Zhang Zhidong (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Zhang Zhidong was a leading scholar-official in China during the last half-century of the Ch’ing Dynasty. His educational, military, and economic reforms contributed greatly to the survival of China’s last imperial dynasty.
Zhang Zhidong came from a gentry family of modest means. His father, Chang Ying, provided him with a rigorous classical education, and Chih-tung responded with diligence and precocity. At age thirteen, he passed the prefectural exam, becoming a sheng-yüan. At fifteen, Chih-tung, in competition with almost ten thousand scholars, led the list of about one hundred who received the chü-jen degree in Chihli Province.
He delayed taking the metropolitan exam, deterred in part by his father’s death in 1855. In 1863, however, he passed the Peking exam, becoming a chin-shih degree-holder and member of China’s upper gentry. His palace examination, though somewhat controversial, apparently pleased Tz’u-hsi, the empress dowager, who appointed him to the Hanlin Academy in Peking.
From 1867 to 1881, Zhang Zhidong alternated between provincial posts in education in Hupeh and Szechwan, and positions at the Hanlin Academy. At the capital, he associated with a group of conservative Confucian scholars who called themselves the Ch’ing-liu, or purists. The Ch’ing-liu demanded that China adopt a militant stand against foreign...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)
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