Kang Youwei, the master of nationalism, could not have anticipated the tragic events after his death

Kang Youwei, a famous master of nationalism in modern Chinese history, straddled two dynasties, the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China. In 1888, he wrote to Emperor Guangxu for the first time, pointing out that Japan was “waiting for Jilin in the east, the British had started Tibet and Yunnan in the west, and the Russians had built a railroad in the north and forced Shengjing. He pointed out that Japan was “waiting for Jilin in the east, the British had started the Tibetan and Wei and peeped into Sichuan and Yunnan in the west, the Russians had built the railway in the north and forced Shengjing. But because of the obstruction, the petition did not reach the hands of the Guangxu Emperor.

In 1895, Kang Youwei, who was taking the imperial examinations in Beijing, was shocked and indignant when he heard the news of the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and united with more than 1,300 scholars to launch a “public chariot petition”, and proposed specific reform measures in various aspects. In 1898, with the permission of Cixi and Guangxu Emperor, he started to carry out the change of law, which was called the “Hundred Days Reform”. Eventually, Kang Youwei and other reformist officials put forward some unrealistic and radical policies, forcing Cixi to launch a coup d’état, and Kang Youwei was also wanted.

After several changes, Kang Youwei fled overseas and founded the Royalist Society in July 1899, proposing “constitutional monarchy” and “opposing revolution”. After the Xinhai Revolution, Kang Youwei returned to China and settled in Shanghai, where he was actively involved in the restoration of the imperial system, and the restoration of Zhang Xun in 1917, which failed.

In 1923, Kang Youwei moved to his beloved Qingdao, where he died suddenly one day in March 1927 after attending a banquet with his fellow villagers. The cause of his death has been variously described as an illness or a death, but the public version is still that he died of illness. After his death, he was buried in Qingdao.

After the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the country “broke the Four Olds”. Although Kang Youwei, who was regarded as “the biggest royalist in Chinese history”, died early, he was not spared either. His grave in Qingdao was dug up by the Red Guards of a school and his bones were whipped, while his skull with white hair was tied to a stick and carried by the Red Guards for public display, while his bones were raised on the spot and could not be recovered.

Fortunately, Wang Jiqin, a researcher at the Qingdao Municipal Museum, risked being branded as a filial son of the royalists and offered to take the skull to the museum for exhibition as an object of “justified rebellion”, and received permission from the Red Guards. After the exhibition, Wang Jiqin took advantage of the chaos to receive Kang Youwei’s skull and relics into a wooden box, avoiding further calamity, and handed them over after the Cultural Revolution.

Kang Youwei had 12 children, only 2 sons and 4 daughters grew up, and most of his descendants live abroad. His second daughter Kang Tongbi and granddaughter Luo Yifeng, born to his original wife Zhang Yunzhu, also went through the vicissitudes of the Cultural Revolution because they chose to stay on the mainland.

Kang Tongbi went to the United States to study at an early age, and entered Harvard University and Carlinford University, returning to China after graduation. She was the vice president of the Universal Women’s Association, the president of Shandong Ethics, and the president of the Chinese Women’s Association, and later married Luo Chang and had a daughter and a son. She was elected as a representative in the Senate of seven provinces in North China convened by Fu Zuoyi to negotiate with the Chinese Communist Party on the peaceful occupation of Beiping. After the Chinese Communist Party usurped power, Kang Tongbi was hired as a member of the Central Museum of Literature and History and was also elected to three terms of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Due to her husband’s early death, her son Luo Rongbang settled in the United States and she lived with her daughter Luo Yifeng.

During the Cultural Revolution, both of them were affected. Zhang Naiqi’s son, Zhang Lifan, published an article in 2004 titled “The Disrupted World: Remembering Kang Tongbi’s Mother and Daughter during the Cultural Revolution”, in which he described the situation. According to the article, the Red Guards not only raided their home and removed the refrigerator, but also criticized Kang Tongbi, who was nearly 90 years old, with ink on her face, but the mother and daughter still helped the poor and did not consider their own safety.

Kang Tongbi was very angry about the violence of the Cultural Revolution throughout the country, and once said in front of Zhang Lifan that he would write to Mao: “If this goes on, what will become of the country? If you want to bring down Liu Shaoqi, it’s up to you two, don’t make the whole country suffer!” She also pointed to the portrait on the wall and said, “What longevity, I think it’s a disaster for all generations!”

Because of Kang Tongbi’s background, she did not receive good treatment even after she fell ill. In Zhang Yihe’s “The Past Is Not As Smoky”, he describes Kang Tongbi’s death: “At first, the old lady was only suffering from a cold, so she first recuperated at home. When she got sicker and sicker, she was admitted to the hospital and put in the observation room. The narrow bed was right in front of the door, and the wind was blowing all the time, and people were passing by. Luo Yifeng pleaded repeatedly to see if she could be transferred to a ward. The hospital staff gave her a blank look and replied, ‘Your mother is just a socialite, so she can stay here. A few days later, Kang Tongbi died in the observation room.” The time was August 17, 1969, and the old man was 83 years old.

Kang Tongbi’s daughter, Luo Yifeng, graduated from the Department of Home Economics at Yanjing University and did not join any unit, but she could not escape her fate during the Cultural Revolution, and was “repaired” by the street office, which made her account for her relationship with Yanjing University President Situ Lei-Deng as a teacher and student. Luo Yifeng was like a scared bird, not knowing what to do, and was later imprisoned. After her release from prison, she followed her parents in 1974, not waiting for the end of the Cultural Revolution.

What kind of sigh should Kang Youwei, who knows what happened underground, let out?