The Eternal “May Fourth Movement”: Between Enlightenment and Tradition
Social Sciences in China
Vol. 38, No. 2, 2017
SPECIAL ISSUE: INTELLECTUAL ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE LITERARY REVOLUTION: CONNOTATIONS AND BACKGROUND COLOR OF NEW CULTURE MOVEMENT
The Eternal “May Fourth Movement”: Between Enlightenment and
This paper mainly discusses two key issues: how to evaluate the New Culture Movement and how to understand the relationship between enlightenment and the New Culture Movement. With regard to the former, the author puts forward the basic principles to be established for the evaluation of the New Culture Movement: not only to respect the historical facts, but also take a broad view to make a comprehensive survey of history and the world. Through an analysis of the current situation at home and abroad, this paper argues that it is precisely because the New Culture Movement rejected the darkness in the fields of politics, morality, academics and ideology which had ruled China for thousands of years, promoted insemination of political democracy, freedom of thought, and spiritual independence, which helped to prepare the mass basis for Marxism to spread in China, that it became possible to achieve the victory of socialism in China. Regarding the latter, the author believes the New Culture Movement could not complete the task of enlightenment once and for all in China. The reasons are as follows: China has thousands of years of old culture and old traditions, the Chinese culture and the European traditions are quite different, and the situation confronting China during the New Culture Movement period was far more complicated than the situation during the European Enlightenment in the 16th-18th centuries. So, when it was divorced from the future fate of the Chinese nation, the empty talk of personality liberation and personal freedom was not only unrealistic, but also poled apart from the rationalist analysis and application advocated by the Enlightenment.
Keywords: Enlightenment, New Culture Movement, tradition, Marxism