A Bitter Revolution


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Table of Contents

Part I: Shock 1: Flashpoint - Beijing, May Fourth, 1919 2: A Tale of Two Cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and the May Fourth Generation 3: Experiments in Happiness: Life and Love in New Culture China 4: Goodbye Confucius: New Culture, New Politics Part II: Aftershock 5: A Land of Death: Darkness over China 6: Tomorrow the Whole World Will Be Red: The Cultural Revolution and the Distortions of May Fourth 7: Ugly Chinamen and Dead Rivers: Reform and the 'New May Fourth' 8: Learning to Let Go: The May Fourth Legacy in the New Millennium

About the Author

Rana Mitter is University Lecturer in the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of St Cross College. He is the author of The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance, and Collaboration in Modern China (2000) and co-editor (with Patrick Major) of Across the Blocs: Cold War Cultural and Social Histories (2003). He has broadcast on topics to do with ancient and modern China and Japan on History Channel television documentaries and on radio.


This book discusses how the fundamental narrative of the May Fourth Movement of 1919 was framed, changed, and transmitted during the 20th century in the Chinese civil war, Great Leap Forward, Chinese Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen Democracy Movement. Mitter (history of modern China, Oxford Univ.; The Manchurian Myth) identifies May Fourth as a time of "transformative change" in which Chinese intellectuals self-consciously promoted the adoption of international ideas and sought, wholesale, to abandon Confucianism. Among Mitter's observations are that the rise of communism was not the most important story of mid-20th-century China and that while Mao Zedong, Chen Duxiu, and other intellectuals rejected Confucianism for its oppression of women and the poor, they were ignoring the Confucian obsession with ethics and mutual obligation. Mitter's fresh and interesting analysis effectively demonstrates how the May Fourth Movement was reframed, but it tends to force political and cultural development in China into a rigid comparison with the ideals of May Fourth and the accompanying New Culture movement. Recommended only for specialized collections in Asian studies.-Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Rockville, MD Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

`Review from previous edition Breathtaking and authoritative' Graham Hutchings, former China Correspondent, Daily Telegraph `An impressive and inventively researched book' Financial Times `With compelling prose and insightful analysis, Rana Mitter paints a brilliant, lively portrait critical to understanding the soul of modern China' Iris Chang, New York Times best-selling author of The Rape of Nanking

This is a fascinating look at a pivotal time in the formation of the culture of modern China. The "Bitter Revolution" of the title is not the Communist Revolution of 1949 or the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, but the revolution of ideas that climaxed in the mass anti-imperialist protests of May 4, 1919. Known as the May Fourth Movement, these student-led protests engendered tumultuous cultural eddies that disturbed all aspects of Chinese life. Mitter's focus on this underappreciated fulcrum of modern Chinese history is refreshing. Chinese Communist historiography has mythologized the May Fourth Movement as the youthful harbinger of the 1949 revolution. Mitter goes beyond such teleological myths to recapture the often desperate and heady atmosphere of the "New Culture Movement," which paralleled the political tumult. She reveals antecedents to later events, including developments as disparate as the Cultural Revolution and the recent decades of economic and cultural liberalization. Especially interesting were new attitudes toward gender relations, sexuality, marriage and family. In many ways, the individualism and experimentation of that era have more in common with contemporary China than the intervening decades of wartime and Communist collectivism and conformity-a compelling reason why this history of early 20th-century China is so relevant today. What is most intriguing about Mitter's account is not what was lost in the dark decades that followed, but how much endured. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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