Written by Liang Qi-Chao(梁啓超), a representative intellectual of the modern period of China, 『Li Hong-Zhang(李鴻章)』 is a new type of Chinese biographical text that describes and criticizes the changing historical trends of China during that period in accordance to the most important political, military and diplomatic leader of the late 19th century.
As we have seen in this study, the value of the biography 『Li Hong-Zhang』 can be summarized in two ways. One is that it is a groundbreaking work in the history of Chinese biographical text that attempts to switch from an old-fashioned series of biographies to a new Western-style critical biography system. Since Sima Qian(司馬遷), Chinese biographies have been both prose and historical records in a special form of writing that closely combines literature with history. 『Li Hong-Zhang』 uses divide into chapters(分章)’s method in terms of narrative structure, contains large quantities of diagrams and related documents, and adopts a multi-dimensional structure, especially one in which descriptions and reviews are freely mixed. In addition, as a newspaper with an enlightening and practical utility in terms of style, it vividly reproduces the life of a character before its readers, and through this, it better understands and responds to the flow of modern Chinese history.
The other value is that it is a novel review discussing the turbulent flow of history, focusing on the relationship between Li Hong-Zhang - the most central figure in China's modern history - and various meaningful events of China's modern times. This allowed biographies to perform not only their historical duties, but also their political awakening. In particular, the discussion of the War of the ‘Taiping Heavenly Kingdom’(太平天國) and ‘the forces of Nian’(捻軍), which is the most important issue in Chinese modern history, is key. At the center of this biography, Liang Qi-Chao provided important perspectives on how to understand change by adopting and writing the most important political, military and diplomatic figures as the forerunners in the period of his life and the period of modern transition.
The core of Liang Qi-Chao's thought is the Enlightenment, which is summed up as ‘the thought of renewing the people(新民思想)’. His ultimate goal in history and literature, especially in politics, was national enlightenment and modernization. Therefore, the biographical text not only describes the individual main character, but also reviews the historical trend centering on the relationship between the times and main character. The book was written under the concept of modern historical study, which he led, as he intended to present a model of evolution to the day and to the latter. In addition, Liang Qi-Chao thought that biographical texts should be one of proselytizing, and that they should be able to effectively enlighten the public by properly exercising their literary characteristics. As such, the historical and literary orientation of the biographical literature was closely linked with the goal of national enlightenment and modernization. And in the end, political leader Liang Qi-Chao tried to make the Chinese people, who did not know where to go, understand the times in their own ways and even prepare for the future by reading the biographical text.