;This study selected the “The Chronicles of the Traveling to Kang” written by Yao Ying after the Opium Wars as the text for main analysis, and referred to various books written before the wars, such as “Collection of Articles of Dong Ming,” “Hou Hsiang Poetry Collection,” and “Brief Record.” Moreover, this study also reviewed official and private letters, such as memorials to the throne and correspondences to observe the process how Yao Ying was changed under the impact of western culture.
The decline during the Jia-Dao period forced the intellectuals to pay more attention to social issues and seek improvement solutions. Yao Ying was a long-term government official stationed at coastal areas, such as Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang, which enriched his practical experiences and enabled him to comprehensively exchange with literati groups in various places. Yao Ying proposed unique perspectives in both the academic and political aspects. He attached particular importance to practical effectiveness, suggested that “the world can never remain the same, and changes are necessary,” and deepened the idea about “Jing ji” (practical statesmanship) of Tongcheng School.
After the Opium Wars, Yao Ying included many overseas views into the materials he investigated and discussed. His affirmative attitude towards western culture and reflection on China also revealed his concept of disdaining the foreign culture had been shaken. In particular, he affirmed how the westerners attach importance to geographical knowledge. Therefore, after he was demoted to Tibet, he started to write the book “The Chronicles of the Traveling to Kang,” which recorded the events taking place in Tibet and paid attention to the development of western trends outside Tibet. Besides, based on the information obtained from the interrogation with the British man Denham in Taiwan, he referred to the existing atlas and writings of the people at the time to draw the “New Atlas of China and Four Oceans” to endow China with a new status.
Although Yao Ying affirmed the strengths of western culture, he also aggressively sought examples from ancient books in an attempt to find self-explanations from the perspective of “presence of similar examples in ancient times.” On the one hand, he explored the known western world; on the other hand, he included the new world into the existing framework, which also embodied how traditional intellectuals responded and adjusted to the conflicts against western culture.