2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Rebellion of Intellectuals: Pro-Revolutionary Sentiment among Educated Chinese in the First Half of the Twentieth Century


Zhitian Luo

Department of History, Peking University

China’s twentieth century can be called an “age of revolution.” Many educated Chinese, including the established intellectual elite, persistently longed for revolution. The intellectual inspirations behind the various Chinese revolutions were generally foreign in origin. Therefore, these revolutions invariably involved the transformation of mental outlooks, which further extended the range of change from the political realm to the cultural realm. Many educated Chinese yearned for a “great revolution” understood in a broad sense and which, transcending mere political revolution, could be divided, in their imagination, into distinct aspects: the destructiveness of revolution compressed to the minimum while its constructive elements were expanded to the maximum.  Intellectually, “revolution” was always a contested notion. Practically, political and personal conflicts “in the name of revolution” gradually became everyday occurrences, thus demonstrating the great legitimating power of “revolution” itself. For many people, “revolution” became a positive effort to pursue a bright future rather than a tool that they reluctantly chose for as a means for eliminating pain and suffering.


Keywords: Chinese revolution, intellectuals, modern China, revolutionary sentiment, nation-building