Li Hongzhang 李鸿章

The minister of Beiyang who founded modern industry


Chinese Name: 李鸿章

English Name: Li Hongzhang

Other Names: Zhangtong 章铜, Li Zhongtang 李中堂, Mr. Li Er 李二先生, Li Fuxiang 李傅相, Li Wenzhong 李文忠

Born: February 15, 1823

Died: November 7, 1901


Drill Huai Army to suppress Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement and Nian Army Uprising 操练淮军,镇压太平天国运动及捻军起义

Actively advocate building a modern navy and establish the Beiyang Navy 积极倡建近代海军,建立北洋水师

One of the representatives of the Westernization Movement and establishing industry 洋务运动的代表人物之一,兴办实业

Main Works:

Complete Works of Li Wenzhong 李文忠公全集

Li Hongzhang 李鸿章
Li Hongzhang 李鸿章

Brief Biography of Li Hongzhang

Li Hongzhang was a politician, diplomat, and military general in the late Qing Dynasty 清朝.

Li Hongzhang (February 15, 1823, to November 7, 1901) was originally known as Zhangtong 章铜, courtesy name Jianfu 渐甫 and Zifu 子黻, art name Shaoquan 少荃. He was born in Hefei 合肥, Anhui Province 安徽省. Most people call him as “Li Zhongtang 李中堂” or “Mr. Li Er 李二先生”, “Li Fuxiang 李傅相” and “Li Wenzhong 李文忠”.

Li Hongzhang was a scholar in the 27th year of Daoguang 道光 (1847). In his early years, he followed Zeng Guofan 曾国藩, his teacher, to suppress the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement and the Nian Army Uprising, and was ordered to form the Huai Army. He was promoted to the governor of Zhili, and also the minister of commerce in Beiyang 北洋. During this period, he began to handle westernization affairs and founded the Beiyang Naval Force. After the failure of the Sino-Japanese War, he signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki 马关条约 with Japan as a special envoy. Later, he was appointed governor of Guangdong and Guangxi.

Li Hongzhang 李鸿章
Zeng Guofan 曾国藩

In the 26th year of Guangxu 光绪’s reign (1900), after the outbreak of the war of aggression against China by the Eight Power Allied Forces, he participated in “mutual protection in the southeast” and went north to negotiate. The following year, he signed the “Treaty of Humiliation” with Prince Qing Yi Xun on behalf of the Qing government. He soon died of illness in Beijing at the age of 79. After his death, he was presented to Tai Fu, with the posthumous title of “Wen Zhong”. His works were received in the Complete Works of Li Wenzhong 《李文忠公全集》.

Li Hongzhang was one of the main leaders of the Westernization Movement 洋务运动, and together with Zeng Guofan, Zhang Zhidong, 张之洞 and Zuo Zongtang 左宗棠, was called the “Four Famous Officials of ZTE”. The Empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧太后 regarded him as a person who “assisted ZTE to overcome difficulties” and “helped alleviate difficulties and reconciled China and foreign countries”. However, because he signed a series of unequal treaties on behalf of the Qing government, coupled with personal corruption, decision-making mistakes, and other issues, it also attracted a lot of criticism.

Personal Life and Major Contributions

Early experience

Li Hongzhang was born on the fifth day of the first month of the third year of Daoguang (February 15, 1823) in Modian Township 磨店乡, Dongxiang 东乡, Hefei County 合肥县, Anhui Province 安徽省 (today’s Yaohai District 瑶海区, Hefei City 合肥市, Anhui Province 安徽省). He is the son of Li Wen’an 李文安 and his wife, Mrs Li. He is also called “Mr. Li Er” among the people because he is the second of the eight brothers and sisters.

Li Hongzhang 李鸿章
The former residence of Li Hongzhang 李鸿章故居

Li Hongzhang entered Dihua Bookstore at the age of six to study. He was young and intelligent. He successively learned from Li Fangxian 李仿仙 and Xu Ziling 徐子苓, a famous scholar in Hefei.

Sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki

On March 23 (April 17), Li Hongzhang signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki 马关条约 with Ito Bowen 伊藤博文 on behalf of the Qing government. According to the provisions of the peace treaty, North Korea has become an independent country from a dependency of the former Qing Dynasty; The Qing Dynasty ceded Liaodong Peninsula, Taiwan Island and Penghu Islands to Japan; Compensation for military expenditure of 200 million liang; Japan has obtained the most favored nation treatment, and at the same time, it is free to engage in various manufacturing industries in the newly opened commercial ports. This has strengthened Japan’s capital export to China.

Li Hongzhang 李鸿章
Sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki 签订马关条约

During the agreement period, Li Hongzhang privately informed other great powers of the negotiation process, urging Russia, Germany and France, who did not want Japan to monopolize the Liaodong Peninsula, to intervene and demanding that Japan abandon the Liaodong Peninsula. The Japanese side gave in and agreed to abandon the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Qing government paid 30 million liang of “redemption fee” as compensation.

Carry out Westernization Movement

On the basis of adhering to the principle of “Chinese style and Western style”, Li Hongzhang believed that only through reform can we cope with the current situation and face “strong enemies that have not existed for thousands of years”. He repeatedly criticized and sighed deeply at the national convention of the time.

Li Hongzhang’s “reform” began with “self-improvement”. In the fourth year of Tongzhi 同治 (1865), when acting as the governor of Liangjiang, Li Hongzhang, with the support of Zeng Guofan, acquired the Shanghai Hongkou Meishang Qiji Iron Factory, merged with Han Dianjia 韩殿甲 and Ding Richang 丁日昌, and expanded into Jiangnan Manufacturing Bureau, in view of the incomplete equipment of the original three bureaus. At the same time, Suzhou Machinery Bureau also moved to Nanjing with Li Hongzhang and expanded to Jinling Machinery Bureau. In the ninth year of Tongzhi (1870), Li Hongzhang, who was transferred as governor of Zhili, took over Tianjin Machinery Bureau and expanded the production scale.

Li Hongzhang 李鸿章
Westernization Movement 洋务运动

After assuming the post of Governor of Zhili in the 1870s, Li Hongzhang became more responsible and had a broader vision. Looking at the development of all countries in the world, he deplored the weakness of China because of “poverty”. He came to the conclusion that “prosperity and strength are related to each other” and “prosperity comes before strength”. Therefore, while continuing to prepare for the military industry of “strong ships and powerful artillery”, he shifted the focus of learning from the West to the civilian industry aimed at “seeking wealth”.


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