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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:

痛悼五四青年节

Mourning May Fourth Youth Day

一九一九年到现在
也有近九十个春秋
那时的热血青年
现在是枯枯已朽

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

那时代的人真的伟大啊
有李大钊有鲁迅还有我们的陈独秀
他们不用通过组织同意
就可以印传单做演讲游行呼吼

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

那是一个年少的中国啊
年轻的心沐浴着时代的血与火
他们用生命全部能量与旧时代决裂
他们为思想为自由而学习生活

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

今天中国已没有了青年少年
刚背上书包就老了成为学奴
每天在教室里接受心灵的摧残
一条独木桥上万马竞走

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

一部分年轻人长大了成了官奴
每天梦想着做官光宗耀后
一部分年轻人成了洋奴
学习的目标就是去国背祖

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

一部分人成了房奴
一部分人成了车奴
一部分人成了性奴(三陪与二奶)
一部分人成了农奴(农民工兄弟)

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

这是一个需要奴隶且生产奴隶的时代
这个时代不需要什么思想与自由
这里只有老而又老的规则与方式
这是一个废弃青少年与梦想的伟大国度

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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