See biographies by J. Ch'en (2d ed. 1972) and E. P. Young (1976).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Yüan Shih-K’ai


Born Sept. 16, 1859, in Hsiangch’eng District, Honan Province; died June 6, 1916, in Peking. Chinese military and political figure.

From 1885 to 1894, Yüan served as the Chinese commissioner in Korea, and in the second half of the 1890’s he was the commander of a corps of the Peiyang (Northern) Army. He joined the K’ang Yu-wei’s reform movement in 1898, but shortly thereafter he betrayed the reformers. From 1899 to 1901, while serving as governor of Shantung Province, he helped suppress the Boxer Rebellion. Yüan was governor-general of Chihli Province from 1901 to 1908. He was stripped of all his offices in 1909.

On Nov. 2, 1911, shortly after the beginning of the Hsinhai Revolution, Yüan was appointed prime minister by the Ch’ing court; he pursued a policy of maneuvering between the revolutionary camp and the monarchy. After the Ch’ing emperor abdicated on Feb. 12, 1912, Yüan, supported by the Peiyang Army and the imperialist powers, took advantage of conciliationist elements in the revolutionary camp to force Sun Yatsen’s resignation from the post of provisional president and to secure the position for himself. After suppressing the Second Revolution in 1913, Yüan established a military dictatorship in China. In May 1915 his government accepted the Twenty-one Demands of Japan, although they were aimed at establishing Japan’s supremacy in China.

In December 1915, Yüan announced his decision to become emperor, thus provoking a broad antimonarchist movement in the country. At the height of the movement, Yüan suddenly died; there is evidence that he poisoned himself.


Lenin, V. I. “Demokratiia i narodnichestvo v Kitae.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Otstalaia Evropa i peredovaia Aziia.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Novaia istoriia Kitaia. Moscow, 1972.
Ch’en, J. Juan Shih-k’ai (1859–1916). London, 1961.


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