Talk:May Fourth Movement

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The Significance of the May Fourth Movement to Chinese Literature.[edit]

I've removed the video link to John Denson's lecture, "The Six Months That Changed the World", from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It's an interesting alternative perspective on the impact of World War I on world history, but nearly all of it is not relevant to an article on the May Fourth Movement in China.

In anycase, it would be nice if this article had more references, especially books and other offline sources. Like much of Chinese history, there is very little online information about the May Fourth Movement, even in Chinese.

As important as the May Fourth Movement is to the political history of modern China, the May Fourth Movement today is best known as a literary movement. EVERYONE studying Chinese literature also studies the May Fourth Movement. I've been working on some articles about specific writers from this era. It would also be nice if someone would write an expanded section within this article elaborating on May Fourth Literature and the development of the Bai Hua style of writing, which is the basis of modern Chinese writing. Such an article should include a list of May Fourth writers, particularly Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Lao She, Xiao Hong, Ba Jin, Shen Congwen, and Ding Ling. Such a section should focus on the relationship between these writers, how these writers were all heavily influenced by Western writers and ideologies, how the movement was a reaction against traditional Chinese literature and values, and the impact these writers had on modern Chinese literature.

Winston Ho (2006 Dec. 25).
Metairie, Louisiana.


Hey everybody. I checked this page a year ago for an essay I was writing and I would like to say that it is much better than it was before. Congratulations to those involved.

I just wanted to add that there is a difference between the May 4th Movement and the May 4th Incident. The movement from 1911-1919 resulted in the May 4th Incident on May 4th 1919.

It was a movement that aimed to introduce to China western concepts such as democracy, equality and liberty.

What happened after 1919 to block the adoption of the Western of democracy, equality and liberty? How did Mao and the Marxists gain power instead? --Ed Poor

Same as in Russia. Marxism is an attractive theory, it promises democracy, equality and liberty. However Marxists need a strong man, like Lenin and Mao, to gain power. Strong man will not give up power easily, and eventually he will get rid of the democrats in the Communist's Party. Wshun
Furthermore, Mao was helped into power considerably by his determination to fight the Japanese during their invasion of Manchuria. Mao's rival, the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, pretty much refused to fight the Japanese and was resigned to letting them have Manchuria (he had more than enough problems trying consolidate his rule in the south). This of course didn't sit well with anyone who heard about it, and curried lots of favor for Mao, especially after the Japanese were defeated and forced to withdraw from Manchuria. --Andrew (Non-User)
And furthermore still, Western democracy, equality and liberty had shown themselves to be hollow words to the patriotic Chinese. After the meeting of the Allies in Paris 1919, the Chinese were shocked to find out that their fellow allies had given Japan the right to take over the Shandong province which had been taken over by Western imperialism (Germany). Wilson's fourteen points proved a lie and the Western Allies appeared to care nothing for China except to further their own ambitions. Were as the Bolshevik (msp?) Revolution gave many of the patriots a model in which to bring about absolute change in China; something many believed necessary to overcome Imperialism, humiliation and China's own weakness. See Hunt, Michael "The Genesis of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy". Subotai

Re: "more than 3000 students from 13 colleges and universities in Beijing gathered together in Tiananmen Square"

Is it supposed to be "more than 3000 students from 13 colleges and universities [...] gathered together in Tiananmen Square, Beijing"?

The first version says that there are no non-Beijing universities there. Was there? --Menchi 07:34, Aug 21, 2003 (UTC)

The first statement is clearly false. Tianjin University, originally Peiyang University, was founded as a modern public university in 1895. Nankai University, also in Tianjin, was founded in 1919. There were also numerous small private universities throughout China at the time, mostly funded by missionaries and other Western organizations, especially in the concessions. Nevertheless, I think there could have been 13 colleges and universities in Beijing itself at that time. Beijing University was founded in 1898 during the last years of the Qing Dynasty. Also, Qinghua University had been founded in Beijing 1911, although it was originally a college preparatory school. It became a true university with undergraduate and graduate schools in 1925. Its too bad there is no reference source for 13 colleges statement. After the first demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, students in Tianjin and Shanghai began similar protests in their own cities.
Winston Ho (2006 Dec. 25).
Metairie, Louisiana.

Arent the New Culture Movement and May Fourth Movement different things? Why are they in one article?--Jiang 06:30, 7 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Link to Chinese page?[edit]

I see a link to a Chinese language version when I use Internet Explorer, but not when using Mozilla or Safari...

This article isn't exactly neutral nor is it telling the whole story. Think about this. Why did the northern warlords end up cracking down on the student demonstrators? It doesn't make sense according to that article. In reality, it was because the real spark of the May 4th movement was when Duan Qirui, a powerful northern warlord who happened to be barely hanging on to the premiership at that time, CONCEEDED Shandong to the Japanese in return for a generous loan in order to build an army powerful enough to crush his rivals.

This is RUBBISH[edit]

This whole article is terrible, I can't understand how Wikipedia has allowed it onto their site. It reads like a "Chinese Communist Party History of the May Fourth Movement for 8 Year Olds" or something. This article totally lacks rigour, objectivity or even a firm grasp of the English language. It reads like some cheap propaganda effort by the Chinese authorities and as such I recommend it be struck out from Wikipedia.

I agree, this really needs revision. In particular "Japan and the UNITED STATES seized the opportunity to speed up their occupation of lands in China" " The victory of the October Revolution in Russia had pointed out the road of liberation for the Chinese people." Northern Warlords gave itself up to the imperialist countries externally and betrayed the benefits and rights of their own country without restraint" And then we have both "upsurge of nationalist feeling, with unity of purpose among patriotic Chinese of all classes" AND "The domestic class contradictions, which were deepened day by day, became the fundamental cause of the outbreak of the May Fourth Movement". I sadly don't know much of subject so I'm afraid to edit too much, but it still needs some serious editing. --CJWilly 20:50, 4 May 2005 (UTC)

Re: just about everything[edit]

For the revision of this document, I propose total simplification. We should focus on the few key points that just about everyone should be able to agree on: May Fourth was DIRECTLY (of course there were other factors) protesting the WWI treaty.

May Fourth is claimed as the birth of modern Chinese political thought. Both the communists and nationalists claim its heritage.

May Fourth was predominantly student, but intellectuals from accross the board were all in attendance.

Yes, we can claim that this was a good starting point for the communist party, but it wasn't founded until much later, and merits its own article. Similarly, let's not spend so much time talking about nationalist/communist rivalries and tendencies in an article about MAY FOURTH. ie, we don't need to know from this article that the much later communist revolution (completed 30 years later) was part of a worldwide proletarian movement.

I see most of this article's controversy stemming from points that are not directly relevant to the specific event this article is about. There's my two cents. Xiefei

I do not think we need a revision, but we need to splice the article up into Chinese Communist view, English Imperialist View, American Hegemonic view etc to show each individual histories with their biais and what sense they are trying to make of these events. People who object this version and add sarcastic comments about the lack of English fluency fail to see that 1 billion of the earth's population hold this view. Perhaps the critics need to learn Mandarin instead, rather than imposing their bigoted Imperialist view on other countries. European colonialism is after all, rather dead, and needs to be cremated.

I just have to point out that those 1 billion people could be dead wrong, too! Elliott C. Bäck 00:52, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

I think the following website does a pretty good job of explaining it: It is from Columbia University Press. Wikipedia should look into it as an alternative.

"This whole article is terrible, I can't understand how Wikipedia has allowed it onto their site."

It is ironic that you complain about the writer's English skils, when your first sentence already contains a plethora of basic ESL errors. (ex. comma splice, misused article )

May Fourth Movement or New Culture Movement?[edit]

The New Culture Movement a.k.a the May Fourth Movement is generally acknowledged to have happened in the years 1916-23. Why so? and what happend in 1919? The beginning is marked with the emergence of the magazine "Xin Qingnian" or in the subtitle "La Jeunesse" in summer 1915. why not say the New Culture Movement began earlier? "The Tiger" or "Jiayin Zazhi" was a most influential magazine during the Yuan Shikai-Era . The difference is The Tiger, even though liberal-minded, was much more concerned with political and institutional matters of republicanism whereas the "New Youth" was more concerned with cultural preconditions of republicanism. In other words: It was concerned with how to make the chinese fit for democracy and get the "dust" of monarchical and confucian thought out of their heads. The first issues article: "Call to Youth" proclaimed "Be independant not servile. progressive not concervative. aggressive not retiring. cosmopolitan not isolationist. utalitarian not formalistic. scientific not imaginative."

The May 4th. demonstrations were exactly that - demonstrations. Against Imperialism, japanese agression. You name it. Afterwards the movement got this second name. During the last years of the movement(1919-23), before marxism-leninism became predominent in intellectual circles there was a shift towards a more pragmatic thinking. The building of houses for Mr.De and Mr.Sai (science and democracy) and the ridicule of "Confucius and Sons, Inc." seemed to have shown some results and other ways were sought. It is interesting to see that Communism provided answers for some essencial questions: It replaced confucian historiography with its own and proved an important tool for critque on imperialism. Communism came from the west and thus helped to relief some of the tensions that reformers had to deal with, standing between the lines of powerpolitics of either side and enlightenment (western style). It might be said that May 4th. demonstrations marked a turningpoint. however it cannot, in my opinion, be solely seen as anti-imperialist, nationalist. It was also giving air to the disappointment with would-be enlightened westerners. (Wilson did oppose the Japanese at first but was persuaded later). [please excuse spelling or grammatical errors; also I wrote most of it out of memory, and am of course open to criticism]

New Culture Movement currently redirects here. I don't think we'd want to rename the present article, since the name "May Fourth Movement" is very well known. But if you have sources that distinguish the two terms, you could expand the present article, or, if it becomes too long, write a stand-alone article on the New Culture Movement. --MarkSweep 19:20, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

Sadly, I dont have specific sources to back this up... just previously read reference materials. The May Fourth Movement and the New Culture Movement are istinctly seperate. The May Fourth Movement was a Movement of large-scale protest. Although it had its roots in western thought, it itself was not a intellectual movement. Founded by western-oriented intellectuals in Beijing, the New Culture Movment was a movement of evolving Chinese ideas, pulling many influences from a variety of Western ideologies. The New Culture Movement gave birth to intellectuals such as Hu Shih and the future leader of China, Mao Zedong. The New Culture Movement found its roots in the rebellion of the May Fourth Period, but was not itself a period of rebellion. The May Fourth Movement and New Culture Movement are clearly seperate ideas (and by extension, they should be seperate pages!) that both deserve the attention of an expert. Branman515 01:49, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

Why rubbish????[edit]

As an American History scholar currently studying Chinese history, if anything the only reason this article is rubbish is because it does not cover the socialist angle and commmunist influence enough. It also barely talks about the anti-imperialist mood of the time, not only concerning the Japanese, but the past one hundred years of Western involvement. (English, European, and U.S.-all seen as imperialist countries.) After the revolution in 1912, China was basically without leadership and a government. In contrast, Russia had a revolution and then set up a socialist government-- a brand new concept and something never tried before. The Chinese scholars that led the May 4th movement had been publishing socialist/anti-imperialist literature for over 20 years and the Russian experiment must have been very exciting. Even in the United States the Socialist party was very popular until the US government began arresting its members for not supporting America's involvement in W.W.I. They even had the Socialist Party candidate, Eugene Debs, thrown in prison for speaking out against the war. He still received over a million votes while locked up. In other words, the period of time that the May 4th movement took place was very different than the world we see today. The socialist revolution in Russia had not been taken over by dictators such as Lenin and Stalin, who refused to give up power once they received it. In addition no one knew that Chairman Mao would do the same thing in China--retain power and favor Stalinism over Trotsky . Marxist theory dictated that once the revolution had started, the leaders of the revolution would then relinquish power to the workers. A step that the world has never seen or happened before, but to the May 4th revolutionists, a step that they would have been familiar with and anticipated at the time. This is not Communist propaganda, just history as it was. I think they did a pretty good job of covering the event except for the obvious US bias, that everything centers around the US. Remember that the Socialists of the early 20th century believed that instead of waiting to get to heaven to have everything equal, that they could set up a "heaven on earth." That all people should have equal shares and equal rights. What's wrong with that? Jesus would definately have been a Socialist in today's world. I can't see him living in a big house, driving an SUV, and refusing to help his neighbors, let alone killing them to take their resources. (remember what he did to the money changers in the church and the comment about the eye of the needle....)

yeah the article reads really bad, I'll do what I can to fix it. BlueShirts 18:45, 24 November 2005 (UTC)

The US had very little to do with it[edit]

The US had very little to do with any of this. The most that can be said about US imperialistic behavior in China was extra-territoriality (which was understandable given the feudal Qing laws and judicial system when it was established). Unlike the other foreign powers, the US gave its "reparations" from the Boxer Rebellion back to China in the form of building infrastructure within China; in effect, transferring those funds from the corrupt Qing to the Chinese people.

Really? You need to source that.Subotai

The problem with the Fourteen Points and other precepts is that the US never followed through. Later, the US would think that giving military support to the KMT (in opposition to what the US saw as USSR aggression in the form of the CCP) constituted support for Chinese "self-determination." Many Americans saw China's civil as being between "nationalist" (a literal transation of KMT) China against Stalin's slaves; a completely incorrect but widespread belief.

The US role in this part of China's history is best seen not as bad guys, but of repeated missed opportunities and complete failure to understand what was going on in China. There were numerous missed opportunities on the Chinese side as well, but that is of a later context than the May 4th movement.

  • I changed the sentence about Wilson's incapacity and US isolationism. First, Wilson's stroke occurred around October 2, 1919, so this cannot be a cause for his failure to promote his 14 points at the conference which ended June 28, 1919. Second, US isolationism was a politically-motivated justification for the Senate's rejection of the Versailles treaty. If US isolationism is true, then how does one explain US involvement in the Washington Naval Conference, the Dawes Plan, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or Young Plan, and other foreign adventures of the US during the 1920s? --RedJ 17 18:01, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Similarity to 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations[edit]

The May Fourth Movement was very similar to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China. They are an excellent example of how history repeats itself. Many historians see parallels between the demonstrations in Beijing in 1919 and in 1989. The May Fourth Movement happened exactly 70 years and 1 month before the demonstration and massacre in June 4th, 1989. Both demonstrations were held by people who wanted democracy in China. Both demonstrations failed to bring democracy to China. It is a sad pity that two attempts in which ordinary people protested for democracy and tried to bring it to China failed.

Oh, believe in what you like. History is always more complex than views of fundamentalists. For one, concepts never translate into people's minds perfectly, especially foreign and distant concepts. For two, people seldom know what they want, but are often induced into fervour of various kinds, like a desire for the national might. It seems that most of all people want people around them to be like-minded to them on many issues that they do not even consciously understand, because that heightens their feeling of “living in a home”. - (talk) 13:17, 17 July 2015 (UTC)

May 4 in which calendar?[edit]

Can anyone comment on which calendar (Chinese or Gregorian) was in effect in Beijing at the time? Capybara 07:42, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

That's in reference to the Gregorian calendar, which was officially adopted when the republic was started in 1912. Caorongjin 23:45, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

5000 years[edit]

The 5000 years figure is a political myth. The earliest archaelogical finding confirming the official record dates to the Shang dynasty in Anyang, and that is only 3000 years old. No written records have been found confirming the existence of the Xia dynasty. Usually, when we speak of "imperial China" we refer to the period between 221BC and 1912. (There has to be an "empire" ruled by an "emperor" for it to be "imperial"). The period before 221BC is "ancient China."

But I think this will all be irrelevant once I get to rewriting this article, which is in a sad state.--Jiang 19:00, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

On using a strict definition of "imperial", that's basically playing with semantics, and English semantics at that. But Chinese historical records do mention the Xia dynasty. It's the first dynasty that was ever described. However, yes, archaeologists do disagree on whether there is archaeological evidence to lend truth to its existence. The purpose here should be to point out that China had been ruled by kings/emperors since the beginning of its civilisation. How about a compromise? I can think of two alternatives:
  • ...marking the end of 5,000 years of dynastic rule...
  • ...marking the end of thousands of years of imperial rule...
One thing I can easily agree with you on though, is that this article is in a sad state. Hong Qi Gong (Talk - Contribs) 19:12, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The word diguo did not enter the Chinese language until the 20th century and this is an English encyclopedia and we should expect readers to draw conclusions from whatever words we use.

The second is fine. The first implies that Shang and whatever was before it truly ruled over a realm encompassing the present China proper. There is no evidence to suggest that Shang rulers controlled much outside of Anyang and much to suggest that it interacted with societies in close proximity that were very culturally different from itself. I am hesitant to assign a specific date as to when the dynastic system began. Erlitou surely had a stratified society, but do we know whether it was dynastic? I think this whole issue should be left for another article. We're talking 20th century here... --Jiang 19:23, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Well, if you're talking about what dynasty ruled over a "realm encompassing the present China proper", the answer would be, none of them, or maybe Qing would be the only one. As for dynastic rule, if we're to count Shang as the part of Chinese history that came before Zhou, then I think we'd have to consider Shang and Zhou as two distinct dynasties because Zhou definitively replaced Shang. Hong Qi Gong (Talk - Contribs) 19:33, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Someone needs to fix the dynastic timeline to the right of the article, The correct order is "Qin, Western Han, Eastern Han."   It currently has  "Qin, Han, Western Han."  Must have been a simple mistake.

Opposition to the May Fourth movement - Cultural movement[edit]

I think we should add a section on oppositions to the cultural side of the May Fourth movement. Academics with a negative view towards the cultural arm include Lin Shu, Xiong Shili, New Confucians including Tang Junyi, Mou Zongsan, Chien Mu (who are now all deceased) etc, and up until 1985 it was still fairly common to hear Hong Kong's Chinese History teachers at schools who criticized the movement as far as Chinese culture is concerned. Nowadays it seems the opposition voice is on an ebb with not many living persons denouncing the movement. I can only count Hsu Cho-yun, Yu Ying-shih, and To Kit as prominent examples as at 2007.

It will be nice if anyone can find more information on these areas and add a section on Critics of the May Fourth movement. --JNZ 10:21, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

...This is not a stub anymore, right?

Sorry if this post is off topic, not a wikipedian. 03:18, 14 April 2007 (UTC)

Need inline citations[edit]

I know that it would take a lot of efforts to convert this article to inline citations. However, without it, it is difficult to perform fact checking, as well as picking out parts that are WP:OR. This flag is added not to judge the quality of the article, but to point out the deficiency in the area of references. Coconut99 99 (talk) 01:15, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

May Fourth // New Culture?[edit]

Since the New Culture Movement came first, wouldn't it be better to have a separate article or at least have May Fourth Movement as a section of the New Culture article? This article is confusing because it starts in 1919, then just mentions New Culture as a section. Many important things are left out and there are many mistakes (eg Lu Xun was not a novelist, he was not the first to write in the vernacular, and True Story of Ah Q was not a book, but a short story).

Maybe I missed something, but I don't see the merge discussed on this page. Was the discussion someplace else? ch (talk) 07:01, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

Some user merged May 4th and New culture movement into the same article. They are not the same and caused confusion. I just undid the changes. Benjwong (talk) 02:16, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

Benjwong's move and comment seem right to me, so I tried to clear up the confusion by rearranging and tightening. These two articles still need more work, both in filling out and in editing for style and smoothness. ch (talk) 19:31, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

The meaning of 德[edit]

As per the dictionary that I use (the Big Chinese-Russian Dictionary by Oshanin), 德 means something like “good morality”, not “democracy” as a "rule by people" (whatever the latter means on any specific occasion). I. e. there is no reason to merge it either with the American concept that is most commonly associated with the word nowadays, or with any other concept that comes to be associated with that concept in the post-Aristotle West. I don't know the details of what this concept meant among the Chinese intellectuals of that era (I even doubt that it should have acquired any definite meaning), but I think the translation should underline the difference whatever it might have been. “Mr. Democracy” sounds like Bush deliviring a speech to the Senate over a religion that all people in the world are obliged to want to accept, and do what they want… - (talk) 12:53, 17 July 2015 (UTC)