Zhang Zhidong’s Study Building

Zhang Zhidong (1837 -1909), a native of Nanpi of Hebei Province and grand scholar of the Qing Dynasty, had taken the posts of governor of Shanxi Province, governor-general of Guangxi and Guangdong and Grand minister of state concurrently as head of the ministry of education. In the history of Qing Dynasty, he is one of the people who I admired, so in the last Beijing Xian tour, I choosed a spare time and visited his study building. He made acquaintance with many reformists and supported the political reform. He once donated 5,000 taels of silver dollars to the “the Society for National Strengthening” launched by Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, the leaders of the reform movement of 1989. But he was worldly-wise and played safe — he kept at a distance with them.

Zhang maintained that “Taking Old Learning as the basis, and adopting New Learning, as well as advancing the Westernization Movement”, were the right way out for China. He advocated for building roads and railroads, advancing the industry, making education universal and sending Chinese students to study overseas. Once he said: “ Studying abroad for one year equals to the result of reading western books for five years at home.” During his administration as the governor-general of Guangxi and Guangdong, he defeated the invading French armies on the border of Guangxi Province.

In 1889, he was transferred to the post of governor-general of Hunan and Guangdong, ans he set up the Hanyang Iron Mill (China’s first and Asia’s largest of its kind at that time), Hubei Firearm Plant (its “Hanyang 88” rifle, an imitation of the German Mauser rifle had been the major weapons for north Naval Squad , the northern Expeditionary Army and the Red Army), Daye Iron Ore and Pingxiang Coal Mine. He also established four bureaus of textile, weaving, hemp making and filature. He launched dozens of educating units such as the Lianghu (Hunan and Hubei) College, general cultural school, general martial arts school, primary land force school, dialect school and general teacher’s training school of Hunan and Hubei. He also sent students to study in England, French, Germany and Japan.

Similar to Beijing, Xian also has a lot of former residences of Chinese celebrities, such as the Courtyard of Qiao Family, which is a famous tourist attraction in Xian tour.