This Month in History
May 4, 1919
The May Fourth Movement is one of the most important cultural and political movements in modern Chinese history. At the end of the First World War, in 1918, China was convinced it would be able to reclaim the territories occupied by the Germans in present-day Shandong Province. After all, it had fought along with the Allies. However, it was not to be. The warlord government of the day had secretly struck a deal with the Japanese, offering the German colonies in return for financial support. The Allies, on the other hand, acknowledged Japan’s territorial claims in China. When it became known in China in April 1919 that the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles would not honor China’s claims, it gave rise to the movement.
On May 4, 1919, thousands of college students took to the street, calling for abrogation of this unequal pact, a boycott of Japanese goods and the resignations of traitorous officials. Armies were sent to quell the protest, and more than 30 students were arrested, but more strikes by students and workers popped up across the nation in the following weeks. Under pressure from the public, several officials stepped down, including President Xu Shichang. The Chinese delegation didn’t sign the Treaty of Versailles.
May 11, 1939
Pioneering composer Xian Xinghai (1905-1945) conducted the first public performance of The Yellow River Cantata, one of China’s best known choral works. Lyrics to the symphony were written by Guang Weiran (1913-2002) during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. In 1938 Guang went to Yan’an and crossed the Yellow River on the way. The magic beauty of the Mother River of China and the resolve of the Chinese people to defend their homeland inspired him to write a poem, which he read at the New Year Party in Yan’an the next year. It struck a chord in the heart of young musician Xian Xinghai who set it into music a few days later. Soon the work spread all over China and encouraged millions of Chinese to throw themselves into the Anti-Japanese War.
May 23, 1951
The Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet was signed. The document consists of 17 articles ensuring the peaceful liberation of the region. It deals with issues such as allowing autonomy in Tibet, maintaining the status and powers of the Dalai and Panchen lamas, respecting local religious beliefs and customs, and developing the Tibetan language.
May 29, 1981
Soong Ching Ling (1893-1981), also known as Madame Sun Yat-sen and one of China’s most significant political figures in the 20th century, passed away. She was the vice chairman of the People’s Republic of China and the first non-royal woman to officially become head of state of China. In 1939 she founded the China Defense League, which later became the China Welfare Institute. In the early 1950s, she founded English-language magazine China Reconstructs (later renamed China Today) with the help of Israel Epstein (1915-2005). Her former residences in Beijing and Shanghai have been converted into memorial museums.
May 12, 1993
The Museum of the Hemudu Remains was opened to public in Hemudu Town, Yuyao, Ningbo City in Zhejiang Province. The museum was constructed in 1991 on the site of the Humudu Remains, which were discovered in 1973. The Hemudu Culture can be traced back 7,000 years to where it flourished in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. This Neolithic civilization was one of the earliest to cultivate rice and produce lacquerware. Cultural relics abound here, proving that both the Yangtze River Valley and the Yellow River Valley are the cradles of ancient Chinese civilization.
May 1, 1995
Construction of the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai was completed, ranking this TV tower the tallest building in Asia and the third tallest in the world at the time – after the Canadian National Tower in Toronto and Ostankino Tower in Moscow. Standing on the banks of the Huangpu River, it has become the landmark of Shanghai and a must-see tourist attraction.
May 4, 1998
Peking University celebrated its centennial anniversary at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Founded as Imperial Capital University in 1898, the institution was the first research university and national university in China. By 1920 it had become an incubator for progressive thought, and exerted a far-reaching influence on the advancement of the Chinese society. Today most national and international rankings often place it as one of the best universities in China based on various assessment criteria of which academic achievement is only one. The traditional Chinese architecture and its adaptations on its campus has made it a tourist attraction as well.
May 6, 2003
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) went into operation. This is a macroeconomic management agency operates under the State Council (Chinese cabinet). Its functions include formulating and implementing national economic and social development policies, monitoring and guiding macroeconomic development, and coordinating the restructuring of China’s economic system.
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