Tan Sitong 谭嗣同

A thinker who killed himself to awaken the nation


Chinese Name: 谭嗣同

English Name: Tan Sitong

Other Names: Tan Fusheng 谭复生, Tan Dufei 谭壮飞

Born: March 10, 1865

Died: September 28, 1898


One of the “six gentlemen of 1898” 戊戌六君子之一

Main Works:

Benevolence 《仁学》

Yuanyi Hall Collection of Foreign Languages 《远遗堂集外文》

Tan Sitong 谭嗣同
Tan Sitong 谭嗣同

Brief Biography of Tan Sitong

Tan Sitong is a famous politician, thinker, and reformist in modern China.

Tan Sitong (March 10, 1865, to September 28, 1898) was born in Shuntianfu 顺天府 (today’s Beijing 北京), Liuyang County 浏阳县, Changsha Prefecture 长沙府, Hunan Province 湖南省 (today’s Liuyang City, Hunan Province). His book Benevolence is the first philosophical work of the Reformation School and an important work in the history of modern Chinese thought.

Tan Sitong 谭嗣同
The former residence of Tan Sitong 谭嗣同故居

In his early years, Tan Sitong advocated running a current affairs school, a southern society, etc. in his hometown of Hunan, hosted the Hunan News, and advocated opening mines, building railways, publicizing reform and reform, and promoting the New Deal.

In the 24th year of Guangxu 光绪 (1898), Tan Sitong participated in leading the Reform Movement of 1898 戊戌变法 and was killed after his failure. He was only 33 years old and was one of the “six gentlemen of 1898”.

Personal Life and Major Contributions

His early life

In 1865 (the fourth year of Tongzhi 同治’s reign), Tan Sitong was born in the Didi, Nanmian Hutong, Xuanwu City 宣武城, Beijing.

In 1875 (the first year of Guangxu’s reign), when Tan Sitong was 10 years old, he learned from Ouyang Zhonghu 欧阳中鹄, a famous scholar in Liuyang. Under the influence of Ouyang Zhonghu, he became interested in Wang Fuzhi 王夫之‘s thought and was enlightened by patriotism. He studied extensively and was good at learning how to help the people. His articles were very talented. He was very disgusted with the traditional stereotyped prose, and wrote down the words “How can this be?” in his textbook.

Tan Sitong 谭嗣同
Wang Fuzhi 王夫之

In 1876 (the second year of Guangxu’s reign), Tan Sitong was 12 years old. He was seriously ill and passed out for three days. He was miraculously revived, so he was named “Rebirth”. He admired those reckless heroes who fought against the strong and helped the weak. In the same year, he made friends with a “righteous hero” named Dadao Wang Wu 大刀王五 in Beijing at that time, and they became the best friends of life and death.

In 1877 (the third year of Guangxu’s reign), Tan Sitong made friends with Tang Caichang 唐才常 in Liuyang. He learned from Tu Qixian 涂启先, systematically studied Chinese classics, and began to contact with natural sciences such as mathematics and Gezhi. After that, he went to Lanzhou 兰州 to study in his father’s Taoism Department.

In 1884 (the 10th year of Guangxu’s reign), Tan Sitong left home and traveled to Zhili (now Hebei), Gansu 甘肃, Xinjiang 新疆, Shaanxi 陕西, Henan 河南, Hubei 湖北, Jiangxi 江西, Jiangsu 江苏, Anhui 安徽, Zhejiang 浙江, Shandong 山东, Shanxi 山西 and other provinces to observe the local conditions and make friends with celebrities.

In 1888 (the 14th year of Guangxu’s reign), under the guidance of the famous scholar Liu Renxi, he began to seriously study the works of Wang Fuzhi and others, drawing on the democratic essence and materialistic ideas, while extensively collecting and reading books that introduced western science, history, geography and politics at that time to enrich himself.

Participating in the Reform Movement of 1898

Tan Sitong devoted his life to the reform and advocated that China should be strong and prosperous only by developing national industry and commerce and learning from the political system of the western bourgeoisie. He was the most radical among the reformers who openly put forward the idea of abolishing imperial examinations, revitalizing schools, opening mineral deposits, building railways, running factories, and changing the official system.

In his early years, he held the New Deal in Hunan, and cultivated a large number of reformers by using the School of Current Affairs; Later, he participated in and led the Reform Movement of 1898 (the 24th year of Guangxu’s reign). During this period, he assisted Emperor Guangxu in carrying out the reform, rectifying the official system, and eliminating the evils of government.

Tan Sitong 谭嗣同
Six gentlemen of 1898 戊戌六君子

Finally, he sacrificed for the reform with the determination of “willing to brush the dirty government with blood”, spread the new culture and ideas of the bourgeoisie, and criticized the old culture and ideas of feudalism. Although the fraternity, equality and freedom of the bourgeoisie are false, they have used fraternity, equality and freedom to break away from feudal autocracy and feudal ethics. Under the historical situation of old China, they have made outstanding progress in the fierce anti feudal autocracy.

Give up his life heroically

In 1898 (the 24th year of Guangxu period), Tan Sitong participated in the Reform Movement of 1898. After the failure of the political reform, he died bravely on September 28, 1898 (the 24th year of Guangxu’s reign) at the Caishikou execution ground outside Xuanwu Gate 宣武门 in Beijing. He was only 33 years old. At the same time, Lin Xu 林旭, Yang Shenxiu 杨深秀, Liu Guangdi 刘光第, Yang Rui 杨锐 and Kang Guangren 康广仁, six of the reformers who were also killed, were also known as the “Six Gentlemen of 1898”.

Tan Sitong 谭嗣同
Benevolence 《仁学》

In 1899 (the 25th year of Guangxu’s reign), his remains were transported back to the original places and buried at the foot of the Stone Mountain outside Liuyang City, Hunan Province 湖南省.

Video: Liuyang Guild Hall, former residence of Tan Sitong

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