* Exciting account of how the politics and culture of China changed forever during the twentieth century
* Brings previously unheard voices from modern China to light, using a range of new and fascinating sources
* Shines a light on China's 'hidden history', e.g. China and Japan were not always enemies, and Communism was not inevitably destined to succeed in China
* Shows how the 1910s and 20s, traditionally regarded as progressive and liberal, hid the seeds of China's future political crises
* China is now poised to take a key role on the world stage, but in the early twentieth century the situation could not have been more different. Rana Mitter goes back to this pivotal moment in Chinese history to uncover the origins of the painful transition from a premodern past into a modern world.
By the 1920s the seemingly civilized world shaped over the last two thousand years by the legacy of the great philosopher Confucius was falling apart in the face of western imperialism and internal warfare. Chinese cities still bore the imprints of its ancient past with narrow, lanes and temples to long-worshipped gods, but these were starting to change with the influx of foreign traders, teachers, and missionaries, all eager to shape China's ancient past into a modern present.
Mitter takes us through the resulting social turmoil and political promise, the devastating war against Japan in the 1940s, Communism and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and the new era of hope in the 1980s ended by the Tian'anmen uprising. He reveals the impetus behind the dramatic changes in Chinese culture and politics as being China's "New Culture" - a strain of thought which celebrated youth, individualism, and the heady mixture of strange and seductive new cultures from places as far apart as America, India, and Japan.
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.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Oxford University Press, Incorporated
June 30, 2004
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.