The May Fourth Movement History Essay

China is a country which has a traditional history of more than five thousand years. Its culture was splendid, its economy was very prosperous and its pe

This area is geographically varied, ranging from volcanic mountains to limestone, to rainforests. Often, these extremely varied geographic areas are divided into areas known as the Highlands, and the Lowlands, both important to the presence of trade in the Mayan civilization.

The lowlands were a beautiful location, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico to the north and west, and on the east was the Caribbean Sea. This was an area that was essential in the planting and production of crops such as maize, squash, beans, cotton, and sisal. As you can believe, the lowlands climate was very warm, and even in Rain season provided little rain. The Southern lowlands were home to rainforests and savannahs, where lakes were present and fed by the Usumacinta River. Rainfall was much higher in this area and drained towards the seas, creating essential rivers, (the Usumacinta and the Grijalva) for the Mayan people. These large rivers also provided a means for transportation. The Northern Lowlands were relatively drier, and home to small trees. This area was often an area of slash and burn agriculture.

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The Highlands were a more dangerous area, composed of mountains and valleys, and were shouldered on the south by the Pacific. This area was home to dangerous animals, such as Jaguars and poisonous snakes. Even though this area was more prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes, the highlands were the Mayans source of precious metals such as obsidian, jade, hematite and cinnabar, which were extremely important in trade relations, as well as value for themselves, as burials of wealthy individuals contain items such as head dresses, necklaces and other items of value made from metals.

The Mayan civilization had many advanced methods of food production. It is now thought that raised fields and terracing, field managing, and wild harvesting were needed in order to support the large populations, which can be seen through aerial photographs, and appear to be connected by man-made canals. Most commonly, maize was their primary staple, but Mayans also grew beans, squash, as well as sisal and cotton for textiles. The wax and honey production from bees was also obtained, and various alcoholic drinks were made from corn.

The Mayan people are most commonly known for their development of a complex writing system, as well as the construction of large, dramatic urban centres for their people past and present. Out of all the Mesoamerican civilizations, Mayan architecture may be the most highly recognized. Definitely the most dramatic, Mayan architecture is known for its huge step pyramids, which were adapted from earlier nearby civilizations. These pyramids were built for honouring gods and past leaders, who are commonly found deep within. Often, these great pyramids were built over with new structures. Other significant buildings of the Maya were often related to religion, administration, observatories, or high ranking citizens. Buildings were created with large, careful stone placement, as well as highly decorated. Understanding this architecture allows us to understand the customs and ways of the Maya civilization.

Building materials often consisted of Limestone, lime stucco, plaster, flint, and cement; as they were readily available and fairly easy to produce. Often, buildings were adorned with murals, sculptures, and short script which expressed activities that were related to the building, often presenting mythological features or impressions of their gods. This was all done through man-power, as there were no metal tools, large domesticated animals, or even wheels to move all of these materials for building.

The houses of the Mayan people were located within the city limits, and are often referred to as compounds. These areas consisted of wide open parts in the middle, in which religious ceremonies were held, usually on raised platforms right in the middle, allowing all to see. Also located near the middle were administration and ball courts. Often, people higher on the social ladder were located on the inner parts of the city, closer to amenities, and had much more spacious living quarters then those of commoners.

The Maya people were very interesting in their sense of keeping track of things. Large numbers of administration related buildings, their invention of the calendar, as well as their recordings on stone stelae were the evidence of progression to a real organized state. This helps with the decipherment of how the population lived in every aspect of their lives; who they worshiped and the importance to respect (often in the form of bloodletting), how they were organized as a civilization, as well as their forms of communication. A lot of the historical record of the Mayans was lost during the Spanish rule, which resulted in the burning of Mayan books. These books would have provided a lot of insight into the way they lived, as well as helpful information to deciphering hieroglyphs.

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The Mayan Collapse

To this day, there is still a lot of debate on what actually happened in the fall of the Mayan civilization. Around 870 Ad, the southern part of the lowlands began to collapse. There was no new construction beginning, and the cities gradually became deserted. This was a result of a combination of events, and is still today not definitely answered why this happened. There are many different opinions readily available, but these were some of the most convincing I came across.

One point of view was that warfare was the last string pulled in the collapse. Warfare had become widespread, and some argue that the increasing power of royalty lead to a revolt.

Another view was that environmental issues led to the collapse. Over harvesting to feed the growing populations damaged the small area of land that was workable, and eventually draining the nutrience of the land. This put a huge strain on the stability of the community, and the possibility of a few droughts made it inevitable. Stanley believes that the “Maya centres were abandoned, not because of burgeoning managerial costs, peasant revolts, or invasions from the outside, but because of erosion of the systems economic base” (Santley 149), Basically stating that over-harvesting of land for food every year left unfertile soil, in which nothing would grow.

Another view I found interesting was by Crist, where on page 29 he suggests that with a civilization as large as the Mayan come issues such as epidemics such as malnutrition and disease which could be triggered by the infertile land not being able to produce for the ever-growing population of the Maya. I could see this to also be a contributing factor, as they really did not have any way to treat disease, or any solutions to malnutrition when you combine it with the potential environmental issues at the time. I believe that any of the previous situations could have easily dispersed if not ended the Maya civilization, and a combination of the proposals out there would have definitely been detrimental

In my opinion, the Maya people were extremely advanced people. As a group, they were very knowledgeable farmers, and used their land to their advantage. Their ability to extract gems and metals and create semi=precious pieces that were highly valued really put them on top with trade relations. Although we have seen substantial structures in the past, the Maya structures were enormous, and highly decorated. The power and respect that Nobel’s had to construct these types of structures must have been amazing, as well as the respect required for the cooperation needed for the labour of these cities. The Mayan were highly intelligent, as they were able to build on Olmec civilization and come up with their own original calendar system, hieroglyphic writing, as well as astronomy. These three areas are still very much a part of our education today, and I believe that even though it may seem farfetched, that the Maya had a significant impact on how our calendars and interpretation of astronomy was constructed to be what it is today.


ople were very proud of their national identities with strong confidence and patriotism. However, situation changed dramatically in the recent two hundred years. Qing Dynasty was the last feudal dynasty in Chinese history, from later time of the Qing Dynasty China started losing advantages in science and technology. An Asian giant became lagged behind because of the closed-door trading policy. Since the first Opium War in 1839, China became a target of foreign invasion. To save the country, many movements led by patriots and nationalists broke out. Because of Western invasion, Chinese identity transformed from a prosperous feudal empire to a lagged behind and poor country. Chinese people realised they had lagged off foreigners. Nationalists started to find a way to expel foreign invaders, save China and establish a new democratic China. Such movements include Taiping Rebellion, Xinhai Revolution, the May Fourth movement, and so on.

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This essay examines two nationalist movements in terms of how they shaped Chinese identity. The first movement discussed in this paper is the May Fourth Movement occurred on May 4, 1919. It influenced Chinese identity in politics, education and cultural aspects and showed Chinese people were struggling finding a way to save the country. In this movement, students and nationalists acted as a leader, they leaded to save China and expel foreign invaders especially Japanese. The May Fourth Movement also introduced the communism to Chinese identity, from that time Chinese Communist party started growing up in China.

After the foundation of People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese people identity is no longer being the victim of foreign oppression and invasion. Chinese people think China is a powerful country. Their identity is shifting from a non-confident to confidence about their nation. That’s why Chinese people are very angry when Japan announced to purchase the Diaoyu Islands recently. Chinese people’s protests and demonstrations against Japan’s purchasing shows Chinese people are becoming more confidence about their country, they don’t think China will be beaten by Japan again. China is gaining a new identity as a strong, independent nation that is totally. Government and people are working together to make China become stronger in the world stage.

May Fourth Movement

The May Fourth Movement started in Beijing on May 4, 1919 was an epochal event in modern Chinese history. (Joseph, 1970) It was anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-warlord leaded by nationalists, young students, and factory workers. The humiliating Treaty of Japan’s Twenty One in Versailles enraged Chinese people. The treaty attempted to transfer German occupied district in Shandong province to Japan instead of returning them back to China. China was regarded as a weak country with large land and resources by Western countries. May Fourth Movement broke out under this background and let the world hear the voice of Chinese people. The movement was successful, and under great pressure, Chinese government refused to sign on Treaty of Versailles. It was the success of Chinese people. The May Fourth Movement influenced Chinese identity from political, educational and cultural aspects.

The May Fourth Movement changed China politically. Previous revolutions and movements were mostly started and led by several important people and only a minority part of the population involved. Most of people, in previous revolutions, they resisted government and invaders with little movements. For example, Reform Movement in 1890s was led by Kang Youwei who was a scholar and political idealist. His idea to make China strong needs emperor to reform the country. Ordinary people were not considered or attempted in Reform Movement. Taiping Rebellion of 1850s led by Hong Xiuquan affected millions of men and women but its main force against Qing Dynasty was trained armies. Ordinary people still stayed on the farm and enjoyed the relatively peaceful society. Those movements did not change terrible situation in China at that time. Such movements and attempts never stopped until the May Fourth Movement. May Fourth movement firstly showed the power of people. In this movement, young students acted as pioneers and Chinese working class became its main force later protesting the Chinese weak response to the Treaty of Versailles. Students and working class people added a huge pressure to government. Under such huge pressure from them, government refused to sign on the Treaty of Versailles.

The May Fourth Movement is also described as the cradle of Chinese communist party. The current ruler of PRC, since then, communism was labeled on Chinese identity. New Youth, the most powerful journal in the May Fourth Movement, (Uberoi, 1987). Chen Duxiu, the runner of New Youth, and Li Dazhao, the general editor, looked very closely at Russian Marx communism. Inspired by Communist Manifesto and the success of Russian revolution, they moved from studying to practice Marxism which they believed that could save China by following Russian example. Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao held the funding meeting of Communist Party in 1921 in Shanghai. The May Fourth Movement gave the birth to Chinese communist party since then CCP developed across China in the latter twenty century and finally ruled the country. Since the May Fourth Movement, communism became a more and more important element of Chinese identity.

The May Fourth Movement also changed the traditional education. Hu shi and other scholars introduced two new terms ‘science’ and ‘Democracy’ to China, often called Mr ‘Sai’ and Mr ‘De’ at that time. They educated people to learn modern science rather than old Chinese culture such as Confucianism (Hu, 1963) ‘Science’ and ‘Democracy’ were two important concepts in New Youth. These two concepts were against traditionally educated concepts like Confucianism. Chen Duxiu, one of the leaders of the May Fourth Movement and main authors of New Youth magazine, wrote in his article ‘Rejoinder to Accusations against Our Journal’ that, “If you wish to support Mr. Democracy, you must first oppose Confucianism, the rules of propriety, the old system of ethics and the old style of politics. And if you want to support both Mr. Democracy and Mr. Science together you have to oppose the idea of the ‘national quintessence’ and the old literature.’ They stressed the importance of science and technology that would allow people to liberate their thinking and free themselves from the past”. (Kwok, 1965)

Traditional Chinese cultures and values were attacked in the May Fourth Movement. Some Chinese people opposed traditional Chinese culture. These people blamed traditional culture made China lagged behind and stop developing. They thought Chinese people have to accept new concepts and abolish old ideas. That is the only way to save our nation and develop China. (Chen, 1916) The May Fourth Movement called for ‘new culture’ and ‘new literature’ as they opposed Confusion values. During this period, a group of people actively worked on promoting new culture in which they promoted idea of national independence and individual liberties. They dedicated to recreate Chinese society and culture in modern China. (Toler, 2012) Such famous people were Hu shi, Chen Duxiu, Lu xun, and so on.

The May Fourth Movement changed Chinese people’s identity in education, from that time old difficult classical Chinese language was abolished. People started to use simplified Chinese language, which would help to reduce illiteracy. Traditional Chinese culture like Confucianism were too difficult to understand for ordinary Chinese citizens, with new simplified Chinese language, it became easier to understand Chinese characters, now they can read and understand new idea from Western countries.

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Some criticisms about the May Fourth Movement pointed out the damage of valuable Chinese traditions. One representative figure against the May Fourth Movement was Chiang Kai-shek who was the president of Guomin Party and was also a nationalist and Confusionist. He thought anti- Confucianism is very important for young people in their moral education, such as “Xiao” he thought it is an important concept for Chinese people to bear in mind. This was the first wave that Chinese traditional culture and values especially Confucianism were attacked in modern China and after the foundation of People’s Republic of China, Cultural Revolution restarted the attack to traditional Chinese culture which caused devastation to Chinese culture and led to tremendous damages to traditional culture. Mao Zedong gave high appraise to the May Fourth Movement and Cultural Revolution was under his idea following the criticism of old culture raised by the May Fourth Movement. The May Fourth Movement influenced not only the national identity of that time but also the society fifty years later.

Movements About Dioayu Islands dispute

Since the late 19th century, when China was invaded by Western countries, the ambition of Chinese nationalists was to “Enrich the country and strength the army”. Chinese identity based on this idea makes China to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Deng Xiaoping, the father of Chinese reform and open movement said that “a nation will be bullied if it lags behind the other nations”, his idea expressed the importance of defending the country’s territory and sovereignty. As China becomes stronger, many Chinese think that China is able to defend its country, but those events about sovereignty are sensitive and easily arouse strong sentiment of Chinese people. The recent Diaoyu Islands disputes between China and Japan aroused sentiment of Chinese people in defending their country. The Diaoyu Island dispute between China and Japan has a long history. Although China claims sovereignty over Diaoyu Island, China does not effective control over the islands and Japan has administered since 1972. On July 7, 2012, Japan announced its intension to nationalize Diaoyu Islands and on September 11, it purchased the island from a owner.

Chinese government usually played the most important role in shaping the national identity. Japanese government’s purchasing behavior enraged Chinese people. They believe that the rejuvenation of China cannot be achieved without retaining its territorial integrity due to past experience of divided and humiliated by foreign invaders. Protests against Japan and its purchase behavior broke out widely in many cities of China. For example, in Beijing, several hundred people gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy declared the sovereignty of Diaoyu Islands. Other cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou all had such protests. Some Japanese companies were attacked in the protests. A Panasonic factory was set on fire in Qingdao. Such events happened across the country. The People’s Daily, an authoritative Communist Party newspaper, said that “the protests were a symbol of the Chinese people’s patriotism”. (Johnson, 2012) With Internet and other social media getting more and more popular among regular people, it is easier for Chinese people to know what happened around the world. Social media provided Chinese people massive ways to get information about outside news. With increasing attention and involvement, Chinese people are playing more and more important role in response to international issues, and they are becoming a rising power. Chinese people are becoming a more and more active contributor to its national identity. This time, they showed the world that not only Chinese government but also its people will not allow any foreign countries to invade China’s sovereignty again.

“With the collapse of Soviet Union, communist ideology lost its appeal. Nationalism has become a weapon for Chinese government to claim the royalty of Chinese people and to rally their support to achieve rejuvenation of Chinese nation”. (He, 2009) This time, with Diaoyu Islands, government emphasised the importance of patriotism. Major news papers, magazines and websites posted stories about nationalists fighting against Japanese. Major media also strengthened the identity that China is an inviolable country. Regarding people’ demonstrations, foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Japanese government’s behavior is illegal it hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and enraged the Chinese public. China’s top legislature strongly condemned Japan’s purchase. China’s premier Wen Jiabao said that “China will never yield even half of a step on the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity”.(Weng, 2012) For Diaoyu Islands dispute, both Chinese government and Chinese people expressed opposition and strong protest against the Japanese. (, 2012)

Some Taiwaness, Hong Kong Chinese and mainland Chinese fought together, they drove small boats and landed on Diaoyu Island to declare the sovereignty. “Although they lived in places of different social formation or governance, for invasion from other nation, China shows its identity as a united nation”. (Dzurek, 1996)


Peter Gries pointed out that, “Chinese national identity evolves in dynamic relationship with other nations and the past.” (Greis, 2004) China’s nationalism is derived from both the pride of Chinese civilization and the past humiliating invasion by the West. Now, China tries to rejuvenate the nation and make China rise again as a world important power. China now will not allow any invasion to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. As the Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China has the ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. With ancient civilization, almost a century of humiliation, and recent rejuvenation, Chinese identity has gone through tremendous transformation. From The May Fourth Movement in 1919 which leaded by students and working class group to today’s Diaoyu Islands protests against Japan, Chinese people is playing a more and more important role in the national identity. China changed from a weak country which did not has the ability to defend its territorial integrity to a strong country which has the ability to defend its nation today, contrubtions of all nationalists of recent one hundred years cannot be ignored. Chinese identity is shaped by them, nationalism is a strong ‘Weapon’ to protect foreign invaders and it is also an important political ‘tool’ which helps Chinese Communist Party to govern the world biggest Communist Country.


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