Ah, hostile biography. Today I’ll be discussing what I’ve picked up reading a book about Yuan Shih-k’ai (now just Yuan Shikai), the first President of post-revolutionary China. He’s one of those figures I’d never even heard of, and when I stumbled upon Jerome Chen’s eponymously titled biography of the man, I decided to read it mostly out of curiosity regarding his role in Seoul in the turbulent 1880s.I‘d assumed his involvement there was the main reason the book was in the library’s holdings at all, to be honest, but it turns out he’s actually more like China’s equivalent of Syngman Rhee, except that just before his downfall, he decided to try and get instated as Emperor of China. (The idea of a reinstatement of monarchy was popular there in 1915.) By Chen’s estimation, Yuan was a general failure, basically mocked by the people and hated by anyone whose opinion mattered.
The biography has a few interesting tidbits, though.