|Viceroy of Liangjiang|
|Preceded by||Zhou Fu|
|Succeeded by||Zhang Renjun|
|Viceroy of Huguang|
|Preceded by||Zhang Zhidong|
|Succeeded by||Zhang Zhidong|
Duanfang's ancestry was Han Chinese despite him being from a Manchu Banner. Some Han Chinese joined Manchu banners directly, instead of joining the separate Chinese banners. Han Chinese in the Manchu Banners became Manchucized. The Manchu White Banner were joined by some Zhejiang Han Chinese with the last name Tao who defected to the Qing towards the end of the Ming Dynasty. Their last name was changed to the Manchu sounding "Tohoro". Duanfang was one of their descendants.
The Manchu bannermen typically used their first/personal name to address themselves and not their last name, while Han bannermen used their last name and first in normal Chinese custom. Duanfang followed the Manchu custom.
Duanfang passed the Imperial Examination in the eight year of the Guangxu Emperor (1882), and then served as a yuanwailang (員外郎) before moving to Langzhong (郎中). He supported the 1898 Hundred Days' Reform, but when it failed, he was protected by Ronglu and Li Lianying and was not implicated. The Qing government established the agriculture, commerce, and trade bureau in Beijing, and Duanfang was placed in charge of the bureau. The Empress Dowager Cixi awarded Duanfang with an official cap of the third rank. Duanfang purchased a batch of animals from Germany for the Beijing Zoo.
Since then, Duanfang toook the post of Shaanxi provincial judge, administrative commissioner, and agent of the Shaanxi governor. In the 26th year of the Guangxu emperor (1900), after Beijing was occupied after the Battle of Peking, The Empress Dowager and Emperor Guangxu fled to Shaanxi. Duanfang was transferred to a new post as Henan provincial administrative commissioner, and then to governor of Hubei. In the 28th year of the Guangxu Emperor (1902), Duanfang served as acting Viceroy of Liangjiang, Afterward, he was transferred to a new post as Governor of Hunan. In his successive posts, he encouraged students to study abroad, known as an englightened person, "enthusiastic in experience in foreign and domestic affairs."
In the 31st year of the Guangxu Emperor (1905), Duanfang was recalled to Beijing, and was promoted to Viceroy of Min-Zhe, although when he took office, he was dispatched to do more important tasks. On September 24, because of the Constitutional Movement, the Qing government sent Duanfang along with Zaize, Dai Hongci, Xu Shichang, and Shao Ying to go one a diplomatic mission to the West to study Constitutions in order to prepare the Qing constitution. When the five ministers embarked on that day, a revolutionary, Wu Yue, activated a suicide bomb at the Zhengyangmen train station in an assassination attempt, resullting in the postponement of the journey. Xu Shichang, Shaoying, and Li Shengduo were replaced by Shang Qiheng.
Duanfang wrote articles against footbinding in support of the Foot Emancipation Society.
On December 7, Duanfang and Dai Hongci departed in secrecy, with 33 official members on a warship from Qinhuangdao to Shanghai, and on December 19 in the afternoon transfer to an American cruise to Japan. They visited Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, and Russia, returning in August the following year. AFter their return, Duanfang gave a summary of their inspection, advocating strongly that the main source of study should be on the Japanese Meiji Restoration, and as fast as possible formulate the Constitution.
After Returning, Duanfang serrved as Viceroy of Liangjiang. In the first year of the Xuantong Emperor (1909) he became Governor of Zhili. Due to photographs being taken at the funeral of Empress Dowager Cixi, Duanfang was dismissed from office.
On May 18, 1911, Duanfang was appointed as the Chuan Han and Yue Han railroad's superintendent. The Railway Protection Movement erupted over the nationalization of local railroad construction and their transfer to foreign banks. Duanfang arrived in Hankou on July 14. On September 7, due to a murder in Chengdu, the situation of Sichuan spiraled out of control, eventually resulting in the Xinhai Revolution. On September 10, the Court removed Zhao Erfeng as governor of Sichuan, and Duanfang became the acting governor, he led the Hubei New Army into Sichuan. The new army mutinied on November 27, and officer Liu Yifeng killed Duanfang, as part of a general wave of anti Manchu violence during the revolution.
Duanfang is one of the founders of China's modern education, while he was acting Viceroy of Liangjiang, he founded the Jinan Academy in Nanjing. As governor of Hubei and Hunan, he established he Teacher's college. While he was governor of Jiangsu, determined to get rid of bad habits, ordered counties to refund red envelopes to use to send two local students to study abroad.
Duanfang was the founder of the first kindergarten in China and provincial libraries. He also sent out more than 20 girls to go to Japan to study teacher education. The Jiangnan Library was founded by Duanfang in Nanjing in 1907.
Duanfang was a well-known collector of antiques, and maintained a good relationship with Paul Pelliot and others. During his inspection tours abroad, he also collected Ancient Egyptian artifacts, becoming the first modern Chinese person to have a collection of foreign artifacts. After he died in Sichuan, his children lived in poverty, and in 1924 they sold his most famous collection- a set of Shang bronzes for about 20 million taels of silver to John Calvin Ferguson. The bronzes are now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
- Edward J. M. Rhoads (2001). Manchus & Han: ethnic relations and political power in late Qing and early republican China, 1861-1928 (reprint, illustrated ed.). University of Washington Press. p. 55. ISBN 0295980400. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "The ancestors of the post-Boxer official Duanfang, for example, were Han Chinese from Zhejiang who, when they moved to southern Manchuria in the late Ming, became subjects of the Qing and were enrolled in the Manchu Plain White Banner; they then Manchufied their surname from Tao to Tohoro (Tuohuoluo in Chinese)."
- Edward J. M. Rhoads (2001). Manchus & Han: ethnic relations and political power in late Qing and early republican China, 1861-1928 (reprint, illustrated ed.). University of Washington Press. p. 56. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "Manchu men had abandoned their original polysyllabic personal names infavor of Han-style disyllabic names; they had adopted the Han practice of choosing characters with auspicious meanings for the names; and they had assigned names on a generational basis. . . Except among some Hanjun such as the two Zhao brothers, bannermen still did not, by and large, use their"
- Edward J. M. Rhoads (2001). Manchus & Han: ethnic relations and political power in late Qing and early republican China, 1861-1928 (reprint, illustrated ed.). University of Washington Press. p. 57. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "family name but called themselves only by their personal name—for example, Yikuang, Ronglu, Gangyi, Duanfang, Xiliang, and Tieliang. In this respect, most Manchus remained conspicuously different from Han."
- Robert H. Felsing (1979). The heritage of Han: the Gelaohui and the 1911 revolution in Sichuan. University of Iowa. p. 156. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "The railway company's chief officer at Yichang was no longer listening to company directives and had turned company accounts over to Duanfang, Superintendent of the Chuan Han and Yue Han railroads. The situation of the Sichuanese"
- Nanjing Library
- 《清史稿》列传二百五十六 "(History of the Qing Dynasty) Biography 256"