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China: May Fourth Movement missed

Not a lot of bloggage today on the cultural, political and anti-imperialist May Fourth Movement which began on this day in 1919, in an environment and with a course of events somewhat similar to that of the spring and early summer first in Beijing then nation-wide seventy years later.

Students in Beijing rallying during the May Fourth Movement, 1919.

Although having a foundation in the context of foreign powers in China during the first world war, the May Fourth Movement also brought about significant changes in the nation's literature. With the rejection of an elitist classical style of writing for a modern venacular which could be understood by all, the tone was set which led to the emergence of such contemporary Chinese writers as Lu Xun and later, Qian Zhongshu.

Here's what was written today on the Pinyin News blog in May Fourth remembered:

Today is the 87th anniversary of the demonstrations in Beijing that marked the beginning of what is now called the May Fourth Movement. What concerns me here is not the surge in Chinese nationalism (something the present-day PRC — and some would say Taiwan, too — could use rather less of) but the literary revolution that largely overthrew the use of Literary Sinitic (Classical Chinese).

A good source of information on the literary aspect of the May Fourth Movement is The Chinese Renaissance, by Hu Shih (Hú Shì, 胡適), one of the main figures in this movement.

A poem posted today on Wu Zuolai's blog [zh] gives a sense of the fears and concerns of living under the war at that time:


Mourning May Fourth Youth Day


From 1919 until now
There've been almost 90 springs and falls
The hot-blooded youth of then
Have since withered and rotted away


That generation, how great they were
Li Dazhao and Lu Xun, even our Chen Duxiu
They didn't need to go through any authorities
Just hand out some flyers, give a speech and they'd have a roaring parade


That was when China was young
Young hearts bathed in the blood and fire of the times
They used the full power of their being to break away from the old days
They were for ideas, for freedom and a life of study


Today's China doesn't have youth anymore
Age into slaves to study as soon as the backpack is put on
Every day in the classroom their souls are destroyed
A ten thousand-horse race down a single-plank bridge


Some of the youth grew up to be officials’ slaves
After dreaming each day of becoming officials, their families’ shining pride.
Some of the youth grew up foreigners’ slaves
Goal in learning is to betray their country and ancestors


Some became domestic slaves
Some became transport slaves
Some became sex slaves (party favors and second wives)
Some became rural slaves (migrant worker buddies)


This is an age of needing slaves and producing slaves
This age doesn't need any ideas or freedom
Here there are only rules and ways of getting old and older still
This is a great nation which abandons its young and its dreams

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