The May Fourth era (1915-1927) is considered a pivotal point in the history of modern China. Conventional narratives portray this period as a "Chinese Enlightenment", a period during which total change from the past was sought through the appropriation of Western science and democracy. These narratives concentrate on the dominant intellectual current of the period, the New Culture Movement, as the inspiration for social reform and political revolution. This book challenges that revolution-centered narrative of May Fourth history by showing how the propositions of New Culture were questioned and revised after the initial radical phase. Through a focus on the post-1919 debates on culture, identity, and history, this book argues that Chinese intellectuals reformulated their visions of modernity through critiques of both Occidentalism and totalistic iconoclasm. Importantly, it also argues that the global post-WWI ambivalence towards the idea of Progress in Western civilization impacted significantly on the development of the May Fourth era in its latter stage.

These arguments are based in part on a reexamination of the deployment of the concept of "culture" (wenhua) in the debates of this period. New Culture discourse of the 1910s used the concept "civilization" (wenming) to argue for the need for a break with the past. In contrast to this, in the early 1920s culture emerged as an alternative locus for identity formation. As the summation of a process of continuous growth and accumulation over time, culture was posited to challenge the supremacy of History, the inexorable temporal supplementation of the new over the old, in framing China's modern subjectivity. The historical thinking implied in this notion of Culture accentuated China's spatial particularity and experiential continuity in the global order of modernity.

I. Book

Debating “Culture” in Interwar China (Leiden Series in Modern East Asian Politics and History, Routledge) (Forthcoming)

II. Article: (*: peer-reviewed)

(2010) “Temporality of Knowledge and History Writing in Early Twentieth-Century China—Liu Yizheng and A History of Chinese Culture,” in Viren Murthy and Axel Schneider (eds), The Writing of History in 20th Century East Asia: Between Linear Time and the Reproduction of National Consciousness. Leiden: Brill. (Forthcoming).

*(2009) “In One Body with the People: Worship of Confucius in the Xinzheng Reforms, 1902-1911,” Modern China 35 (2): 123-54.

 *(2008) “Redeploying Confucius: The Imperial State Dreams of the Nation, 1902-1911,” in Mayfair Yang, (ed.), Chinese Religiosities: Afflictions of Modernity and State Formation, 65-84. Berkeley: University of California Press.

(2005) “Reading Chen Yinke historically: “Intellectual Freedom” and Chinese Political Modernity,” in Josephine Chiu-Duke, ed., Liberalism and the Humanistic Tradition 397-415. Taipei: Yunchen wenhua chubanshe.

(2005) “Review of The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making by Lydia Liu (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004),” The Chinese Historical Review 12(1): 152-54.

*(2004) “Did Wang Guowei Die for Intellectual Freedom? Chen Yinke’s View on Modern Chinese Revolutionary Politics”, Historiography East and West 2:2: 205-27.

II. Conference Papers (selected)

(2010) “Missionary Enterprise and the Conception of Religion in Late-Nineteenth-Century China,” paper resented at the workshop “Labeling Self and Other in Historical Contacts between Religious Groups,” Dynamics in the History of Religions, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany, January 8, 2010.

(2009) “A Confucian’s Argument for the Differentiation of Church and State: Kang Youwei and the Late-Nineteenth-Century Conception of ‘Religion’ in China,” paper presented at the Consortium for Asian and African Studies Inaugural International Conference on “Religion, Identity and Conflict,” Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands, August 26-28, 2009.

(2009) “New Humanism in China: A Conservative Vision of the Global,” paper presented at the International Society for Intellectual History Conference on “Translatio Studiorum: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Bearers in Intellectual History,” Verona, Italy. May 25-27, 2009

 (2008) “Locality without Particularity: Recuperating Confucianism through New Humanism,” paper presented at the 122nd American Historian Association Annual Meeting. Washington, DC, USA, January 3-6, 2008

(2007) “Before the Term: Confucianism, ‘Religion,’ and the Redefinition of Orthodoxy, 1890-1911,” paper presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Diego, CA, USA, November 17-20, 2007

(2006) “Secularism, Modernity, and the Nation-State: Traditionalistic Regimes in the Early-Twentieth-Century China,” paper presented at the 120th American Historian Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, USA, January 5-8, 2006.

(2005) “From Religion to Philosophy—Secularism in Recasting Confucianism, 1901-1930.” Presented at the Conference on “Casting Faiths: the Construction of Religion in East and Southeast Asia.” Department of History, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 7-8 June, 2005.

 (2004) “A Modern Discourse about the Past -- Secularism and Particularism of Cultural Traditionalism, 1900-1910.” Paper presented at the HSTCC International Conference “As China Meets the World: China’s Changing Position in the International Community, 1840-2000.” University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. May 17-19, 2004.

(2003) “The ‘Conservative’ Version of Chinese Citizenship.” Presented at Association for Asian Studies 2003 New England Regional Meeting. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA. Oct 24-25, 2003.



(Updated 20 Jan, 2010)