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Chen Duxiu

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Chen Duxiu
Chen Duxiu
Traditional Chinese: 陳獨秀
Simplified Chinese: 陈独秀
Pinyin: Chn Dxi
Wade-Giles: Ch`en Tu-hsiu
Original name: Qngtng (慶同)
Courtesy name: Zhngfǔ (仲甫)
Family name: Chen (陳)

Chen Duxiu (October 8 1879 - May 27 1942) played many different roles in Chinese history. Along with Li Dazhao, Chen was a co-founder of the Communist Party of China in 1921. He was its first Chairman, first General Secretary and an educator, philosopher, and politician. His ancestral home was in Anqing (安慶), Anhui, where he established the vernacular Chinese newspaper New Youth.

Contents

Biography

Chronological life

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Chen's caption to this photo read Taken in the First Nanjing Prison in the spring of the 26th year of the Republic [1937]


Early Life.

Chen Duxiu was born in the city of Anqing (安慶) in Anhui (安徽) province. His father died when Chen was very young, and Chen was primarily raised by his grandfather and later by his older brother.

Chen had almost no formal education, but his grandfather tutored him in classical Chinese literature, especially the Four Books (四書) and the Five Classics (五經). A thorough knowledge of these literary and philosophical works were the pre-requisites for civil service in Imperial China. Chen was an exceptional student, but this lack of formal education resulted in a lifelong tendency to advocate unconventional beliefs and criticize traditional ideas.

Chen took and passed the county-level imperial examination (鄉試) in 1896, but he failed the provincial-level examination (省試) the following year. He moved to Shanghai in 1900 and Japan in 1901. It was in Japan where Chen became influenced by western socialism and the growing Chinese dissident movement.

The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

At the turn of the century, the Qing Dynasty (清朝) had suffered a series of humiliating military defeats against the colonial foreign powers, namely the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the war against the Alliance of Eight Nations in 1901. At the same time, widespread corruption within the Qing bureacracy had left the empire in a state of total economic paralysis. During this time, Chen became an increasingly influential activist in the revolutionary movement against both foreign imperialism and the Qing government itself.

Chen founded the Anhui Patriotic Association (安徽愛國會) in 1903 and the Yuewang Hui (岳王會) in 1905. Chen was an outspoken writer and political leader by the time of the Wuchang Uprising (武昌起義)(武昌起義) of 1911, which led to the abdication of Qing emperor and the collapse of the Qing Dynasty. Chen fled to Japan again in 1913 following the short-lived "Second Revolution" of Yuan Shikai (袁世凱), but he returned to China in time to take part in the May Fourth Movement of 1919.

In 1921, Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, and other prominent revolutionary leaders founded the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党, 中國共産黨, Communist Party of China, or CPC). Because of more or less biased Chinese historiography and lack of knowledge elsewhere, it has been generally assumed that Chen, Li and the other Chinese radicals of the time (including future chairman Mao Zedong) just formed the CCP out of diligent study of Marxist theories before and inspired by the Russian Revolution. However, it has been found out later that the road to Marxism was a long one, a number of the radicals being more or less anarcho-socialist or anarcho-communist even at the time the party was created, and several of the prominent members at that time didn't understand even the fundamental premises of Marxist theory. Because of heavy persecution and failed attempts at a more anarchistic social revolution, the prominent Chinese revolutionaries finally turned to communism, apparently more or less through the influence of a Comintern advisor by the name of Grigori Voitinsky, who made a tour of China during 1920-21.

At the First Congress of the Communist Party in Shanghai, Chen was elected as the party's first general-secretary, and with the assistance of Li, he developed what would become an important relationship with the international communist movement, the Comintern. [1] (http://www.bartleby.com/65/co/Cominter.html).

A Party in Turmoil.

At the direction of the Comintern, Chen and the Chinese Communists formed an alliance with Sun Yat-sen and the Nationalist Party (中國國民黨, the Gumndǎng, or the Kuomingtang) in 1922. China had disintegrated into several warring states following the Wuchang Uprising, and the Nationalists were attempting to re-unify the nation under a Republican government. However, Chen became increasingly disillusioned with the Nationalists, which he perceived as rivaling the Qing dynasty in corruption. He also resented the foreign influence of the Comintern over the Chinese Communists. Chen was forced to resign as secretary-general in 1927 for his opposition to the Comintern.

Afterwards, Chen became associated with the International Left Opposition of Leon Trotsky. Like Chen, Trotsky opposed many of the policies of the Comintern. Trotsky publically criticized the Comintern's effort to collaborate with the Nationalists. Chen eventually became the voice of the Trotskyists in China, which caused him to be forced out of the pro-Comintern CPC entirely in 1929.

In 1932, Chen was arrested by the Nationalist-controlled government during the anti-marxist purges of President Chiang Kai-shek (Jiǎng Jish, 蔣介石, or 蔣中正). Chen was released in 1937, but his political organization had been shattered in the aftermath. The CPC had been almost completely destroyed in the purges. Both the supporters of Chen and the pro-Comintern leaders who opposed him had been either killed or fallen out of favor with the Communist membership. The Chinese Communist Party only managed to survive the purges by fleeing to the northern frontier in the Long March of 1934, under the leadership of a new party chairman, Mao Zedong. Mao and this new generation of communists would lead the party in China for the next fifty years.

Chen was one of the few early leaders of the Communist party to survive the turmoil of the 1930's, but he was never able to regain any influence within the party he had founded. For the last two decades of his life, he faded into obscurity. Chen Duxiu died in 1942 at the age of 62 in Sichuan province, and is today buried at his birthplace of Anqing.

Literary Work

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Jinfen Lei (金粉淚), A poem which he wrote in jail.

Writing style

Chen felt his articles reflected the needs of society. He believed that the progress of society cannot be achieved without those who accurately report social weaknesses and sicknesses.

Chens articles were always expressive. He criticized the traditional Chinese officials as corrupt and guilty of other wrongdoing. He was always being attacked and persecuted by the conservatives and had to flee to Japan for four times.

Chens articles strove to attract publicity, and often arouse discussion by using hyperbole. For instance, he emphasized his sadness about the backwardness and corruption in China, so that people suffering would be wiling to send him their opinions. In the New Youth, he even wrote different articles by using different nicknames to form a discussion, so that the public could be aroused.

Chens newspapers emphasized the responses from the audience. For instance, there were forums and citizens columns in New Youth. On average, there were 6 letters from the public in each publications. Whether praise or strong opposition, Chen encouraged all to write. Chen thought that teamwork was very important in journalism. So he asked help from many talented authors and journalists, including Hu Shih and Lu Xun.

Media Experience

Anhui Suhua Bao

On March 31, 1904, Chen founded Anhui Suhua Bao (安徽俗話報) which was the a newspaper that he established with Fang Zhiwu (房秩五) and Wu Shou (吴守) in Tokyo to promote revolutionary ideas using vernacular Chinese, a language which was simpler and easier to read for the general public. Chen was the chief secretary of the newspaper at that time. Initially, only a thousand copies were published. However, in less than half a year, it increased to threefold and the paper was ranked at the top among other vernacular Chinese newspaper publications. During 1904 and 1905, a total of twenty-three periodicals were published. Each had 40 pages for each publication, about 15000 words. However, the paper was barred from publishing in 1905 due to political reasons.

Chen's has three main objectives in publishing Anhui Suhua Bao (安徽俗話報):

  • To let his villagers (Anhui) keep abreast of the politics of Qing Dynasty.
  • To inject knowledge to the readers through vernacular Chinese.
  • To promote the revolutionary ideas to the public.

Chen found out that Chinese often ranked families at a prior position than the country. Furthermore, most of them were in his view too superstitious. Thus, Chen tried to urge Chinese people to participate in politics through the publication of Anhui Suhua Bao (安徽俗話報). After the sixteenth publication, the newspaper added extra 16 topics, including military, Chinese philosophy, hygiene, astronomy, etc. Almost all of the added topics were written by Chen. His pen-name was Sanai (三愛). At least 50 articles were published under this name.

Other publications

The Shanghai’s local government forbade the sales of Guomin Ribao(國民日報) on December 1st, 1903. After that, Chen had twice planned to found AiGuo Xinbao (愛國新報). He failed because of great pressure from different groups. He continued to express his discontent towards the government. For instance, when Anhui Suhua Bao (安徽俗話報) was published on March 31st 1904, Chen was responsible for all editing and distribution.

On November 27th 1918, Chen started another magazine, the Weekly Review (每週評論) with Li Dazhao(李大釗) so as to criticize politics in a more direct way and to promote democracy, science and new literature (baihua). Later, he founded New Youth (新青年). This publication was known for his argumentative essays. He also edited Tokyo Jiayin Magazine (甲寅雜誌) and Science Magazine (科學雜誌). Later, he became the Editor-in chief of Minli Bao (民立報)and Shenzhou Daily (神州日報).

From 1918 to 1910, students at Beijing University, namely Deng Zhongxia (鄧中夏) and Xu Deheng (許德珩) founded the Guomin magazine (國民雜誌) and invited Li Dazhao (李大釗) as consultant. From 1912 to 1913, Chen asked for assistance from Luo Jialun (羅家倫) and Fu Sinian (傅斯年) and they founded Xinchao She (新潮社).

Tokyo Jiayin Magazine

In early 1914, Chen went to Japan and was an editor and wrote critical articles in the Tokyo Jiayin Magazine (甲寅雜誌) for Zhang Shizhao (章士釗). Chen once wrote an article entitled "Self consciousness on patriotism"(愛國心與自覺) which conveyed a strong sense of patriotism and instigated people to fight for their freedom. It spread the idea that those who love their country would spare no pains to protect the country and strive for the rights which the people deserve. This group of people should work together towards the same goal harmoniously. The article was threatening to the central government as it tried to arouse the self-consciousness of the Chinese people. This preliminary magazine was released for 10 issues in total before it was stopped from publishing. The magazine was resumed in 1925 in Beijing with the new name "Tokyo Jiayin Weekly" (甲寅周刊).

New Youth magazine

In 1915, Chen started an influential monthly periodical in Shanghai, The Youth Magazine (青年雜誌), which was renamed New Youth (新青年) and subtitled La Jeunesse in 1916 to 1919. Chen was the chief editor of this periodical. It was published by Qunyi shushe (群益書社) and stopped in 1926. The magazine mainly advocated the use of plain language, socialism and Marxism and strongly against feudalism.

Chen in fact had became the Chinese lecturer of Chinese literature and also the president of the school of Arts in Peking University(北京大学) since 1917. Having the approval from the principal of the Peking University, Chen collected writings of Li Dazhao(李大釗), Hu Shih(胡適), Lu Xun(鲁迅) and Qian Yuan (錢沅) etc. In order to expand the editorial department, New Youth was moved to Beijing. And in February of the same year, Chen used New Youth in promoting science, democracy and new literature, as well as against paleography and old literature. They advocated the use of scientific means and rational proofs in judgement and the achievement of political, economic, social and ethical democracy as their goals.

The Development of New Youth
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New Youth magazine

New Youth was divided into different phrases:

  • 1915 to 1918: it opposed the Chinese conservatism (Confucianism) and promoted the development of democracy. So it became the centre of the New Cultural Movement.
  • 1919 to 1921: (until the formation of the Communist Party), its nature turned from democratic to socialist, aiming at promoting Marxism.
  • 1921 to 1926: it became the theoretic base for the Communist Party.
Poetry

In 1918, New Youth published some new poems of Hu Shih (胡適)and Liu Bannong (劉半農), which were written in vernacular Chinese in order to conform with the above advocacy. Later on, all the articles in New Youth were written in vernacular Chinese and new punctuations marked his pioneer role in vernacular Chinese magazine publication.

Crisis with Cai Yuanpei

In the second edition of New Youth, Chen published Cai Yuanpei’s speech, that is the Speech of Freedom of Religion (蔡元培先生在信教自由會之演說). He at that time criticized Chen for his misinterpretation about his speech on religion. As he puts it, “ The publication of my speech on New Youth committed a number of mistakes.” Fortunately, Cai did not become angry with Chen and the publication was then amended before publishing.

Crisis with Hu Shih

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Chen Duxiu (left) and Hu Shih (right)

This crisis was about the political stand of New Youth. Hu Shih insisted that New Youth should be politically neutral and the publication should be more or less concerned with Chinese philosophy. However, Chen attacked his rationale by publishing "Politics Talk" (談政治) in the 8th edition. At that time, Chen was invited by Chen Jiongming (陳炯明) to be the Education officer in Guangzhou in mid-December of 1920.

He decided to assign the publication to Mao Dun (茅盾), who belonged to the Shanghai Communist Party. Hu Shih was dissatisfied with this and their partnership then crumbled. Later, Chen wrote Hu Shih about his dissatisfaction with Hu’s intimacy with the research faculty. He mentioned, "Please note your close relationship with the research faculty".

Others feel that the faculty is advocated by Liang Qichao (梁啟超), a the supporter of the Tuan Ch'i-jui (段祺瑞) government and their anti-new wave ideology. All of this made Chen greatly dissatisfied.

Anti-Confucianism

Chen suggested six guiding principles in an article called "Warning the teenagers" (敬告青年) in New Youth, which aimed at removing the old beliefs of Confucianism:

  1. To be independent instead of servile
  2. To be progressive instead of conservative
  3. To be aggressive instead of retrogressive
  4. To be cosmopolitan instead of isolationist
  5. To be utilitarian instead of impractical
  6. To be scientific instead of visionary

New Youth is one of the most influential magazines in the early modern Chinese history. Chen indoctrinated many new ideas such as individualism, democracy, humanism and scientific methods which compensate the removal of Confucianism in Communism.

Seen in this light, New Youth then became in a position to provide the alternative intellectual influence for many young people. Under the banners of democracy and science, the traditional ethics represented by Confucianism became the target of attack from New Youth. In the first issue, Chen called the young generation to struggle against the Confucianism by "theories of literaturial revolution" (文學革命論), explained in details in the next section.

To Chen, Confucianism should be rooted out because:

  1. It advocated superfluous ceremonies and preached the morality of meek compliance, making the Chinese people weak and passive, unfit to struggle and compete in the modern world
  2. It recognized the familial values but not the individual as the basic unit of society
  3. It upheld the inequality of the status of individuals
  4. It stressed filial piety which made man subservient and dependent
  5. It preached orthodoxy of thought in total disregard of freedom of thinking and expression.

In a word, Chen was calling for the destruction of tradition and his attack of traditionalism open a new vista for the educated youth. This magazine became the seed of the May Fourth Movement.

Chen's contribution to Chinese journalism

Chen has made many contributions in the field of Chinese journalism. He insisted on telling the truth to the Chinese people and strengthening the Chinese media for later generations. By establishing the newspapers and magazines concerning political issues, Chen had provided a main channel for the general public to express their ideas or discontent towards the existing government. Chen believed that the purpose of mass media is to reveal the truth. At a young age, Chen had already established Guomin Ribao (國民日報), promoting the inefficiency of the Qing Dynasty. With a view to the things mentioned above, his contribition was said to be influential to journalism as a whole.

To sum up, Chen was a famous revolutionary advocator and journalist in the modern Chinese history. His experiences in newspapers had born profound impacts in the jounalistic arena in China.

External links

Reference

Preceded by:
none
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (1921-1922;1925-1927) Followed by:
Qu Qiubai
Preceded by:
none
Chairman of the Communist Party of China (1922-1925) Followed by:
Mao Zedong (1945-1976)
de:Chen Duxiu

ko:천두슈 zh:陈独秀

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