Exactly 100 years ago, some three thousand students in Beijing assembled in response to the shocking news that the Western allied powers at the Paris Peace Conference supported the Japanese bid to inherit Germany's rights in Shandong. The protestors' stinging sense of betrayal flared into strikes and boycotts in Shanghai and other cities. Hundreds of new periodicals appeared, as well as larger than ever quantities of books and translations. It is to these demonstrations of patriotism, anti-imperialism and new thinking that the Chinese Communist Party traces the origins of the social revolution to which it lays claim.
Rolled into one with the New Culture Movement and the Literary Revolution, the May Fourth Movement was a transformational moment without peer in modern Chinese history. Confucian tradition and morality, established values and customs, classical prose and poetry – all were attacked as being preposterously unsuited to the times. To the movement's key intellectuals, only an all-out assault upon the old and the 'dead' could clear the decks for the new and the 'living'. They looked to 'isms' of all kinds – evolutionism, Marxism, liberalism – to regenerate their politically fragmented and culturally backward country.
Using still and moving images, this panel will discuss the many forms taken by this protean movement, looking behind its keywords and catchphrases, and questioning its consequences for women, family, education, politics, language and writing.