Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Power, Transformation, and Loyalty in Early Republican Hunan

Thu, March 31, 7:30 to 9:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 6th Floor, Room 612


The 1911 Xinhai revolution is typically represented as a rupture that marks a transition between different eras in early 20th century China: from empire to nation, from elite-dominated autocracy to a nascent mass democracy, from feudal Confucian values to modern patterns of behavior. This paper examines the lives of four Hunanese elites—Tan Yankai, Zhao Hengti, Zhong Boyi, and Shi Zuiliu— as a window into seeing how the young elites of the previous system transformed themselves into the political and military leaders of the next. Tan and Zhao in particular were instrumental to how the events of 1911 played out in Hunan; while their behavior during those months has been characterized as reactionary and conservative, analyzing their behavior in the years before and after challenges this perspective. How were these men able to reshape themselves away from a public image of being lackeys to the old regime? How did they justify their shifting loyalties to various states, Qing or otherwise? What was their stated rhetoric for allegiance or hostility to each other? The relationships between these four men illustrate the rapidly changing standards of acceptable behavior for those aspiring to power in the early years of China’s twentieth century, while simultaneously suggesting a number of continuities in political culture that persisted across the 1911 divide.