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Modern China Studies

A guide to Modern China Studies resources available from ANU Library

May Fourth Movement

The May Fourth Movement, 五四运 (Wǔsì Yùndòng).

On May 4, 1919 more than 3,000 students from 13 colleges in Beijing held a mass demonstration against the decision of the Versailles Peace Conference, which drew up the treaty officially ending World War I. The former German concessions in Shandong province should be transferred to Japan. Students burned the house of the minister of communications and assaulted China’s minister to Japan, both pro-Japanese officials. Strikes and boycotts against Japanese goods lasted more than two months. Students were supported by merchants and workers in shanghai, the strikes went on for another week. The government gave in, three pro-Japanese officials were dismissed, the cabinet resigned, and China refused to sign the peace treaty with Germany.

Parallel to the political events a sociopolitical reform movement in connection with an intellectual revolution took place between 1917 and 1921. The movement's leaders challenged  traditional Confucian ideas and exalted Western ideas, particularly science and democracy, and criticized traditional Chinese ethics, philosophy, religion, and social and political institutions. Important names related to the May Fourth Movement are:

Hu Shi 胡适 (Hu Shih, 1891-1962)

Chen Duxiu 陳獨秀  (Chen Qingtong,1879-1942)

Li Dazhao 李大釗 (1888-1927)

Lu Xun 鲁迅 (Zhou Shouren, 1881-1936)

Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培 (1868-1940)

(biographies can be found here:

The most important newspaper was Xinqingnian 新青年 "New Youth"

Materials on the May Fourth Movement held by ANU:

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