Introduction to New Youth
Next, let’s look a little more closely at a few of the articles from this edition. Each team will focus on one document and the "consider" questions that follow. You will be asked to guide your classmates briefly through each text.
Team A. Excerpts from Hu Shi, “Why I write poems in the vernacular,” New Youth, May 1919.
I clearly stated that, “Classical Chinese is a half dead language and should not be taught using a methodology used to teach a live language.” I also stated that “so-called live language is a language that is used in daily life, such as English, French and vernacular Chinese. The so-called dead languages, such as [ancient] Greek and Latin, are not used daily, in other words, they’re dead. . . .
[T]he literary revolution that I propose is based on the current situation of Chinese literature and has little to do with the new literature movements in Europe and America. The reason that I sometimes quote Western literary history, (specifically the part when European authors began to write in their native languages three or four hundred years ago), is only because the need for vernacular literature in China today is very similar to the need in Europe then. If we study what those countries accomplished, we will reduce our conservatism and increase our courage. . . .
There are eight rules in new literature:
1. Do not quote idioms;
2. Do not use set phrases;
3. Do not use couplet format;
4. Do not avoid vernacular words;
5. Do follow correct grammar;
6. Do not write claptrap;
7. Do not imitate ancestors;
8. There must be a point to the writing.
Team B. Excerpts from Li Dazhao, “My view on Marxism,” New Youth, May 1919.
I have not done much research on Marxism; therefore it is bold of me to attempt to talk about Marxism here. However, ever since the Russian Revolution, Marxism is about to sweep through the world. Countries such as Germany, Austria, and Hungary started their revolutions one after another following Marxist ideology. While Marxism has caught people’s attention around the world and has stirred up great changes, it also has generated many misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Although our study of Marxism [at New Youth] is slight, there has been a great deal of interest in, and criticism of, his works in various countries as a result of the 100th anniversary [of Marx’s birth] in 1918. We have collected and edited these writings to introduce them to our readers in this Marxism edition of New Youth magazine. I believe it is not without benefit for readers to gain some insight into this world-altering theory through our discussions. If there are any errors due to the editors’ limited knowledge of Marxism, we hope our dear readers will offer their corrections.
Team C. Excerpts from Chen Duxiu’s opening editorial, New Youth, December 1919.
(Note: this was published several months after the other selections and is therefore not included in the table of contents above).
We believe that the moral progress of mankind should expand to a standard above the life based on animal impulse; therefore, we should extend a feeling of friendship and mutual assistance to all peoples of the world. But toward aggressive and possessive warlords and plutocrats, we have to be hostile.
We advocate mass movement and social reconstruction, absolutely cutting off any relations with past and present political parties.
Although we do not believe in the omnipotence of politics, we recognize that politics is an important aspect of public life. And we believe that in a genuine democracy, political rights must be distributed to all people. Even though there may be limitations, the criteria for the distribution will be whether people work or not, rather than whether they own property or not. . . . We recognize [political parties] as a necessary device for political practice, but we shall never tolerate membership in parties that support the interests of the few or of one class rather than the happiness of the whole society.
We believe that politics, ethics, science, the arts, religion, and education should all meet practical needs in the achievement of progress for present and future social life. . . .
We believe that to respect women’s personality and rights is a practical need for the social progress at present, and we hope that they themselves will be completely aware of their duty to society.