Hunan produces talents and great talents!

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From the perspective of big history, it is they who have rewritten Hunan and China’s history.



? let’s familiarize ourselves with the above place names, which will be mentioned repeatedly below.

There is a new leader of Yuelu Academy in Hunan. His name is yuanmingyao. Yuanmingyao, a native of Ningxiang, was a scholar in the sixth year of Jiaqing (1801) and appointed as the head of Yuelu Academy 11 years later.

As soon as he took office, the disciples asked yuanmingyao to inscribe the college gate couplet. Yuanmingyao said, I’ll give you a couplet, and you’ll give me the Damen couplet.

“Only Chu has talent!” He said.

Everyone is thinking hard. At this time, zhangzhongjie, a Gongsheng from Hunan Province, came in and was told that this was the case. After listening, Zhang Zhongjie answered:

“Yu Si Wei Sheng!”

Wow, Zhang Zhongjie’s pairing method is very high-order. Yuan Mingyao wrote the first couplet in Zuo Zhuan, and Zhang Zhongjie wrote the second couplet in the Analects of Confucius. Both of them are very cultural and have a beautiful meaning. They first praised the people of Hunan, and then praised the Yuelu Academy to death.

“Only Chu is talented and Yu Si is prosperous”. This world-famous door couplet is still the facade of Yuelu Academy. Anyone can come to the scene to pay a visit.



There are many things in history that are very mysterious.

In the long twoorthree years before the appearance of this couplet, Hunan talents were not only not prosperous, but also very poor. At that time, Tao Shu, a friend of yuan Mingyao and a native of Anhua, Hunan Province, participated in the compilation of the unified annals of Jiaqing at the National History Museum. While compiling the book, he sighed with emotion that I was now editing the biographies of Confucian scholars and literary schools. Apart from Wang Fuzhi, there were “very few people who got involved” in Hunan. The historical celebrities in his hometown failed to live up to their expectations, which made Tao Shu lose face.

However, within 50 years after the appearance of this couplet, Hunan people began to take the lead, and it was out of control. In the 100 years (about 1850-1950) since the founding of the people’s Republic of China, Hunan has produced a large number of talented people with great power, great achievements and profound influence, which is unparalleled in the country.

In the words of master Fengyoulan, Hunan is one of the three most influential regions in China’s modern and contemporary history. Not only that, the talents from Hunan are also great talents, who are “talents who can govern the world through virtue”.

How did Hunan people achieve the counter attack of talents in modern times?



Tao Shu lamented that there was no one in the history of Hunan, and he had poked the pain point of Hunan people. Later, Mao Runzhi, a fellow villager in Hunan and a native of Xiangtan, also said:

“The yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties had a long night, and all they got was extreme pain… In the history of 4000 years, Hunan people have never stretched out their waist or breathed.”

He also lamented that the people of Hunan had no promise in the long history.

Dingwenjiang, Hu Shi’s friend, made a textual research on the native place of the figures in the biographies of the “twenty four histories” during the period of the Republic of China. According to the statistics, there were more than 5780 people who could be tested, of whom only more than 50 were from Hunan, accounting for less than 1%. Compared with the top five provinces — Henan (912 people) and Hebei

(619 persons)

, Zhejiang (528), Shaanxi (505), Jiangsu (505), Hunan’s talent history is simply terrible.



Hunan has not produced talents since ancient times. In fact, we can’t blame the people of Hunan. We can only blame the geographical environment. “Geographical determinism” is more tenable in an era when transportation is less developed.

Hunan is located inland, far away from the core area of the Yangtze River civilization and the Yellow River civilization. It didn’t even catch the last bus of the canal civilization. This place is surrounded by mountains on three sides and a lake on the other side. The whole province forms a horseshoe shape facing north. Since ancient times, it has been known as “the country of four fortresses”, so the people are stubborn and the atmosphere is not open.

Qian Jibo, Qian Zhongshu’s father, once commented on the geographical atmosphere of Hunan:

“There are many mountains, many rivers and beaches, but it is not easy for boats and cars to travel. The hard stone and ochre soil are hard in geology, and the people’s nature is mostly stubborn. Therefore, the atmosphere is confined to the fortress, which is often not touched by the humanities in the central Plains.”



? facing the natural graben of the Yangtze River in the north and the towering mountains in the East, West and south, this is Hunan.

That is to say, for a long time, the people of Hunan were simply outside the civilization of the Central Plains. No matter what kind of talent selection mode, whether it is the shadow of the nobility or the imperial examination, it can not turn to the distant, poor and backward Hunan leader.



What if Hunan has no talents?

Someone has to take the lead.

The sad Tao Shu stood up.

He was the first person to press the button of talent explosion in Modern Hunan. Although his influence was less than that of Zeng Guofan, he influenced Zeng Guofan (this is very important).

Tao Shu, a native of Anhua, served successively as governor of Anhui and Jiangsu provinces and governor of Liangjiang. Throughout his life, he vigorously advocated practical learning. He believed that “there is practical learning, there is practice, and there is practicality”. He advocated that “the study of classics and history is a tool for practical use”. He stressed that the purpose of reading classics is to pass the world economy and be used by reality.

Around him, a group of Hunan talents were united. He himself was the leader and the leading elder brother of the Xiang sect during the Jiadao period.



? Tao Shu was the first talented person in Modern Hunan.

He Changling, a native of Changsha, assisted Tao Shu in carrying out the reform when he was appointed as the chief minister of Jiangsu Province, presided over the compilation of the world classics of the imperial dynasty, and later became the governor of Yunnan and Guizhou. As the “Bible” of the school of Confucian classics, the compilation of Confucian classics in the imperial dynasty promoted the scholars in the late Qing Dynasty from retreat to pragmatism.

In the second year of yuanmingyao’s appointment as the head of Yuelu Academy, the 18th year of Jiaqing (1813), a student came to the Academy.

The student was from Shaoyang. He had previously taken part in the county and government examinations, and had won the first place. He had a promising future. He stayed in Yuelu Academy for a short time, but this period of time affected his whole life.

He was Wei Yuan who later compiled the atlas of the sea and advocated “learning from the barbarians and mastering their skills to control them”. Wei Yuan was hired as an aide by Tao Shu and hechangling, and edited the imperial classics on behalf of hechangling. It can be seen that his thought was several positions ahead of his contemporaries because of the style of study of the classics school.

He Xiling, the younger brother of he Changling, was a talented person in Hunan. He once supervised Hubei School of politics and was the head of Changsha Chengnan Academy in his later years;

Laochongguang, the son-in-law of hechangling and a native of Changsha, once served as governor of Guangdong and governor of Yunnan and Guizhou;

Tang Jian, Tao Shu’s good friend and Shanhua (now in Changsha), is a master of Neo Confucianism and once acted as governor of Liangjiang;

Li Xingyuan, Tao Shu’s aide and Xiangyin native, served as governor of Yunnan and Guizhou, governor of Liangjiang and governor of riverway

This group of people is the forerunner of the rise of talents in Hunan since modern times.

Tao Shu is of great significance to Hunan, because he left two “magic weapons” to Hunan under the influence of the talent group of the Xiang school. These two “magic weapons” have played a very important role in all the talent outbreaks in Hunan since then:

One of the “magic weapons” is that Tao Shu’s theory of practical use advocated by them has had an impact on the people in Sanxiang. It has become a common practice for scholars to recite and study, and all scholars have the will to govern the world.

To put it bluntly, the people of Hunan under the influence of this style of study are generally literate but have strong practical ability. They can transform the society and change the country with their own hands. Zeng Guofan, tansitong, Mao Runzhi and other Hunan talent representatives in different periods are believers and practitioners of the idea of practical use.

Another “magic weapon” is to tell Hunan people a truth through practice: Hunan people can only make a difference if they go out. Tao Shu’s main activities are basically not in Hunan Province, but outside the province. Nestled in the province, with limited vision and narrow space, there is no big future.

In order to absorb and update their own knowledge system, Hunan people must go to Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu and Zhejiang and other economically and culturally developed areas. For example, Wei Yuan worked in Jiangsu and Zhejiang after Zhongju, and had more contact with foreign culture. Only then did he have his progressive ideas that alerted the world. On the other hand, if Hunan people want to influence the whole country, they must go out if they have the right to speak at the national level. During the period of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Hunan army went out of Hunan in batches, creating an irreplaceable position for the Hunan people in the Imperial military and political system.

Mao Runzhi knew this when he was very young. He copied and corrected a poem to express his ambition:

“I am determined to go out of the countryside. I swear I won’t pay it back until I learn to be famous. There is no need to bury my bones in mulberry fields. There are green mountains everywhere in life.”



Zeng Guofan, a Xiangxiang native, did not have a smooth road to the imperial examination. After he failed in the first exam, he made a special switch to Jinling to meet the elder Tao Shu. He had great admiration for Tao Shu and had carefully studied his complete works.

This set of complete works of taowenyi was given to him by hulinyi from Yiyang.

Hulinyi is Tao Shu’s son-in-law, and Tao Shu once took him with him to cultivate him. Among the senior generals of the Hunan army, for Zeng Guofan, no one can surpass Hu Linyi in terms of the deepest origin, the thickest personal friendship and the greatest help.

Zuozongtang, a native of Xiangyin, and hulinyi went to Beijing for the exam in the same year. Hu was admitted as a Jinshi and left behind. However, he strongly recommended zuozongtang to his father-in-law, so that zuozongtang could get to know Tao Shu.

Tao Shu is 33 years older than zuozongtang, but he also appreciates this younger generation and believes that zuozongtang will become a climate in the future. As a result, Tao and Zuo developed from forgetting their years to becoming close relatives.

Thus, on the eve of the outbreak of the Opium War, around Tao Shu, the main general of the Hunan army, a truly explosive group of talents in Modern Hunan, had gathered.



? Zeng Guofan almost reshaped the national character of Hunan people.

In the 24th year of Daoguang’s reign (1844), jiangzhongyuan, a native of Xinning, met Zeng Guofan who worked in the Imperial Academy in the capital through the introduction of guosongtao, a Xiangyin native. Zeng Guofan had already won the Jinshi.

When saying goodbye, Zeng Guofan went out to see Jiang Zhongyuan off. Then he turned back and said to guosongtao: this man “must make a name for himself in the world, but he should die with righteousness”. At that time, people were very surprised. They didn’t know whether Mr. Zeng was right or not.

In a flash, seven years passed. No one thought that a group of rebels from Guangxi would eventually devour half of the Empire. At that time, Li Yu, a former governor of Henan Province, reported to Emperor Xianfeng that during the Huaiqing campaign in Henan Province, he saw with his own eyes that the Heilongjiang flag army ran away at the sight of the Taiping army.

The eight banners and the green camp, the main forces of the Qing government, were useless. To save the empire from peril, we had to rely on new forces. What is the new power? At that time, people didn’t know what to do.

At this time, jiangzhongyuan had already recruited a group of Xinning Yong in his hometown to engage in league training, and the combat effectiveness was not bad. Zeng Guofan, a native of Dingyou, asked the Qing government to allow him to conduct League training in Hunan. The original source of soldiers was the former hometown of Xiangxiang and the hometown of Xinning, which is the embryonic form of the Xiang army.

In December of the third year of Xianfeng (January, 1854), Jiang Zhongyuan, who had already served as governor of Anhui Province, saw Luzhou City broken down by the Taiping Army and committed suicide by drowning, fulfilling Zeng Guofan’s prediction ten years ago.

A year later, the Hunan army was routed by the Taiping Army in Hukou and Jiujiang. Zeng Guofan was so angry that he drowned himself in the water. However, his life was harder than that of Jiang Zhongyuan, and his subordinates saved him.

Guosongtao said that the reason why Zeng Guofan predicted the outcome of Jiang Zhongyuan was not because he was right with each other, but simply because they were the same kind of people, both Hunan people, and both had quite fierce personalities.

He survived the great calamity and made a turn for the better. In the ten years of fierce confrontation with the Taiping army, the power of the Xiang army was at its zenith. Hunan people who were recommended for military service became the most influential people in the provinces of the late Qing Dynasty.

In the 70 years of the late Qing Dynasty, there were 375 governors and governors. Among these feudal officials, the Eight Banners accounted for 97, accounting for more than 1/4, which was the ruling foundation of the Qing government and could not be shaken. In addition, Hunan was the province with the largest number of feudal officials.

Hunan ranks first among the provinces with 40 feudal officials, accounting for 10.67% of the country. There is a saying that “the generals of ZTE will be the prime ministers of the nine lakes and Hunan”, which is really not empty words.



In Hunan Province, Xiangxiang county is particularly prominent. One county has nine governors, more than most provinces. Xiangxiang is Zeng Guofan’s hometown. The Xiang army employs people and likes to use fellow villagers. The so-called “people in the same county are easy to agree” (Zeng Guofan’s language).

It must also be pointed out that during this period (including the later period of the Republic of China), the main body of the talent explosion in Hunan was the military achievements of the Hunan army, that is, at the level of force, which had little to do with culture. This can be seen clearly from the number of scholars in Hunan in the late Qing Dynasty.

In the late Qing Dynasty, there were about 7900 successful candidates in the national examination. According to the provinces, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shandong ranked in the top three, while Hunan scored 313, about half of Zhejiang, ranking 14th, only more than a dozen more than Guangxi, which had a rather weak sense of talent.

Let’s summarize that the talent group of the Hunan army mainly has the following characteristics:

First, Zeng Guofan is a recognized leader and his position is unshakable. Second, the region is quite concentrated, mainly in Xiangxiang, Changsha, Ningxiang, Xiangyin, Xinning and other regions. Third, the majority of high-ranking officials were promoted to imperial frontier officials by virtue of military merit.



The rise of the Hunan army group cannot be overestimated. The most important point is that it has changed the situation in Hunan in the past that “no one is more important than the overall situation”.

Before the rise of the Hunan army, in the history of twoorthree years, Hunan had a very weak sense of existence in China’s territory and was dispensable. However, after the rise of the Hunan army, the value of the whole Hunan to China immediately jumped several grades.

Yangyulin from Changsha said:

“Before Xiantong, our people in Hunan had no importance in the world, and they hardly knew that they had the so-called responsibility for the world. Those who knew that they had the so-called responsibility for the world should start from the difficulty of Hong Yang (that is, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement).

The rise of Hunan army generals and talents conforms to the demand of “heroes come out of troubled times”. Yangyulin’s words are by no means flattering or boasting.

Incidentally, in 1911, yangyulin heard of the failure of the Huanghuagang uprising in Britain. He went to the seaside of Liverpool and committed suicide. He died on the eve of the Republic of China. The personality of Hunan people is very strong.



? yangyulin, a Hunan man who committed suicide by crossing the sea.

The Hunan army went out of Hunan, making Hunan’s children all over the world. At the same time, it also showed that the country could not live without Hunan for a day.

One of the most obvious changes is the change in the mentality and morale of Hunan people.

Tao Shu lamented that when there was no one in Hunan, his chest tightness and shortness of breath were hard to understand when he came to tansitong, Cai E and Yang Du. At this time, the mentality and spirit of the people in Hunan had completely changed. There was a sense of arrogance and a mission to save China.

Cai E, a Shaoyang native, once put forward the idea of “Hunan nationalism”, that is, Hunan stands on its own to lead China towards modernization internally and resist foreign invaders externally.

Yang Du, a Xiangtan native, is more famous:

“With the heroic spirit of this hundred battles, save Hunan first and then China… If the Chinese nation dies, unless the people of Hunan die.”

This kind of regional self-confidence is beyond the reach of people in other provinces.

Although the Hunan army declined later, Hunan, a talent pool, still kept coming out of first-class figures. Immediately after that, two groups of Hunan talents emerged:

First, during the reign of Guangxu, Hunan reformers represented by tansitong, tangcaichang and xiongxiling. They are the leftist radicals of the national reform movement. They built schools, run newspapers and periodicals, set up societies, and advocated modern industrial and mining enterprises in Hunan, making Hunan “the most vibrant Province in China”.

Second, during the 1911 Revolution, the bourgeois revolutionaries represented by Huang Xing, Song Jiaoren and Cai E. They are the core of the league and the organizer and leader of many armed uprisings. Hunan was the first province to respond to the Wuchang Uprising, and the people of Hunan were the main initiators and leaders of the anti yuan war.



Until the period of the Republic of China, the influence of Xiangjun group on the talent density and talent structure in Hunan continued.

Hunan people have been used to farming since ancient times, and seldom go out to do business and join the army. However, after the rise of the Hunan army, many ordinary families prospered by virtue of military achievements. Therefore, not only some unemployed vagrants were willing to practice martial arts and join the army, but also many farmers put down their plows and harrows, walked out of the countryside, picked up their swords and guns, and went to the battlefield.

Yang Du said that at the time of Xiantong, the Xiang army was defeated, and the Xiang people were so lucky that everyone was willing to join the Army:

“Farmer Shi Lei only fights, and his only son leaves his family to bleed. His father dies without a corpse, and his brother’s soul does not return. His brother is more than fierce… Today, there are no camps, no teams, and no Xiang people in the sea and in the army. He has formed this military community outside the four people of China.”

Since then, the people of Hunan have formed an indissoluble bond with the army. There is the saying “no army without Hunan”. Most of the talents in Hunan are military talents.

The Whampoa Military Academy is run in Guangzhou, but among its early graduates, the largest number of people are not from Guangdong, but from Hunan.

Among Chiang Kai Shek’s National Revolutionary Army in the northern expedition to unify the country, the highest number of senior generals were also from Hunan.





In the whole country, the province that forms the greatest contrast or complementary relationship with Hunan is Jiangsu. In the field of culture, education, science and technology, Jiangsu is far ahead of the country, but in the military field, it has fallen to the bottom. The difference between advocating literature and martial arts, the two kinds of people nature, just represents the two poles of China.

When maorunzhi, a Xiangtan native, was young, he admired not only one but also three famous officials of ZTE from Hunan in the late Qing Dynasty:

He said that among the modern figures, he admired Zeng Guofan most. Everyone knows this.

Zuozongtang, in fact, admires him too. How can he admire fa? Zuozongtang wrote a pair of couplets about himself. The first couplet is “the body has no half acre, and the heart worries about the world”. Maorunzhi’s friend described Mao as having no money and worrying about the world. Hehe, if there are similarities, it is pure worship.

As for hulinyi, he admired him to the point of renaming him. The name “Runzhi” had a serious collision with hulinyi’s number (Runzhi).

It can be seen that the influence of the Xiang army on Hunan is not only far-reaching, but also has formed a pattern in which great people influence great people and first-class people influence first-class people.

It is no accident that after Zeng Guofan, Hunan always had great figures. Over the past hundred years, at least half of the national character of Hunan people has been influenced and shaped by Zeng Guofan. Their conscientiousness, tenacity, fearlessness of death and advocating force are all Zeng Guofan’s “heritage”.

From 1955 to 1965, the Chinese people’s Liberation Army awarded 1614 generals above major general level. Although Hunan ranks third behind Jiangxi and Hubei, the “gold content” of its founding generals is the highest.



Hunan has 204 founding generals, including 3 marshals, 6 senior generals, 19 generals, 45 lieutenant generals and 131 major generals. In terms of the national proportion, Hunan marshals account for nearly 1/3, more than half of the generals, 1/3 of the generals and 1/4 of the generals. Hunan ranks first in the country in terms of the number of generals above lieutenant general level. These Hunan generals are mainly distributed in Pingjiang, Liuyang, Chaling and Liling areas in the east of Hunan Province near the Hunan Jiangxi border.

Of course, one’s destiny depends on self struggle, but one should also consider the course of history. The same is true of a province. It is precisely on these two points that Hunan people have completed the ultimate counter attack on talents since modern times.

Hunan people have a tough personality. If they identify a goal, they will fight to the end. They have a mule temper that does not believe in evil. Young maorunzhi’s famous saying “struggle with the heaven, you will have endless fun; struggle with the earth, you will have endless fun; struggle with people, you will have endless fun” can best illustrate the problem.

There is a saying that “the prosperity of the Hunan movement begins with the Hunan army”. Hunan’s “provincial transportation” is prosperous. We should really thank Zeng Guofan, Tao Shu who influenced Zeng Guofan, and Mao Runzhi who was influenced by Zeng Guofan.

From the perspective of big history, it is they who have rewritten Hunan and China’s history.


Chenxulu, et al. Dictionary of modern Chinese history, Shanghai Dictionary Publishing House, 1982

Wangjiping: Hunan history of the late Qing Dynasty, Hunan people’s publishing house, 2004

Wangqisheng: geographical distribution of modern Chinese figures, research on modern history, 1996, issue 2

Tao Yongshu: on the geographical environment of Hunan talents, JOURNAL OF HUNAN CITY UNIVERSITY (HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES), 2003, issue 1

Helijun: Research on the regional distribution of political leaders in the late Qing Dynasty (1840-1912), master’s thesis of Xiangtan University, 2006



Source: favorite history

(this article only represents the author’s point of view, not the position of this number)



China’s national history is once again new!



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