Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

MAY FOURTH MOVEMENT (WUSI YUNDONG). The treaties of the Versailles Conference, signed on 28 April 1919, awarding Japan the former German leasehold of Jiaozhou, Shandong Province, triggered protests by university students in Beijing on 4 May. More demonstrations and strikes soon spread to other parts of China, followed by a nationwide boycott of Japanese goods. What began as a patriotic and anti-imperialist mass protest evolved into a national movement to reevaluate the entirety of Chinese civilization. Intellectuals attacked traditional values, identifying them as reasons for China’s backwardness, and looked to the West for ideas with which to transform their nation. The movement later split into two factions: the leftists and the liberals. The former, represented by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao, favored political action and established the Chinese Communist Party while the latter advocated a gradual change, emphasizing “enlightenment” as promoted by Columbia University graduate Hu Shi.

The May Fourth Movement left a profound impact not only on Chinese social and political life but also on Chinese intellectual, cultural, and literary thought. It is fair to say that modern Chinese literature was born in the May Fourth Movement and generations of Chinese writers came under its direct influence. The two writers who most represent the May Fourth spirit are Lu Xun and Ba Jin, Lu Xun for his strong indictment of the “man-eating” Confucian culture and Ba Jin for his portrayal of rebellious youths trying to break away from the confines of the traditional family and embrace social changes. See also AI QING; AI WU; BING XIN; CHEN BAICHEN; DING LING; FENG XUEFENG; FENG ZHI; HONG SHEN; HU YEPIN; JIAN XIAN’AI; JIANG GUANGCI; LAI HE; LAO SHE; LI JIEREN; MAO DUN; NEW CULTURE MOVEMENT; WANG JINGZHI; WANG LUYAN; WANG TONGZHAO; WEN YIDUO; XIA YAN; XU DISHAN; XU ZHIMO; YANG HANSHENG; YE SHENGTAO; YU DAFU; YU PINGBO; ZHAO SHULI; ZHENG ZHENDUO; ZHOU LIBO; ZHU ZIQING.