Liang Qichao, who called himself, among other names, Yinbingshi Zhuren (Master of the Ice-drinking Room), was born on February 23, 1873 in Xinhui, Guangdong Province. By the time he was six years old, he had already read the Four Books and Five Classics. In the autumn of 1890, Liang Qichao became a pupil of Kang Youwei (1858-1927), under whose influence Liang experienced a change in his thinking. Subsequently Liang and Kang made their petition to the emperor for the introduction of political reform in China. In 1895, Liang launched the Society for the Study of National Strengthening, which sponsored the periodical The Chinese and Foreign News Record.
Liang Qichao and Wang Kangmou launched Contemporary Affairs in 1896. In the wake of the unsuccessful Reform Movement of 1898, Liang Qichao was exiled to Japan. However, he sponsored various newspapers and periodicals, including China Discussion, New Citizen Journal, and New Fiction, thus he became known as the forefather of Chinese journalism. In the autumn of 1912, Liang returned to China and joined with General Cai E in opposing Yuan Shikai's attempt in 1915 to restore the monarchy to China. Towards the end of 1918, Liang toured Western Europe, after which he devoted himself to the task of education. He was formally invited to teach at the Qinghua Institute of Chinese Studies in 1925. During this period, Liang produced quite a few works on academic subjects. He died of illness in Beijing on January 19, 1929.
The literary accomplishments of Liang Qichao are manifold. His proposition that the old style should embody the new concept is a development of the so-called theory of revolutionizing Chinese poetry. Liang's article "On the Relation Between Fiction and the Rule of the Masses" stresses the relation between fiction and the reformation of society. He believed that fiction possesses inconceivable power, to which humanity is subject. These propositions played a positive role in the study of the theory of fiction in late-Qing Dynasty and the prosperity of fiction during this period.
Liang Qichao also advocated the evolution in literature hinged upon the transformation of archaic literature into vernacular literature. The new style of writing he initiated gained great popularity for a time, paving the way for the emergence of vernacular Chinese during the May 4th Movement. This was in line with the real nature of the revolution in the literary community he had proposed earlier.
Liang Qichao made attempts at literary creation and met with particular success in writing prose. His representative work on political criticism, "Bian Fa Tong Yi" (General Views on Reform), is a systematic argument for reform and a rebuttal of his opponents. Liang's biography of six martyrs who died for China's ill-fated constitutional reform of 1898, portrays the men vividly in well-knit essays.
His poems, such as "A Trip to Xue'an Nunnery," which voices his anger in exile, are sentimentally stirring, unrestrained, and simple but expressive. They are new style poems. The Future of New China, his political novel, expounds the reformist views. Liang Qichao's translation of foreign literary works were famous, notable among which are The Lady's Strange Encounter and Ghostly Humans in the Russian Palace.
Liang's academic research work covered a wide field, since he probed extensively into both ideology and culture. His Intorduction to Qing Dynasty Academic Learning, Method of Studying Chinese History, and A History of the Last 300 Years of Academic Research had an extensive impact on the Chinese academic community.
Liang Qichao is considered a trailblazer in literary style in modern Chinese history.