From around 7th century A.D., China started a civil service examination whereby they selected government officials based on a variety of subjects, chiefly Confucian learning texts. By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), only two subjects remained in the examination: a civics part, focusing on Confucian learning, and a military part (consisting of horse riding, archery, etc.) reserved only for Manchu men. Science and technology, although developed early in China, were ignored by the state. After the Western encroachments into China, more and more Chinese reformers advocated a reform of the imperial examination system, adding subjects such as mathematics and astronomy. Also, many petitioned for establishing government sponsored schools in China to teach Western subjects of science and astronomy. It was under such circumstances that emperor Guang Xu, the nephew of Empress Cixi and Emperor Xian Feng, the emperor who was forced to flee Beijing (Peking) during the Second Opium War and who died a year after the war came to an end in 1861, decided to launch a series of reforms in China.
The Hundred Day Reform (1898)
In 1898 Emperor Guang Xu, together with his advisers, formulated a series of reform proposals. This planning process, however, only lasted for around 100 days, and the emperor's aunt, Empress Dowager Cixi, expressed disagreement with some of the drastic measures of reform. Of six chief advisers of the emperor, four of them were beheaded, and two fled to Japan upon the decision of the empress dowager. The reform was aborted. Some of its decisions, however, were eventually carried out, such as establishing an imperial university in Peking (Beijing) to serve as the state's organ for an eventual educational reform and as a means to train government officials with a combination of Chinese and Western learning. Larger scale reform would be put underway after the Boxer Uprising in 1902.
8. Specific Strategies for Reform: Combining Chinese Culture and Western Learning
Besides the emperor's attempt to reform in 1898, in the face of Western encroachment, many Chinese called for reform and wrote treatises memorializing Emperor Guangxu, persuading him to reform, or they disseminated their ideas in the emerging newspapers and journals in the treaty-ports and other major Chinese cities. The question was how, specifically, how to maintain a degree of equality between China and the West while adopting Western knowledge and practices. Singling out culture, many decided that despite a vast disparity between China and the West militarily and economically, culture-wise China was an equal, if not superior to the West. As you may guess, many Chinese continued to share Emperor Chien Lung's China-centered view of the world, and reform to them was something forced upon them. Hence many agreed to a scheme of Western learning borrowing, called the ti (essence)/yong (application) formula: maintaining Chinese culture as the essence, and applying Western learning to solving the practical problems of the world.
What did ti/yong mean in the language of the reformers? Historically, ti (essence) and yong (application) were treated as two indispensable dimensions of the same thing. Ti was the essence of the thing while yong was its application, just as in Western philosophy, there was the division between the substance and the appearance of