Friday, 3 May 2019

The May Fourth Movement 100 years on

May Fourth 1919 - a key date in modern Chinese history.   Though a Republic was declared in 1911 on relatively modern and progressive lines, any change in the largest nation in the world takes time, and China was emerging from very difficult conditions indeed.  The May Fourth Movement was an umbrella for several different forces for social change - political, intellectual, cultural, and so on.  It also marked a change in perspective. Earlier reformers assumed that help would come from the West and Japan. Accordingly, China supported the Allies in the 1914-1918 war. Instead, German colonies in China were handed over to Japan.  The Unequal Treaties from the years of the Opium wars were retained, giving foreign nations extraterritorial rights on Chinese soil.  The May Fourth Movement  shows the change has to come from within, through education and ideals.  To mark the centenary of the May Fourth Movement I have been re reading the classic  Chow Tse Tung's The May Fourth Movement : Intellectual Revolution in Modern China (Harvard 1960)   At the time the book transformed Chinese historiography.  Fifty years ago I studied it as an undergraduate. Since then so many more cataclysmic changes : the transition from past to future in a country this big and diverse cannot happen overnight.
Please also see my analysis of The Romance of a Fruit Pedlar, 掷果缘, 1922, one of the earliest Chinese movies, cinema being one of the tools modernizers favoured for reaching mass audiences (many of whom might be barely literate)  It's a lot more than comedy !   One of the many fruits of the May Fourth Movement !  Please read my piece HERE
  Romance of the Fruit Pedlar : stairs that go up can  be reversed and slide down

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