Statesman or warlord? Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) has been both hailed as China’s George Washington for his role in the country’s transition from empire to republic and condemned as a counter-revolutionary. In any list of significant modern Chinese figures, he stands in the first rank.
Yet Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal sheds new light on the controversial history of this talented administrator, fearsome general, and enthusiastic modernizer. After toppling the last emperor of China, Yuan endeavoured to build dictatorial power and establish his own dynasty while serving as the first president of the new republic, eventually declaring himself emperor. Due to his death during the civil war his actions provoked, much Chinese historiography portrays Yuan as a traitor, a usurper, and a villain. Patrick Fuliang Shan offers a wide-ranging analysis of the man’s complex part in shaping modern China. He develops a fresh account of Yuan’s life and career that introduces unique insights and challenges long-held stereotypes.
Just a single biography of Yuan has been published in English in the past hundred years. Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal rectifies that remarkable dearth, drawing on previously untapped primary sources and recent scholarship to posit a lucid, comprehensive, and critical new interpretation of this multi-faceted figure.
Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal will appeal to students, scholars, and general readers who are interested in modern China and its history.
Shan provide readers with a powerful and mostly convincing reappraisal of Yuan based on both primary sources with due attention to traditional and revisionist scholarship. It will surely be a significant addition to the study of Yuan Shikai as well as modern China in the years to come.
Shan’s excellent biography—the first in English since 1961—challenges us to think critically about our preconceptions, and the way in which prevailing historical narratives emerge, rejecting those appealing but ultimately unhelpful binary characterizations which too often blight the telling of China’s recent past.
This book is the most detailed and refreshing account of Yuan Shikai ever published. Drawing on a wide array of source materials, it sheds new light on political changes in the formative era of the modern Chinese state.
Patrick Fuliang Shan’s balanced, comprehensive, and analytical study of Yuan Shikai presents a complete portrait of this bewilderingly controversial leader.
1 An Elite Clan
2 The Early Years
3 Imperial Commissioner in Korea
4 Training the First Modern Army
5 The Hundred Days
6 Governor of Shandong
7 Governor-General of Zhili and Imperial Minister
8 Dismissal and Reclusion
9 The 1911 Revolution
10 Provisional President
Notes; Bibliography; Glossary; Index
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