May-Fourth Movement: A Chinese Enlightenment Movement

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To what extent was the May-Fourth Movement a Chinese Enlightenment movement? I. Introduction May-Fourth Movement is an important intellectual and cultural movement that had a great influence towards China. Originally, the movement was carried out by university students, which aimed at protesting against the government decisions towards the Shandong Province, in which Japan had been given the right to overtake the control, despite China being one of the winning countries after World War I. The protest on 4th May 1919 sparked the national sentiment of the intellectuals, who became leaders and urged for a massive transformation of Chinese society, in order to save the country. They even believed that a new culture must be developed based on…show more content…
Chen Duxiu 陳獨秀, the founder of New Youth (Xin qingnian 新青年), published his first essay “Called to Youth”, which hoped to emancipate youngsters to develop a sense of independent thinking instead of blindly following traditional thoughts and practices. One of the guiding principles is “to be independent and not servile”. As one of the key intellectuals in May-Fourth Movement, Chen’s period in Japan and France did inspire him with the Western thought of science and democracy. Schwarcz (1986) described Chen had successfully provoked many youngsters with the thought that in order to overcome the image of not feeble, not self-indulgent, not conservative, they had to get rid of the traditional mindset and develop a new cultural idea. Chow (1960) also mentioned the new intellectuals in the May Fourth Movement required clear thinking and set up universal criteria to judge the reliability of everything. Throughout the whole May-Fourth Movement, the youngsters were the main target group to be influenced and emancipated by the intellectuals, as they all agreed that youngsters were the future pillars of Chinese society. If they wished to change the the traditional Chinese culture into the one that emphasized logical thinking and scientific evidence, they must gain the support from the youngsters. With the promotion by…show more content…
As the above had mentioned, one of the reasons why people are not in Enlightenment is because they are not determined to use their own understanding without the guidance from others or society (Kant 1970). Among the society, Hu Shih and other new intellectuals understood classical language was “dead” and did not fit the current society as much as before. Therefore, they became the leader who introduced the concept of using vernacular literature, and hoped to influence the public to think a change of literature was absolutely important for the development of China. The promotion in society actually also fulfilled public reason which could bring Enlightenment. Kant (1970) suggested that public reason must be free to bring men’s Enlightenment. The meaning of public reason is that people deliberate things from society’s aspect, not for the sake of oneself. Hu’s promotion of vernacular literature allowed the public to consider carefully with own logical thinking, which also satisfied the meaning of

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