Li Ken-yuan (6 June 1879-6 July 1965), Yunnanese T'ung-meng-hui and Kuomintang leader who participated in the so-called second revolution in 1913 and who commanded the Yunnan Army in Kwangtung from February 1918 to October 1920. After serving as minister of agriculture in the Peking government from November 1921 to June 1923, he retired from political life. He had some influence on government policy after 1928 through his association with the Political Science Group.
A native of T'engyueh (T'engchung), Yunnan, Li Ken-yuan was the son of Li Ta-mou, a military officer with the rank of chien-tsung [lieutenant]. In 1884, at the age of six sui, the young Li began to receive a traditional education under the guidance of his grandmother. He studied under a succession of tutors, all of whom were well-known scholars. In 1 899, at the age of 21 sui, Li married Hsti Pao-chuang; their first son, Hsi-mu, was born a year later. In 1904, after spending a year at a modern school in Kunming, Li won a provincial scholarship for study in Japan. He went to Tokyo and, having decided on a military career, entered the Shimbu Gakkd [military preparatory academy]. Li Ken-yuan met Sun Yat-sen in 1905 and joined the T'ung-meng-hui when it was established later that year. He worked to interest other students in the revolutionary society and became known as a student leader. In 1906 he was elected chairman of the Association of Yunnan Students in Japan. After graduation from the Shimbu Gakko in 1906, he spent a year with a Japanese regiment before entering the Shikan Gakko [military academy] as a member of the sixth class. His fellow graduates in 1907 included Sun Ch'uan-fang, Yen Hsishan, T'ang Chi-yao, Chao Heng-t'i, and Li Lieh-chün. After receiving further training in a Japanese army unit, Li returned to Yunnan in 1909 to become superintendant of the Chiangwu-t'ang [military school] and an instructor in the infantry department.
In 1910, after a number of incidents had taken place in the Yunnan-Burma border area, Li was sent there for defense work and negotiations with the British authorities. He helped plan the successful revolution in Yunnan that followed the Wuchang revolt of October 1911. A republican government was established in Yunnan on 1 December 1911, with Ts'ai O (q.v.) as tutuh [military governor], Li Kenyuan as head of the military department, and Li Yueh-kai and T'ang Chi-yao (q.v.) as Li's deputies. When the Kuomintang was established in 1912, Li became head of that party's Yunnan branch headquarters. He was promoted to lieutenant general in October 1912 and was elected to the National Assembly in January 1913. Although Yuan Shih-k'ai, who held the presidency at Peking, attempted to win Li's support by offering him a high advisory post, Li refused his offer. After the Parliament convened on 8 April 1913, Li was elected chairman of the Kuomintang Parliamentarians Club. The Kuomintang leader Sung Chiao-jen (q.v.) was assassinated in March 1913, and Li went to Shanghai to confer with Sun Yat-sen and Huang Hsing (q.v.).
In June 1913 Yuan Shih-k'ai dismissed the governors of Kiangsi, Kwangtung, and Anhwei, an unmistakably anti-Kuomintang action. In response, Li Lieh-chün and other provincial Kuomintang leaders launched the so-called second revolution. In the meantime, Li Kenyuan had been dismissed from his government posts by Yuan Shih-k'ai. Li accompanied Ts'en Ch'un-hsuan (q.v.) to Canton to help the revolutionaries there. When the forces of Lung Chi-kuang (q.v.) captured Canton in August, Li and Ts'en escaped to Macao and then went to Hong Kong. Li finally had to seek refuge in Tokyo, for Lung Chi-kuang sent agents to Hong Kong in an attempt to capture Li and claim the reward that Yuan Shih-k'ai had offered for his arrest. The fall of Nanking on 1 September ended the anti-Yuan attempt and caused scores of other Kuomintang leaders to flee to Japan.
Li Ken-yuan enrolled at Waseda University to study political economy. When Sun Yat-sen reorganized the Kuomintang in 1914 as the Chung-hua ko-ming-tang and required each member to swear an oath of personal allegiance to him, Huang Hsing and some other Kuomintang leaders objected to the oath. Li and Chü Cheng attempted to placate the dissenters, but had little success. In August 1914 Li and others founded the Ou-shih yen-chiu-hui [European affairs research society], the forerunner of the Political Science Group. Its membership included Li Lieh-chim, Ch'eng Ch'ien, and Hsiung K"o-wu. W^hen Yuan Shih-k'ai accepted Japan's Twenty-one Demands in 1915 and launched his monarchical plot, the revolutionaries determined to return to China in a renewed campaign against Yuan. Li arrived in Shanghai in October to help plan the campaign. In 1916 he went to Kwangsi and served under Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (q.v.). A military council was formed, with T'ang Chi-yao as its head, Tsen Ch'un-hsuan as acting head, Liang Ch'ichao as chief of the political committee, and Li Ken-yuan as staff officer to the allied northern expeditionary forces and liaison officer in Shanghai. On 8 May at Chaoching, Kwangtung, the council announced its intention to act as the legitimate government of China until Yuan Shih-k'ai retired from public life, the 1912 constitution was restored, and the 1913 Parliament was reconvened.
Yuan Shih-k'ai died and Li Yuan-hung (q.v.) assumed the presidency in June 1916. Li Ken-yuan went to Peking and urged the election to the vice presidency of either Ts'en Ch'unhsuan or Lu Jung-t'ing (q.v.) so that both northern and southern interests would be represented in the government. W'hen Feng Kuochang (q.v.) was elected vice president, Li and his associates organized the Political Science Group, with Li, Ku Chung-hsiu, Chang Yaotseng, and Xiu Yung-chien as its secretaries. Li also resigned from the Parliament. On 20 February 1917 he assumed office as governor of Shensi. He was imprisoned by Ch'en Shu-fan, the provincial military governor, three months later when he refused to join other northern governors in supporting the plans of Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.) and his associates to oust Li Yuan-hung. He was released in October, by which time Li Yuan-hung had retired to Tientsin and Feng Kuo-chang had assumed the duties of the presidency.
In February 1918 Li Ken-yuan went to Canton to become commander in chief of the Yunnan Army in Kwangtung, which was an independent force. He served under Li Liehchim, then chief of staff in Sun Yat-sen's military government, in a successful campaign against Lung Chi-kuang, who was attempting to recover Kwangtung. After the campaign ended, Li served as chief administrator for the 15 hsien in the North River area. Early in 1920 several leaders, including T'ang Chi-yao and Li Liehchün, attempted to win control of the Yunnan Army in Kwangtung. The Canton government, then controlled by the Kwangsi militarists, ordered Li and his men to Hainan Island, where they remained for about six months. After Ch'en Chiung-ming (q.v.) defeated the Kwangsi armies and their supporting troops in October 1920, the Yunnan Army in Kwangtung forced Li to resign his command. On 24 October, he went to Shanghai with Ts'en Ch'un-hsuan and Ch'eng Ch'ien. An attempt was made on Li's life on 29 November, but the assassin's bullet hit another man, who was visiting Li. In November 1921, after a year of political inactivity, Li Ken-yuan was appointed acting minister of agriculture in the cabinet of Wang Ta-hsieh at Peking. He was confirmed in this post when Chang Shao-tseng succeeded Wang as premier in January 1923. Soon afterwards, Li appointed a committee for the formulation of agricultural and commercial laws, which drafted 29 laws, including one for the protection of trade marks. He also helped found a national compilation and translation bureau. Chang Shao-tseng was forced out of the premiership in 1923, and the entire cabinet resigned on 6 June. After Li Yuan-huang assumed the presidency on 1 1 June, he appointed Li Ken-yuan acting premier, pending the arrival of T'ang Shao-yi. However, the Chihli leader Ts'ao K'un (q.v.) and his supporters soon ousted Li Yuan-hung from the presidency. Li left Peking and went to Tientsin and Shanghai in the company of Li Ken-yuan.
Li Ken-yuan retired from public life to his home in Soochow. After the death of his mother in 1927, he became an increasingly devout Buddhist. However, it was generally believed that he indirectly served the National Government through his association with the Political Science Group, which became a powerful influence in party and government affairs under the leadership of such younger men as Chang Ch'ün, Chang Kia-ngau (Chang Chia-ao), Hsiung Shih-hui, Ch'en Yi, and Wu Tingch'ang, some of whom consulted Li frequently. In 1949, as the civil war between the Nationalists and the Chinese Communists neared its end, Li Ken-yuan, then 71, left Soochow and established residence at Kunming in his native province of Yunnan. When Chang Ch'im, a leader of the Political Science Group, and Li's nephew Li Mi were detained by Lu Han (q.v.), the governor of Yunnan, Li Ken-yuan helped to secure their release. After Lu Han declared allegiance to the Chinese Communists, Li returned to his home in Soochow. In 1954 and 1958 he was named to the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. He died on 6 July 1965, at the age of 86.