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The Calm Before The Storm?

Early Republican Classical Literature and the Making of Chinese Modernity
Joachim Boittout
p. 75-80


This article revisits intellectual and literary trends in the few years preceding the launch of the New Culture Movement. Focusing on translations of texts dating from 1912 to 1915, this study explores how a group of writers usually considered conservative ventured to question the reliance of the individual on political structures that underpinned the then prevailing intellectual framework. I argue that these texts competed through literary means and preceded the claim of self-awareness forcibly voiced by New Culture activists in 1915 by achieving what I call a turn to the intimate. Reassessing the necessity to translate these texts as we celebrate this year the centenary of May Fourth Movement, this approach seeks to resurrect the long-forgotten but thriving literary and intellectual context from which the New Culture Movement’s ideas sprouted.

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Bibliographical reference

Joachim Boittout, « The Calm Before The Storm? », China Perspectives, 2019-2 | 2019, 75-80.

Electronic reference

Joachim Boittout, « The Calm Before The Storm? », China Perspectives [Online], 2019-2 | 2019, Online since 10 June 2019, connection on 04 April 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Joachim Boittout

Joachim Boittout is a PhD candidate in History at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute of Modern History of Academia Sinica (Taiwan). He teaches Classical and Modern Chinese at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco) in

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