Liang Qi-Chao who took the led of the drastic transitional period of modern China played important roles not only as a representative theoretician but also as an activist among the intellectuals of revitalizing reforms and patriotic enlightenment. Moreover, his innovative efforts in the fields of politics, media, academia, education, and literature had great influences on the intellectuals of China as well as Chosun around the time. Many Korean progressive intellectuals in the transitional period of Chosun at risk of the state of the fall of Chosun Dynasty attempted to develop their understanding of western academic ideologies through Liang Qi-Chao’s publications and thus to establish systematic theories for saving the nation. Meanwhile, Liang Qi-Chao also had great recognitions of situations in Chosun while paying special attentions and sought to take some lessons learned from Chosun for China, which resulted in his development of interactive relationships between the two.
Based on these recognitions and as a result of the close examinations of Liang Qi-Chao’s publications, Chosun as to him was a special otherness that might reflect China in comparison with the Western and so to speak, a miserable neighboring nation that China had close kinships. In this perspective, he kept the record of the declining history of Chosun in order for Chinese imperialism to avoid Chinese possible national and ethnic conflict and crisis, under the recognition that China would be placed in the destiny like Chosun in the near future. In his position, it was a great shame that Chosun which was subject to Chinese power tried to escape from the power. He also blamed the Chinese government for its incompetency that led to inevitable loss of its control over Chosun. Furthermore, Liang Qi-Chao composed poetry and prose in relation to Chosun in the position of Sinocentrism, nationalism, imperialism, and enlightenment.
The major ten publications of Liang Qi-Chao had been released between 1904 and 1911 in the period in which Japan had come to complete its control and authority over Chosun. Among them, in particular, 「A brief history of the fall of the Chosun Dynasty」 (1904. 9), 「The fall of Chosun, vol. 6 in the collection of world history within the past one year」 (1906. 2), 「The reasons for the decline of Chosun」 (1910. 9) had been written for Chinese special attention to and recognition of the decline and the fall of Chosun Dynasty. The purposes of these books lied in expanding Chinese power and thus enlightening the Chinese public. In other words, the books aimed to analyze the problems with Chosun and through exaggerating expressions to raise Chinese public awareness of the importance of national power.
Out of his publications, the most important work on the fall of Chosun involved Liang Qi-Chao’s record of Japan and Chosun Annexation. The book illustrated the processes of the fall of Chosun, which was divided into two parts in the introductory chapter. The first part described the historical era from the perspective of Chosun, which was classified into 1) the period of Chosun subject to China, 2) the period of nominal independence of Chosun, 3) the period of Chosun subject to Japan, and 4) the period of Japan and Chosun annexation. The second part illustrated the era from the perspective of Japan, which was grouped into 1) the period of the China-Japan dispute over Chosun, 2) the peirod of the Russia-Japan dispute over Chosun, 3) Chosun as a Japanese protectorate, and 4) the period of Japan and Chosun annexation.
His recognition in the book, The Record of Japan and Chosun Annexation represented his sympathy on the fall of Chosun, the regret about the loss of Chosun as a Chinese tributary nation in the views of the Sinocentrism and imperialism, the censure on the force of Japan as a rival, and his criticism on the national characteristics and the political elites of Chosun as a fundamental reason for the fall of Chosun. His ultimate goal to keep the record of the fall of Chosun was to give lessons for the enlightenment of China on the basis of his desperate recognition of Chinese future which could be similar to Chosun’s case. In particular, his ideas behind the book were developed based on his excessively subjective and biased thoughts about Chosun because he believed that the fall of Chosun was attributed to Chosun’s inferior national traits. His perspectives can be interpreted that he intended to enlighten Chinese public and reorganize Chinese national characteristics or directly accepted Japanese manipulative perspectives about Chosun.
Liang Qi-Chao’s excessive criticism about Chosun can not be considered as appropriate constructive criticism due to his subjective and biased perspectives.
However, his criticism may have some value as a considerable criticism about the people from the emperor to ordinary people of Chosun at that time who were incompetent to appropriately react to the historical changes worldwide and were incapable of getting out of their comfort zone in many aspects of their lives.