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Reviews 471 Luke S. K. Kwong. Tan Ssu-t'ung, 1865-1898: Life and Thought ofa Reformer . Sinica Leidensia, vol. 36. Leiden, New York, and Köln: E. J. Brill, 1996. Hardcover $97.00, isbn 90-04-10471-2. Luke S. K. Kwong's (Kuang Zhaojiang Jtßs'iitQ book-length study ofTan Sitong 15ShIIr] provides a vivid, in-depth portrayal ofthe life ofone ofthe most famous intellectuals oflate Qing China, whose career as a reformer was tragically cut short when he was beheaded in the aftermath ofthe abortive coup d'état marking the end ofthe Hundred Days Reform. Kwong, who currently teaches history at the University ofLethbridge (Canada) is uniquely qualified to undertake such a study. He began research on Tan's life and works while writing his Master's thesis at the University ofToronto twenty-four years ago (1973), and since then has published numerous works (including his first book) in English and Chinese about Tan and the reform movement he became a part of (see the book's Bibliography ). Kwong is well-read in Western and Asian research on this pivotal period of Chinese history, yet also surpasses previous scholars in terms ofhis ability to evaluate his sources critically as well as to provide an even-handed analysis of dieir contents. Kwong clearly explains the goals and methods ofhis research in his Introduction (pp. 1-12). In treating Tan's entire life, Kwong aims to present "a comprehensive , more balanced reappraisal" ofTan's historical significance (p. 5). Kwong criticizes many ofthe earlybiographical treatments ofTan, particularly the biography published by Liang Qichao shortly after Tan's death, which has influenced much subsequent scholarship. Kwong's remark that Liang's work was not a "disinterested or objective portrayal" but rather "a partisan document produced for a political agenda" (p. 2; see also p. 201) might raise eyebrows in some circles (to what extent can anybiography be considered disinterested or objective?), but Kwong's book does contain specific examples ofhow Liang apparently misrepresented certain aspects ofTan's life (pp. 124-126, 148-150, 165-168). In addition to providing a more balanced picture ofTan's life, Kwong also intends for his biographical study to focus on Tan's humanity (p. 5) and individuality (p. 16), based on the argument that such studies can serve to remind historians ofthe "humanistic origins" oftheir discipline (p. 5). The success ofKwong's effort to present a more balanced and humanistic portrayal ofTan Sitong is based largely on a thorough examination ofTan's writ-© 1997 by University ings, particularly those contained in the 1981 edition ofTan's complete works ofHawai'iPress(jan sitong quanji WM^i^M), a compilation ofdocuments published in Tan's hometown ofLiuyang (Hunan) titled Liuyangwenshi ziliao W$k~3C%!S(P( (1983), and a larger compilation published five years later titled Tan Sitongyanjiu ziliao 472 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 huibian WMÍ^Wt^M^MM. Kwong also gathered additional data during a week-long field trip to Hunan in June 1986, which is described in considerable detail (pp. 9-11). Following the Introduction, the book is divided into two main parts. Part 1 (pp. 15-87) treats the early years ofTan's life and the development ofhis character during the years 1865-1895. In describing the key events marking Tan's youth, Kwong pays close attention to Tan's relationships with the members ofhis family, especially his attachment to his mother (pp. 22, 39, 41-42), his tense relationship with his father Tan Jixun's UlSt&J concubine (née Lu, b. 1848) (pp. 46-52), and his love for his brother Tan Sixiang W-WiIi, who apparently committed suicide on Taiwan in 1889 (pp. 43-49). Kwong shows a strong interest in exploring the ways in which the untimely deaths ofTan's family members may have influenced Tan psychologically, and draws on Robert J. Lifton's Death in Life, Survivors of Hiroshima (New York: Random House, 1969) and other works to argue that Tan, as a "survivor," bore a sense ofguilt (pp. 41, 43). Part 1 also deals with Tan's intellectual development, including his relationships with his teachers from Liuyang and his initial reactions to China's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 471-474
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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