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

A Ritual Drama of History: “European War” in China

Jinlin Hwang

Department of Sociology, Tunghai University

While the New Youth magazine was propagating the idea that only Science and Democracy could save China from her present afflictions, and strove to establish the authority of Western ideas in China, the outbreak of the First World War in Europe was ironically destroying their imposing images in the eyes of the Chinese. This contradictory development immediately resulted in China facing a predicament of choice. For many susceptible Chinese intellectuals, the World War became a turning point in their attitude toward the West. Yet, unlike her counterparts in Europe, the First World War in China was not military per se, but unfolded through a large ensemble of written works. This is the way the World War deeply struck the mind of China. A perusal of the works that took the war as their subject matter reveals that the war had been transmuted into a cultural phenomenon, a ritual drama, repeatedly appearing in the discourse of the time, and greatly threatening the authority of the new culturalists who were then striving to implant modernity in China. A study of this discursive dimension of the war, I suggest, can give a substantial account of the decline of the Western civilization in the Chinese mind. Such a study will also illustrate the critical results this discourse made to China during the period.


Key Words: the First World War, New Culture Movement, ritual drama