K'ang Yu-wei (käng yōō-wā), 1858–1927, Chinese philosopher and reform movement leader. He was a leading philosopher of the new text school of Confucianism, which regarded Confucius as a utopian political reformer. K'ang first gained fame in 1895 when he sent a memorial to the emperor unsuccessfully urging continuation of the war with Japan, rejection of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and adoption of extensive administrative reforms. That same year with Liang Ch'i-ch'ao he founded a reform newspaper and a reform organization, but both were quickly suppressed (1896). Enthusiasm for his ideas spread, however, and several provincial reform associations were founded (1896–97). Again confronted with foreign pressure for concessions, Emperor Kuang-hsu (1898) summoned K'ang to Beijing and asked him to draw up reform plans. In a series of decrees known as the
"hundred days' reform,"
the emperor changed the civil service examination system to include essays on current affairs, established Beijing Univ. as well as western-style provincial schools, abolished many sinecure posts, and revised administrative regulations. Backed by conservative officials, Dowager Empress Tz'u Hsi imprisoned the emperor and rescinded most of the reforms. K'ang fled to Japan and spent the years before the 1911 revolution working for constitutional monarchy. He and Liang were bitterly opposed to the T'ung-meng-hui, an anti-Manchu revolutionary party founded in 1905 under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen. After the revolution, K'ang remained in opposition to the republican government, participating (1917) in an unsuccessful attempt to restore the last Ch'ing emperor, Pu Yi.
See M. E. Cameron, The Reform Movement in China, 1898–1912 (1931, repr. 1963); biography ed. and tr. by Lo Jung-pang (1967).