The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895–1919


The study examines the origins of the “literary revolution” proclaimed in 1917 which laid the foundation for the replacement of the classical language by the vernacular as China’s national language and medium of national literature. A unique, multifaceted approach is used to explain the political significance of the classical/vernacular divide against the backdrop of social change that followed the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5. Seeing education as the central battleground for all debates on language, the study in six thoroughly documented chapters investigates the language policy of the Qing and Republican governments, vernacular journalism of the revolutionaries, the activities of urban script reformers, the linguistic thought of the national essence advocates, and the emergence of a scholarly interest in the vernacular in academic circles.
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Biographical Note

Elisabeth Kaske, Ph.D. (2006) in Chinese Studies, Heidelberg University, is Junior Professor of Chinese Studies at Frankfurt University. She has published on the history of late Qing China, including Bismarcks Missionäre: Deutsche Militärinstrukteure in China 1884–1890 (Wiesbaden 2002).

Review Quotes

"This volume will be most valuable as a reference volume for linguists and cultural historians. The extensive appendices of newspapers, press runs, circulation and editorial stance offer valuable chronicles of modern journalism. Scholars of language and script reform will find useful perspectives on how even the most popular reforms attract multiple and contradictory antagonists and innovators."
Mary S. Erbaugh, The China Quarterly, 199, September 2009.


All those interested in the intellectual and social history of late Qing and early Republican China, press history, education, sociolinguistics.


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