Wang Jingwei’s significance in the Guomindang and Chinese political arena makes it easier to overlook his activities and accomplishments in other areas. Before going to Japan, the young Wang Jingwei and his peers from the same village had organized Qunzhishe to encourage practical learning. During the Tongmenghui period, he formed an assassination squad with his comrades to plot against the Manchurian Qing officials with the goal to stimulate public sentiments for the revolution. In the early days of the Republic he founded The Society to Promote Virtue to correct negative social behaviors. After arriving in France, he joined with fervor The Diligent-Work-Frugal-Study Movement and the movement to study abroad in Europe. Based on his love for poetry and passion to save the country, Wang Jingwei was also a key member of the revolutionary poetry society Nanshe. He was also a board member of the Science Society of China, promoting the popularization of science. Through these associations, we can better understand the many facets of Wang Jingwei’s colorful life. A few of these are described below, they are also mentioned in our books Wang Jingwei & Modern China.
Also known as Chinese United League or Chinese Revolutionary Alliance, Tongmenghui was founded in August, 1905 in Tokyo, Japan. It brought together several revolutionary groups, the most powerful ones being Xingzhonghui (Revive China Society) led by Sun Yat-sen in Guangdong; Huaxinghui (China Revival Society) with Huang Xing, Song Jiaoren and other revolutionaries from Hunan; and the Guangfuhui (Restoration Society) of Zhejiang natives such as Zhang Binglin, Tao Chengzhang. Sun Yat-sen was elected chairman, with the goal “to expel the Tatar barbarians, to revive Zhonghua, to establish a Republic, and to distribute land equally among the people.”
In July 1905, Wang Jingwei, Hu Hanmin, Zhu Zhixin and others who went to study in Tokyo met Sun Yat-sen for the first time at a meeting of other youths from Guangdong. They immediately joined the Xingzhonghui led by Sun Yat-sen. When Tongmenghui was officially established, the 22 year-old Wang Jingwei, as one of the party’s founder members who helped draft Tongmenghui’s charter, was elected head of the party council and chief writer of the party organ Minbao. In November, he used his pename Jingwei for the first time in the essay Minzu de guomin (“Citizens of a Nation”, see Wang Jingwei’s Political Discourse: Selected Essays and Speeches, pp.2-25).which advocated for freedom, equality, and national consciousness, and exposing the authoritarianism of the Qing court. From this point forward, he used the name Jingwei in his writings. In Minbao, he also engaged in a series of debates with Xinmin congbao(New Citizen), the organ of the “Royalists,” led by Liang Qichiao.
When it was first established, Tongmenghui focused its work on mobilization and propaganda, with most of the propaganda pieces written by Wang Jingwei. The Qing government felt threatened by the powerful Tongmenghui and pressured the Japanese government which, in turn, asked Sun Yat-sen to leave Japan with a sum of money in March 1907. Accompanying Sun at that time, were Hu Hanmin and Kayano Nagatomo, who were sympathetic to the Chinese revolution. In April, Wang Jingwei met Sun in Hong Kong, and traveled with him to Annam (Vietnam), passing through Saigon, Haiphong, arriving in Hanoi. At that time, the party was organized in Singapore and Penang; after this trip, wherever they went, Wang Jingwei became responsible for expanding local groups or establishing new ones where they did not exist before. In places such as French Annam, British and Dutch Nanyang (Southeast Asia), and Burma, more than one hundred party branches were organized. Branch members consisted mainly of small businessmen and workers, but big merchants also joined Tongmenghui. As a result of this organization and propaganda, 90 percent of the funding for the upcoming Revolutionary Army was raised from overseas Chinese, many of whom also returned to China to join the revolution.
At the end of 1908, after six failed revolutionary attempts had ended, people within the party felt alarmed, while the government continued to crack down on the revolutionaries with more severe methods. Minbao in Tokyo was shut down. Internal conflicts caused a fissure within the party and brought Sun Yat-sen’s leadership position into question. Wang Jingwei, who supported Sun, began to plan the assassination of Qing officials to boost the party’s morale, and to reclaim the support of the people. Wang organized an assassination squad with fellow party members. Even though the attempt failed, his valor and spirit earned him the reputation as a national revolutionary hero, and succeeded in stimulating the enthusiasm within the party.
After the Xinhai Revolution succeeded and the Republic of China was founded in 1911, many political parties emerged. In August 1912, Song Jiaoren united four other newly formed groups (such as the Unified Republican Party, etc) to form the Guomindang, with Sun as the party chairman. In March 1913, Song was assassinated and Yuan Shikai amassed the political power and formed the Beiyang government. After Sun Yat-sen, Huang Xing and other revolutionaries failed to overthrow Yuan with the Second Revolution, they exiled to Japan. Yuan became the President of the Republic of China, and ordered the dissolution of the Guomindang. Sun established the Chinese Revolutionary Party.
Wang Jingwei married Chen Bijun in 1912 and went to France. He did not agree with Sun’s edict to consider himself the supreme commander of the Chinese Revolutionary Party, and thus did not join it. After the death of Yuan in 1916, the Chinese Revolutionary Party stopped all activities, and Wang returned to China the following year to support Sun’s Constitution Protection Movement. Wang was in charge, along with Hu Hanmin, Liao Zhongkai and Zhu Zhixin, to establish military forces in the south to fight against the northern warlords. In 1919, Sun Yat-sen established the Zhongguo guomindang (Nationalist Party of China) on the foundation of the Chinese Revolutionary Party. The new reformed party was no longer a secret organization and became a more formalized political party.
At the end of the Qing dynasty, some of the members of the Tongmenghui—headed by Zhang Taiyan—were exploring the idea of overthrowing Sun Yat-sen’s leadership. Aside from the internal disputes within the Party, the spirit of the members became disorganized after the failure of several revolutionary uprisings, and the Party’s cohering force was lost. in 1909 Wang Jingwei and his close friends established an Assassination Squad, with the hope to use the killings of Manchurian Qing officials to reignite revolutionary sentiments. These six members were Fang Junying (the Executive Director of the Tongmenghui), Zeng Xing, Chen Bijun, Li Zhongshi, Huang Fusheng, and Yu Peilun. The senior members of Tongmenghui such as Sun Yat-sen, Huang Xing and Hu Hanmin did not agree with the plan, Wang Jingwei had written “Letter to Hu Hanmin” and “Farewell to Mr. Sun Yat-sen” (see Wang Jingwei’s Political Discourse: Selected Essays and Speeches, pp.26-32) to express his decision to sacrifice his life for the revolution.
The Assassination Squad originally planned to kill government officials in Guangzhou, and experimented with dynamite at a farm in Hong Kong to build a bomb. However, fearing that the activity would adversely affect Zhu Zhixin’s plans for the New Army Revolutionary Uprising, they changed the location to Wuhan. Afterwards, after weighing Beijing’s political position as much greater than Wuhan’s, they finally decided to make Beijing’s Prince Regent as their target. The dynamite originally planned for use in Wuhan was later used by the revolutionary comrades at the Wuhan Uprising. Chen Bijun returned to Malaysia and with the help of her mother, sold jewelry to fund revolutionary activities.
In November 1909, Chen Bijun, Li Zhongshi, Huang Fusheng and Yu Peilun arrived in Beijing with the first batch of dynamite. One month later, traveling alone, Wang Jingwei arrived in Beijing with the second batch of dynamite, with essays previously published in Minbao that he considered important sewn into his clothing. The other members of the squad Zeng Xing and Fang Junying, stayed in Tokyo.
To create a hiding place for the Assassination Squad’s activities, Huang Fusheng opened the Shouzhen Photography Studio near Fire God Temple in the Liulichang district of downtown Beijing. They chose Shichahai, an historic scenic area with three lakes in north central Beijing, as the location for their attack because the Prince Regent passed this spot every morning, and few people lingered in this quiet place. The Ganshui Bridge offered a good place to hide the landmine. Huang Fusheng and Yu Peilun were responsible for burying the dynamite, while Wang Jingwei would hide in the shaded ravine to detonate the fuse. After an attempt in February 1910 failed, and the dynamite was discovered, all of Beijing was heavily guarded. The plot had to be aborted.
Chen Bijun, Li Zhongshi and Yu Peilun returned to Tokyo to plan their second attempt with Zeng Xing and Fang Junying, while Wang Jingwei and Huang Fusheng remained in Beijing. In March 1910 their plan was exposed. Wang Jingwei and Huang Fusheng were arrested. Both were interrogated twice and sentenced to life imprisonment. Wang Jingwei was sent to prison by the Ministry of Justice and brought in front of Prince Su, who asked him, “How could revolutionaries not make things difficult for the Manchurians?” Wang’s answer was: “The only way is for the court to adopt democracy. There is no alternative.”
Wang Jingwei was kept in chains in prison, his twice-daily meal consisted of coarse rice, a bowl of water and a piece of salted turnip. After he joined the revolution and published essays advocating for the revolution, Wang took the initiative to disconnect from his family and dissolve his betrothal to Miss Liu. Now in prison, he was cut off from the outside world. During that year, he received news from Chen Bijun and Zeng Xing only via secret arrangements with prison guards. When he was arrested, Wang Jingwei had already written the four poems “Impromptu verses upon my arrest” expressing clearly his determination. In jail, he also put his sentiments and thoughts into poetry, and began writing poems which later became the Shuangjiaolou collection.
While Wang was in prison, Chen Bijun, Fang Junying, Zeng Xing, Li Zhongshi, Yu Peilun and others participated in the 1911 Huanghuagang Battle; Yu was killed during this time. After the Wuchang Uprising, the Qing court and the Wuhan revolutionaries negotiated peace, with the release of Wang Jingwei as the one condition. That same year on September 16, Wang Jingwei and Haung Fusheng were released from prison.
In 1912, Wang Jingwei and Cai Yunpe, Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui, Zhang Ji and other members of the Tongmenghui founded the Jindehui (Society to Promote Virtue), aiming to correct the evils of society. The Society did not have a manager or a constitution, and it did not accept membership fees. The members were divided by four levels of prohibitions: General members did not participate in debauchery, gambling, or taking concubines; in addition, members of Group A did not accept government posts; the next level of membership (Group B) also did not become senators and did not smoke, while members of Group C added not drinking alcohol or eating meat to all the prohibitions.
Wang Jingwei and Chu Minyi were both Group C members. The Society to Promote Virtue membership list and related news were published on Minlibao. At the same time, Wang Jingwei, Cai Yunpei, Song Zongren and some thirty others also founded the “Six No’s” (no prostitution, no gambling, no concubinage, no drinking, no smoking, and no meat consumption) and the Association to Improve Society, which was of similar nature to the Society to Promote Virtue.
Wang Jingwei was a main force behind the Diligent Work-Frugal Study and later, the Movement for Education in Europe during the early years of the Republic, making great contributions to education via studying abroad and Sino-French exchange.
During 1912 when the Society to Promote Virtue and Six No’s were founded to improve social morality, Wang Jingwei, Wu Zhihui, Li Shizeng, Zhang Jingjiang, Zhang Ji, Chu Minyi and others also initiated the Frugal Study in France program. Preparation schools were set in Beijing to promote “studying abroad through savings and studying diligently through working and being frugal.” Anyone above the age of 14 could become a member of the program. Students were enrolled in the preparation schools to study French and learn how to live in France. More than eighty members were sent to France in the first year of the program.
There were labor shortages in France after the outbreak of WWI. Therefore, Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui and others founded the Diligent Work - Frugal Study programs, to encourage Chinese students to study in France through part-time laboring work. From then on, Diligent Work - Frugal Study had become one of the most important means for studying abroad. Thousands of Chinese students, including Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, studied in France through the programs during the late 1910s and early 1920s (see Wang Jingwei: His Life, Ideas and Beliefs, pp.32-33).
In 1916, Wang Jingwei, Cai Yuanpei, Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui and others established the Société Franco-Chinoise d’Education to promote Sino-French relationship through education. Cai Yuanpei was the president while Wang Jingwei the vice president. In the meantime, Wang, Cai and Li also served as editors for the society’s organ, La Revue des Chinois d’Europe.
In 1920, the Society established the Sino-French Institute in Beijing and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises in Paris (the latter became a part of the Université de Paris and changed its name to the Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises de Paris in 1929). In 1921, the Institut Franco-Chinois de Lyon was established to further promote Sino-French cultural exchanges. Wang Jingwei was among the founding board of directors and also served as the Chinese representative in the academic council of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises de Paris in 1930. Wang Jingwei’s close associates such as Chu Minyi and Zeng Zhongming also played important roles in the Movement for Education in Europe. Chu was in the founding board of directors and secretary and Zeng was in the board of directors and the secretary-general at the Institut Franco-Chinois de Lyon.
Nanshe was a literary society of scholars advocating for Han Nationalism with the goal to eliminate Manchu rule through revolution. It was initiated in 1909 by Liu Yazi, Chen Qubing and Gao Xu in Suzhou; all three were members of Tongmenghui. It was named Nanshe (Southern Society) in opposition to the North represented by the Manchurian Qing. From its inception until it was disbanded in 1923, Nanshe had more than 1,000 members.
The literary style Nanshe promoted was founded on the revival and development of classical literature. It was what Wang Jingwei considered Chinese revolutionary literature with special historical significance. Wang Jingwei officially completed his Nanshe membership application before leaving for France in 1912, becoming one of its earliest members. In 1936, Liu Yazi said: “Wang Jingwei can be considered the representative of Nanshe.” This is a validation of Wang Jingwei’s accomplishments in revolutionary literature. After the original Nanshe was disbanded, a New Nanshe was established in 1923, with Wang Jingwei continuing to participate in its activities.
In early 1930, Wang Jingwei used Manzhao as a penname (Wang also considered “Jianzhao” and “Chengzhao” but finally decided on “Manzhao”, see Wang Jingwei Nanshe Poetry, p.2) to publish in Nanshe Poetry column in the South China Daily and China Daily with a main focus to introduce the poetry of Nanshe Society members (such as Yu Youren, Liu Yazi, Su Manshu and others). Nanshe shihua contains examples of Wang’s old poetry and his thoughts about the changing trends within literary circles at that time. It also records the interactions among Nanshe members, anecdotes and revolutionary experiences. Nanshe shihua (Poetry of Nanshe) is an indispensable source of reference for the study of the literary societies, intellectuals and revolutionary literature during the Republican period.
Based on his love for poetry, Wang Jingwei became an important member of Nanshe; to support education, Wang made many contributions to overseas study and the movements to promote “diligent work and frugal study.” Less known is Wang’s relationship to the cultural association Science Society of China.
Science Society of China was founded by Cornell University’s overseas Chinese students Ren Hongjuan, Bing Zhi, Hu Mingfu and others with the desire to save China through science, a concept that was supported by many contemporary Chinese intellectuals. The academic society was set up in 1915 and published Kexue (Science) magazine with the goal to promote science and industry, to standardize terminologies and to disseminate knowledge. Along with its founders, who returned to China after completing their degrees, the Science Society of China also moved to China. It formed a board of trustees in 1922 to decide general directions of the organization and to raise funds. Wang Jingwei, who was then helping Sun Yat-sen prepare the Guangzhou Militarist Government, was elected as a founding trustee along with eight others including Cai Yunpei and Liang Qichao, for a nine-year term.
In the beginning of 1920, Wang, who also served as the director general of the Science Society of China’s Guangzhou branch, contributed to fundraising for a science library. In the 1930s, Wang, who was by then the premier of the Nationalist Government, was also a member of the Society’s group in law and politics as well as a trustee. In 1937, while traveling in Europe, he was a special member of the Society. Wang’s belief in the important role of science and technology in China’s development can be seen in his close relationship with the Science Society of China.
Wang Jingwei. Wang Jingwei: His Life, Ideas and Beliefs, Taipei: China Times, 2019
Manzhao. Wang Jingwei Nanshe Poetry, Taipei: China Times, 2019
Yang Yufeng and Niu Yangshan eds. Two Versions of Poetry of Nanshe (Nansheshihua liangzhong), Beijing: Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe, 1997
Hu Puan ed. Selected Poems of Nanshe (Nanshe congxuan), Guoxuezhe, 1924
Sun Zhimei. Study of Nanshe (Nanshe yanjiu), Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 2003
Lin Xiangling. Textual Analysis of Poetry of Nanshe (Nanshe shihua kaoshu), Liren shuju), 2013
Wang Mengchuan. “Wang Jingwei and the 'Representative Figure' of Nanshe” (Wang Jingwei yu Nanshe daibiao renwu shuo). Jianghan Tribune, no.4 (2006), 114-6
Chen Sanjing ed. The Movement of Diligent Work - Frugal Study (Qinggong jianxue yundong), Taipei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1981
Chen Sanjing. Movement to Study Abroad: Educating Chinese Youth in Europe (Lü Ou jiaoyu yundong: minchu ronghe shijie xueshu de lixiang). Taipei: Xiuwei zixun keji, 2013