With China in the late 19th century falling behind technologically, militarily, and politically, various efforts at reform sough to halt the decline. The Hundred Days of Reform in 1898 sought to empower the Guangxu Emperor to modernize China, but the Dowager Empress Cixi and conservative elements quickly retook control, halting the reforms. Exiled leaders sought support from the overseas Chinese, calling both on their financial resources and their experiences in the West to continue the reforms and re-empower the Emperor. Key leaders Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao established the Chinese Empire Reform Association with branches around the world, including many throughout the North American West. Montana’s Chinese population was particularly well represented and active in the Chinese Empire Reform Association, with both Kang and Liang being impressed by their organization and activism during visits to the state’s many branches.
Concordia International School Shanghai conducted the first ever study of the Chinese Empire Reform Association efforts in Montana. The students analyzed census data, articles of incorporation filed by the organizers, photomontages of the members, and newspaper accounts from the time reporting on the organization’s activities.
Becoming Chinese in Montana by Mark Johnson
Article originally published in the Winter 2014 edition of Montana: The Magazine of Western History.
Used with permission.
Student Jonathan Tai’s documentary film on the Chinese Empire Reform Associations of Montana
Becoming Chinese in Montana: The Chinese Empire Reform Association & National Identity among Montana’s Chinese Communities
Lecture by Mark Johnson, Fellow, Institute for Educational Initiatives, University of Notre Dame