Hu Shi

Infobox Writer
name = Hu Shih
birthdate = birth date|1891|12|17
deathdate = death date and age|1962|2|24|1891|12|17
occupation = philosopher, essayist
movement = liberalism, skepticism

Hu Shih (zh-tsp|t=胡適|s=胡适|p=Hú Shì, 17 December 1891 — 24 February 1962), born Hu Hung-hsing (胡洪騂, Hu Hongxing), was a Chinese philosopher and essayist. His courtesy name was Shih-chih (適之, Shizhi). Hu is widely recognized today as a key contributor to Chinese liberalism and language reform in his advocacy for the use of vernacular Chinese. He was also an influential Redology scholar.


Hu was born in Shanghai to Hu Chuan (胡傳,胡传) and Feng Shundi (馮順弟,冯顺弟). His ancestors were from Jixi, Anhui. In January 1904, his family established an arranged marriage for Hu with Chiang Tung-hsiu (江冬秀), an illiterate girl with bound feet who was one year older than he was. The marriage took place in December 1917. Hu received his fundamental education in Jixi and Shanghai.

Hu became a "national scholar" through funds appropriated from the Boxer Rebellion Indemnity Scholarship Program. On 16 August 1910, he was sent to study agriculture at Cornell University in the United States. In 1912 he changed his major to philosophy and literature. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he went to Columbia University to study philosophy. At Columbia he was greatly influenced by his professor, John Dewey, and Hu became Dewey's translator and a lifelong advocate of pragmatic evolutionary change. He returned to lecture in Peking University. During his tenure there, he received support from Chen Duxiu, editor of the influential journal "New Youth", quickly gaining much attention and influence. Hu soon became one of the leading and influential intellectuals during the May Fourth Movement and later the New Culture Movement.

He quit "New Youth" in the 1920s and published several political newspapers and journals with his friends. His most important contribution was the promotion of vernacular Chinese in literature to replace Classical Chinese, which ideally made it easier for the ordinary person to read.Luo, Jing. [2004] (2004). Over a Cup of Tea: An Introduction to Chinese Life and Culture. University Press of America. ISBN 0761829377] The significance of this for Chinese culture was great -- as John Fairbank put it, "the tyranny of the classics had been broken". [cite book | first = John King | last = Fairbank | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1979 (c1948)| title = The United States and China | publisher = Harvard University Press | location = Cambridge| pages 232-233, 334.]

Hu was the Republic of China's ambassador to the United States of America between 1938 and 1942. [Cheng and Lestz 1999, 373] He was recalled in September 1942 and was replaced by Wei Tao-ming, who had previously represented the ROC in Vichy France. Hu then served as chancellor of Peking University between 1946 and 1948, and later (1958) president of the Academia Sinica in Taipei, where he remained until his death by heart attack in Nankang, Taipei at the age of 71. He was chief executive of the Free China Journal, which was eventually shut down for criticizing Chiang Kai-shek.

Hu Shih's work fell into disrepute in mainland China until a 1986 article, written by Ji Xianlin , "A Few Words for Hu Shi", advocated acknowledging not only Hu Shih's mistakes, but also his contributions to modern Chinese literature. His article was sufficiently convincing to many scholars that it caused a re-evaluation of the development of modern Chinese literature and the role of Hu Shi." [ Ji Xianlin: A Gentle Academic Giant] ",, August 19, 2005]


Unlike other figures of the Warlord Era in the Republic of China, Hu was a staunch supporter of just one main current of thought: pragmatism. Many of his writings used these ideas to advocate changes in China.

Hu was well known as the primary advocate for the literary revolution of the era, a movement which aimed to replace scholarly classical Chinese in writing with the vernacular spoken language, and to cultivate and stimulate new forms of literature. In an article originally published in "New Youth" in January 1917 titled "A Preliminary Discussion of Literature Reform", Hu originally emphasized eight guidelines that all Chinese writers should take to heart in writing:

#Write with substance. By this, Hu meant that literature should contain real feeling and human thought. This was intended to be a contrast to the recent poetry with rhymes and phrases that Hu saw as being empty.
#Do not imitate the ancients. Literature should not be written in the styles of long ago, but rather in the modern style of the present era.
#Respect grammar. Hu did not elaborate at length on this point, merely stating that some recent forms of poetry had neglected proper grammar.
#Reject melancholy. Recent young authors often chose grave pen names, and wrote on such topics as death. Hu rejected this way of thinking as being unproductive in solving modern problems.
#Eliminate old clichés. The Chinese language has always had numerous four-character sayings and phrases used to describe events. Hu implored writers to use their own words in descriptions, and deplored those who did not.
#Do not use allusions. By this, Hu was referring to the practice of comparing present events with historical events even when there is no meaningful analogy.
#Do not use couplets or parallelism. Though these forms had been pursued by earlier writers, Hu believed that modern writers first needed to learn the basics of substance and quality, before returning to these matters of subtlety and delicacy.
#Do not avoid popular expressions or popular forms of characters. This rule, perhaps the most well-known, ties in directly with Hu's belief that modern literature should be written in the vernacular, rather than in Classical Chinese. He believed that this practice had historical precedents, and led to greater understanding of important texts.

In April of 1918, Hu published a second article in "New Youth", this one titled "Constructive Literary Revolution - A Literature of National Speech". In it, he simplified the original eight points into just four:

#Speak only when you have something to say. This is analogous to the first point above.
#Speak what you want to say and say it in the way you want to say it. This combines points two through six above.
#Speak what is your own and not that of someone else. This is a rewording of point seven.
#Speak in the language of the time in which you live. This refers again to the replacement of Classical Chinese with the vernacular language.

Sample work

col-begincol-2:"Don't You Forget":(English translation of a poem by Hu, published in "New Youth "magazine, China 1915-1926, vol.5 no.3.)

:Son,:Over twenty years I taught you to love this country,:But God tell me how!

:Don't you forget::It's our country's soldiers,:That made your Aunt suicide in shame,:And did the same to Ah Hsing,:And to your wife,:And shot Kao Sheng to death!

:Don't you forget::Who cut off your finger,:Who beat your father to a mess like this!:Who burned this village?:Shit! The fire is coming!:Go, for your own sake! Don't die with me!:Wait!

:Don't you forget::Your dying father only wished this country occupied,:By the Cossacks,:Or the Prussians,:Anyone!:Any life ever worse than -- this !?:Original poem: " _zh. 你莫忘記/你莫忘记"

_zh. first = | last = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1931 | month = | title = Living philosophies| chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = | publisher = Simon & Schuster | location = New York | id = | url =
*cite book | first = Ao [敖] | last = Li [李] | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = [1964-] | month = | title = Biography of Hu Shih [Hu Shih p'ing chuan] [胡適評傳] | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = | publisher = [Wen hsing shu tien, Min kuo 53-] [文星書店, 民國53-] | location = Taipei [T'ai-pei shih] [臺北市] | id = | url = Series : [Wen hsing ts'ung k'an 50] [文星叢刊 50] .
*cite book | first = Ch'eng-pin | last = Yang | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = c1986 | month = | title = The political thoughts of Dr. Hu Shih [Hu Shih ti cheng chih ssu hsiang] | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = | publisher = Bookman Books | location = Taipei, Taiwan | id = | url = in English.
*cite book | first = Min-chih | last = Chou | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = c1984 | month = | title = Hu Shih and intellectual choice in modern China | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = | publisher = University of Michigan Press | location = Ann Arbor | id = ISBN 0-472-10039-4 | url = Series : Michigan studies on China.
*cite book | first = Shih | last = Hu | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = c1934 | month = | title = The Chinese renaissance : the Haskell lectures, 1933 | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = | publisher = University of Chicago Press | location = Chicago | id = | url = (see online Resource listed below)
*cite book | first = Jerome B. | last = Grieder | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1970 | month = | title = Hu Shih and the Chinese renaissance; liberalism in the Chinese revolution, 1917-1937 | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = | publisher = Harvard University Press | location = Cambridge [US] | id = ISBN 0-674-41250-8 | url = Series : Harvard East Asian series 46.
*cite book | first = Pei-Kai | last = Cheng | authorlink = | coauthors = Michael Lestz | year = c1999 | month = | title = The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = 373 | publisher = W.W. Norton and Company | location = New York and London | id = | url =
*cite book | first = W.M Theodore | last = de Bary | authorlink = | coauthors = Richard Lufrano | year = 2000 | month = | title = Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume Two, Second Edition | chapter = | editor = | others = | edition = | pages = 636 | publisher = Columbia University Press | location = New York Chichester, West Sussex | id = | url =
*Wang, Jingshan, [ "Hu Shi"] . "Encyclopedia of China" (Chinese Literature Edition), 1st ed.
*Shi, Jun, [ "Hu Shi"] . "Encyclopedia of China" (Philosophy Edition), 1st ed.
*Xie, Qingkui, [ "Hu Shi"] . "Encyclopedia of China" (Political Science Edition), 1st ed.
*Geng, Yunzhi, [ "Hu Shi"] . "Encyclopedia of China" (Chinese History Edition), 1st ed.


External links

* [ "The Chinese Renaissance"] : a series of lectures Hu Shih delivered at the University of Chicago in the summer of 1933. (see print Reference listed above)
* [ "Hu Shih Study"] at zh icon

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