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May Fourth at 100: Intellectual Voices and the Future of China

May 5, 2019 @ 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Sunday, May 5, 1:00-5:00 PM
Speakers: Jiayang Fan, Leta Hong Fincher, Gail Hershatter, William Kirby, Li Chenjian, Lydia Liu, Viren Murthy, Andrew Nathan, XIE Linlan, Zhang Xudong, Sun Xun
Tickets: Students $10; Members $15; Non-Members $20
Location: 40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10006

Scholars today view May Fourth as one of the most significant turning points in modern Chinese history. By challenging traditional values, the movement opened up an era of intellectual enlightenment that had far reaching effects on all aspects of Chinese life. However, the movement also has a complicated legacy in China today. On the one hand, a handful of May Fourth leaders went on to help establish the Chinese Communist Party, making the movement an important chapter in the history of the modern state. On the other hand, the May Fourth era also generated democratic ideas and other new ways of thinking that helped inspire a new wave of powerful student protest in June, 1989, which led to one of the party’s biggest crises.

On May 5, 2019, China Institute will host an afternoon-long symposium to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement. The event will examine the legacy of the May Fourth era through three panels focusing on literature and the role of public intellectuals, the emergence of strong feminist movement, and the challenge of facing history in China today.

Is there a role for public intellectuals in China? How did the movement change the lives of Chinese women who sought to reimagine their place in Chinese society, and what struggles do Chinese women continue to face today? Do artists, writers, and musicians bear responsibility as critics in Chinese society? Why is it so difficult for China to look back on its tumultuous modern history? Is the West still a model for China? Join us in exploring these questions and more!

May Fourth and China Institute:
The spirit of May Fourth is central to China Institute, established in 1926. The renowned educational reformer Hu Shih, one of the institute’s founders, believed that educational and cultural exchange with the West was a path to a strong, modern China. Hu led a campaign during the May Fourth era to democratize education by promoting the use of vernacular Chinese instead of the antiquated classical Chinese. He was just one of many commanding Chinese intellectuals of the time who took to the media, art, and literature to push for modern thinking and the building of a new culture.

This event is co-presented by the Peking University Alumni Association of Greater New York and NYU China House.

Speaker Bios:

Jiayang Fan

Jiayang Fan is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where she writes about China and Chinese-American politics and culture. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Magazine, and the Paris Review, among other places. Ms. Fan was born in Chongqing, moving to the United States at the age of eight. She graduated from Williams College with a double major in philosophy and English literature. She received a Fulbright scholarship to spend a year in Korea.


Leta Hong Fincher

Leta Hong Fincher is a journalist and scholar who has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Ms. Magazine, the BBC and CNN. She is the author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Zed, 2014) and Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China (Verso, 2018) which was named one of Vanity Fair‘s top eight political books of fall 2018, and one of Newsweek’s best books of 2018. Leta is the first American to receive a Ph.D. from Tsinghua University’s Department of Sociology in Beijing. She has a master’s degree from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree with high honors from Harvard University.



Gail Hershatter is an American historian of Modern China who holds the Distinguished Professor of History chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her books include The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past (University of California Pres, 2011), Women in China’s Long Twentieth Century (University of California Press, 2007), and Women and China’s Revolutions (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018).


William C. Kirby

William C. Kirby is Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard University. He is a University Distinguished Service Professor. Professor Kirby serves as Chairman of the Harvard China Fund, the University’s academic venture fund for China, and Faculty Chair of the Harvard Center Shanghai, Harvard’s first University-wide center located outside the United States. A historian by training, Professor Kirby examines contemporary China’s business, economic, and political development in an international context. He has authored or co-authored more than fifty HBS cases on business in China. His most recent book is Can China Lead? (Harvard Business Review Press).



LI Chenjian is a principal investigator at the IDG McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Peking University and Peking University Chair Professor. Until mid-2018, he was the Vice Provost of Peking University and Associate Dean of the School of Life Sciences. In addition to his scientific initiatives, Dr. Li has been a steadfast advocate for education reform in China. Dr. Li received his undergraduate education from Beijing University and Peking Union Medical College and later obtained his PhD in molecular neurobiology from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. Dr. Li is also the recipient of numerous prestigious research grants and awards, including the National Research Service Award and the C.H. Li Memorial Award. He has also won grants from the Michael J. Fox, Hereditary Disease, and Dana Foundations and has received support from the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.



Lydia H. Liu is the Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities; Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. Her research centers on modern China, cross-cultural exchange, and global transformation in modern history, with a focus on the movement of words, theories, and artifacts across national boundaries and on the evolution of writing, textuality, and media technology. Her most recent book is The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Feminism (co-author with Rebecca Karl and Dorothy Ko, Columbia, 2013)



Viren Murthy is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work probes the historical conditions for the possibility of philosophy and politics in the modern world and in East Asia in particular. He is generally interested in the attempts of East Asian intellectuals to resist modernity through reviving premodern philosophies and religions, such as Buddhism. He is the author of many books including The Challenge of Linear Time: Nationhood and the Politics of History in East Asia (Brill, 2014).



Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. He is engaged in long-term research and writing on Chinese foreign policy and on sources of political legitimacy in Asia. Professor Nathan is the author of many books; his articles have appeared in World Politics, Daedalus, The China Quarterly, Journal of Democracy, Asian Survey, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Asian Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, and elsewhere. His research has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and others. He has directed five National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars.


Linglan Xie

XIE Linlan is a writer and poet. She is a signed columnist of Qiao Bao and Tencent·Master, and cultural commentator of Hua Cheng, a prominent Chinese literary publication. Linglan’s works include short-stories, poetry, essays and literary translations. Her debut fiction “Riptide” was selected for 2018 Best Short Story List in China. In 2016, Linglan won the Writer of the Year Award of Tencent Publishing. In 2019, she was awarded the Asia Poetry Award for Oversea Poet. A collection of her poetry translations was well-received at the Hong Kong International Poetry Festival in 2013. In 2018, a second edition of the collection was published. She graduated from Peking University in 1991.



Xudong Zhang is Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies at NYU, and founding director of the International Center for Critical Theory (a consortium of Peking University, New York University, University of Tokyo and Eastern China Normal University). He is also Director of China House NYU. He has published widely on critical theory and transcultural comparisons of Chinese and European modernities. Xudong Zhang’s research interests include critical theory; modernism and modernity; theories of representation, narrative, and interpretation; political philosophy; aesthetics; and twentieth century Chinese literature and culture. Publishing in both English- and Chinese-speaking worlds, he is currently at work on manuscripts on Hegel’s aesthetics; Lu Xun; and the second volume of/sequel to his 2005/06 book, Cultural Politics in the Age of Globalization.

Sun Xun

Sun Xun is a contemporary Chinese artist known for his animated videos made using multi-media techniques. Sun’s work probes issues dealing with culture, memory, politics, and his skepticism of official history. His monochromatic ink drawings of animals and insects, are used in his films that propose alternate histories. Born in 1980 in Fuxin, China, the artist studied printmaking at the China Academy of Art in Hangzou. In 2006, he founded Pi Animation, where he and a handful of employees use high powered computer to create his films. The artist has been included in exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai. Sun lives and works in Beijing, China.


May 5, 2019
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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