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Kang Youwei and the Nanhai Guild Hall

The Nanhai Guild Hall, built in 1824, the fourth year in the Qing Daoguang’s reign( 1821-1850), was located at No.43 in the Mishi (rice market) hutong on the south of the Luomashi Street in Xuanwu District. It was donated by a Beijing official whose native place was in Nanhai, Guangdong. In 1877, the third year in Qing Guangxu’s reign, the hall was extended into 13 courtyards with over 190 rooms.

In 1882, on his way to attend the Beijing Xian tour, Kang Youwei sojourned at the “Qishutang(seven-tree house)”, a side courtyard with seven age-old Chinese scholar trees growing there in the Nanhai Guild Hall. Kang lived in the three rooms in the west of the QIshutang and studied in the other four rooms in the north. Today, all the seven trees died, leaving only a piece of dried up tree stake standing there.

On the eve of the “Wuxu Reform” in1898, Kang established the Universal Gazette and wrote “the Second letter to the Qing Emperor”, and founded the “ Society of Sense of Shame” in the Qishutang. So Kang stayed in the hall for 16 years off and on. The hall became the headquarters of the reformists. It was in this hall where Kang and his colleagues planned for the Wuxu Reform. After they were foiled in their attempt to implement the political reform, Kang and his fellows was obliged to flee. Emperor Guangxu sent an imperial edict in secret to the Nanhai Guild Hall to help Kang escape.

In those years, the 13 courtyards stood independently from each other, but were connected by a high wood corridor. The hall was facilitated with rockwork, gardens and alcoves and widespread with the elm, clove and green vines. Today, the hall was dilapidated. Numerous small bungalows were creeled by local residents and the courtyards were cut into many narrow meandering footpaths. The hall was currently packed with more than 150 households. In the photo is the hall gate.

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