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Li Hongzhang

A Pioneer Chinese Reformer's Visit to Victoria

This portrait of Li Hongzhang hangs in the meeting room of the Lee Association (Photograph by Charles Yang, 2011)

This portrait of Li Hongzhang hangs in the meeting room of the Lee Association (Photograph by Charles Yang, 2011)

Li Hongzhang (Li Hung Chang, 1823-1901) was an important statesman, diplomat and military leader in late Qing China. During his long and complex career, he helped the Qing government suppress rebellions, represented China at the signing of unequal treaties, and promoted military and economic modernization.

Medal presented by Li Hongzhang to Lim Dar Chor, Lim Bang’s father and a local Chinese community leader in 1896 (City of Victoria Archives, M09425). The original caption for the picture misidentifies the medal as given to Lim Bang, who was only 12 years old in 1896 when Li Hongzhang visited Victoria.

Medal presented by Li Hongzhang to Lim Dar Chor, Lim Bang’s father and a local Chinese community leader in 1896 (City of Victoria Archives, M09425). The original caption for the picture misidentifies the medal as given to Lim Bang, who was only 12 years old in 1896 when Li Hongzhang visited Victoria.

Li rose as a military leader in the campaign against the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864). He first led the military campaign against the rebels in his home province of Anhui and later fought with the support of Western-trained mercenaries around Shanghai. From 1870, Li was governor-general of the province of Zhili and supervised trade with the West in northern ports of China. He encouraged China to adopt modern Western technologies and supported projects such as a steamship line, telegraph, railroad and cotton mill. He was also involved in sending Chinese youth to study in the United States and he established a military academy in China.

Li acted to strengthen China, but he also represented the country abroad when China was forced to make concessions to other powers. As a well known political leader of late Qing China, Li toured Europe and North America in 1896. In England, Queen Victoria named him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Li also received a petition from the Victoria Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association requesting a Chinese consulate in Victoria and intervention against a proposed increase in the head tax on immigrants from China. Li discussed this issue in London, then travelled to the United States, where he met with President Grover Cleveland. Li took the train across Canada and was warmly received by Chinese communities on the West Coast in September 1896. A crowd of about 6000 met him in Vancouver where an elaborate arch worth $2000 graced the route to the Canadian Pacific Railway wharf. A few representatives of Victoria’s Chinese community, including Le Chung, Lee Mong Kow, Ken Youen, and Lou Wing, travelled to Vancouver to greet him. Due to a health condition, Li did not land in Victoria, but his vessel berthed in the local harbour as the last stop of his European-American trip, and he met Premier John Turner and other provincial officials as well as local Chinese community leaders on board the ship.


Sources

“The Chinese Viceroy,” British Colonist, 15 September 1896, 1. http://www.britishcolonist.ca/display.php?issue=18960915 (accessed 21 August 2012).

Lai, Chuen-yan David. Arches in British Columbia (Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1982), 24-26.

Lee, David T.H. A History of Chinese in Canada. Taibei: Zhonghua da dian bian yin hui, 1967: 265-267.

“Li Hongzhang.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. (Accessed 21 August 2012).

“Li Hongzhang – A Controversial Politician in Chinese History,” Cultural China, http://history.cultural-china.com/en/47History6534.html (accessed 21 August 2012).

Mackerras, Colin. China in Transformation, 1900-1949. London: Addison, Wesley, Longman, 1998: 13, 14, 23.

Wickberg, Edgar et al., ed. From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1982: 69, 73-74, 101.