Chapter 6 Theory and Practice in the May Fourth Period

In: Remembering May Fourth
Shakhar Rahav
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China’s May Fourth Movement (1915–1923) has often been portrayed as an intellectual and cultural watershed that gave rise to Chinese Communism. This chapter demonstrates that although May Fourth is largely seen as an intellectual movement, studying the everyday life of May Fourth activists can reveal information about the movement that changes our assessment of its character and significance. The chapter argues, first, that the relationship of theory to practice was a topic of concern in Chinese political discourse during the May Fourth period and beyond. Second, that since activists themselves viewed the relationship of theory to practice as an issue deserving of attention, scholars researching the movement should pay attention to this problematic as well. Consequently, the second half of the article demonstrates this approach by examining the early political career of Yun Daiying (惲代英), an educator, journalist, and activist during the time of May Fourth in central China’s most important urban center—Wuhan.

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Remembering May Fourth

The Movement and its Centennial Legacy