Anne Shen CHAO

Chen Duxiu was a founder of the New Culture Movement, which persuaded an entire generation of young intellectuals to embrace a Western scientific frame of mind and a democratic political outlook.

1879–1942 Chinese Communist Party founder

Chen Duxiu 陈独秀, founder of the Chinese Communist Party and a leader of the New Culture Movement (c. 1915–1923), was a lifelong rebel who fought corrupt political practice, first against the Qing dynasty, then against the warlord Yuan Shikai 袁世凯, and finally against the ruling Guomindang 国民党 (Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek 蒋介石).

Chen Duxiu was a classically trained scholar-turned-rebel who published the famous journal, New Youth (Xin Qingnian), which persuaded an entire generation of young intellectuals to repudiate their own culture and to embrace a Western scientific frame of mind and a democratic political outlook. At the same time, he and his fellow intellectual Hu Shi 胡适 succeeded in bringing about the vernacular movement, or the change from writing in a classical to a colloquial syntax. In 1920 he established the Shanghai Marxist Study Society, which was the precursor of the Chinese Communist Party. He was expelled from the party in 1929.

Chen was born in Huai-ning (now Anqing), Anhui Province. Classically educated, he placed first in the first-level civil service exam at age seventeen. He failed the next level of exam but wrote A Treatise on the Defense of the Yangzi River—a reflection of his growing patriotism—a year later. He studied in Japan on five occasions and joined a revolutionary overseas Chinese student organization, the Youth Society, in 1902. He was expelled from Japan in 1903 for cutting off the queue (a braid of hair usually worn hanging at the back of the head) of a Chinese official—an Kai-shek from 1932 to 1937. In prison he pursued his scholarly interest in phonetics and philology (the study of literature and of disciplines relevant to literature or to language as used in literature). He died destitute five years after his release from prison.

Further Reading

Chen Du Xiu. (1989). Duxiu Wen Cun [Compendium of writings of Duxiu]. Wuhu, China: Ren min chubanshe [The People’s Press]

Chen, W. X. (1979). Xin wen hua yu dong qian di Chen Duxiu: 1879 zhi 1915 [Chen Duxiu before the New Culture Movement]. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

Feigon, L. (1983). Chen Duxiu: Founder of the Chinese Communist Party. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kuo, Thomas. (1975). Ch`en Tu-Hsiu (1879–1942) and the Chinese Communist movement. South Orange, NJ: Seton Hall University Press.

Ren Jianshu, Zhang Tongmo, & Wu Xinzhong. (Eds.) (1993). Chen Duxiu zhu zhuo xuan [Selected writings of Chen Duxiu]. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe [Shanghai People’s Press].

Shen Ji. (2007). Chen Duxiu Zhuan Lun [A discussion of Chen Duxiu’s biography]. Hefei, China: Anhui daxue chubanshe [Anhui University Press].

Zheng Xuejia. (1989). Chen Duxiu zhuan [A biography of Chen Duxiu]. Taipei, Taiwan: Shibao wenhua chuban qiye youxian gongsi.

Source: Chao, Anne Shen (2009). CHEN Duxiu. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 304–305. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

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