Research Report: Emancipation, “New Man”, and Citizenship in Republican China

Congratulations to Professor Qian Zhu as well as DKU students Qingyi Yin and Xueyi Liu! Their collaborative research project, sponsored by the Freedom Lab, was recently awarded the Summer Research Scholars Grant. Below you will see a report composed by them describing their work. We look forward to the conference papers and publications that will arise from this new research!

Report by Qian Zhu, Qingyi Yin, and Xueyi Liu

As a part of DKU Freedom Lab projects, I am working with Qingyi Yin and Xueyi Liu, two DKU rising juniors in Global China Studies major-Chinese History track in the spring and the summer of 2020 on the two historical projects: New Life Movement and New Village Movement in Republican China (1900-1949). Initially funded by the Freedom Lab, in the spring when the face-to-face faculty-student research collaboration and physical accession to archives were restricted under the impact of the Covid-19, we switched to online. Qingyi and Xueyi started to familiarize the online archival databases and academic scholarship search engines and learned to use bibliography compiling tools. While the two movements discursively overlapped with each other on the conceptualization of freedom/emancipation, new man and citizenship, the new life and the new village were two nationwide governmental and social movements carried out by both the central government and the local advocates in the first half of the 20th century. We have been excited to locate, yet overwhelmed by, the large amount of archives housed in major Chinese online databases. While building two research databases in Duke Box (see the reports below), Qingyi and Xueyi have equipped with historical research skills of data collecting, data processing, and textual analysis.

In April, our project has been generously awarded with the DKU Summer Research Scholars (SRS) grant offered by the DKU undergraduate program. This fund has been supporting Qingyi to advance the archival research on the new life movement and Xueyi on the new village movement. In the following research reports, they have detailed their progress in compiling primary materials and second literature on the subjects. More importantly, in the past two and half months, they have generated interests on specific topics, which will eventually develop into potential signature work toward their major. Furthermore, the SRS allows us to advance the research to the next step in the summer. We will start the independent study on the scholarship of the two research subjects, the goal of which is to produce research conference papers and publications. Qingyi and Xueyi will present their research in the Humanities Center’s Annual Scholarship Conference in the fall. The revised papers will be submitted to Asian studies conferences and later to an undergraduate academic journal in the spring of 2021. I will include an amount of archives in my book manuscript and in a new research article manuscript, seeking for publication in the fall of 2020 and the summer of 2021.

Archival Research Progress Report

Qingyi Yin

Research Topic: New Life Movement in China.

Researched Databases:

  1. The Late Qing Dynasty Periodical Full-text Database. 晚清期刊全文数据库.
  2. Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspapers.
  3. Duke University Library (Endnote).
  4. China National Knowledge Infrastructure. 中国知网


  1. The Duke library in Endnote contains no articles related to the New Life Movement in China. All related to life insurance and New York, etc.
  2. On CNKI, nearly 200 articles on the New Life movement have been studied and arranged alphabetically.
  3. In the database “Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspapers,”, I have completed a search of articles from the Republic of China Daily (民国日报), the Current Events Newspaper (时事新报) and many other press related to the New Life Movement from 1918 to 1934. I’ve done bibliography Index sequentially for newspapers since 1934. More than two hundred papers from February to June 1934 have been processed so far. Relevant PDF files and bibliographies are arranged in a chronological order.
  4. In the late Qing periodical full-text database, I searched and downloaded nearly two thousand articles and public documents. Among them, the processing and research of all documents from 1911 to 1933 and from 1940 to 1947 were completed. The documents published between 1934 and 1939 are still being processed.

How I searched/processed the materials:

  1. Searching: Instead of typing “New Life Movement” (新生活运动), I typed “New Life” (新生活)when trying to search the database since it helps to extend the potential relevant search results.
  2. Filtering:

(1). The word “New Life” has many meanings and usages in Chinese. It can be used either as a literary metaphor for hope and the future, or in the context of social transformation, etc. When choosing articles, I focused on those related to social transformation and national education activities.

(2). Sometimes there are multiple articles, news reports and government documents covering the same event. In this situation, I carefully distinguished the narrative perspectives adopted by these materials and selected one or two of the most comprehensive and distinctive articles from each perspective. By doing so, I hope to reduce the problem of duplication and redundancy in articles and improve retrieval efficiency.

  1. Decoding Data:

(1). When I came across an article that can’t tell the main idea from the title and introduction alone, or one that I’m interested in, I would read it thoroughly and summarize its main points. Additionally, since last week, following Professor Zhu Qian’s suggestion, I added some tags and comments to the articles I am interested in that have been uploaded to the Duke Box.

(2). In the process of decoding data, what distracts me and makes it difficult is the writing style and typesetting of these materials, which I am not familiar with. The traditional Characters, Semi-classical Chinese writing style and the reading order from left to right and top to bottom have reduced my reading interest and speed to some extent.

(3). In searching for articles, I found women’s issues and religious issues in the New Life movement very interesting, such as group marriage, women’s clothing, Christianity and Buddhism. There have been few previous studies on these topics. Therefore, in my opinion, they are of value for further study. There are also lots of interesting cartoons and fables in many newspapers and magazines, which also attracted my attention.


  1. What are the connections between the New Life movement and the New Village Movement?
  2. To what extent did the discussion of “New Life” before 1934 lay the foundation for Chiang Kai-shek’s New Life Movement that began in Nanchang in 1934?
  3. What are the connections between the War of Resistance against Japan and the New Life Movement?
  4. Did the New Life Movement continue after the Kuomintang government moved to Taiwan?

Possible Research Topic:

  1. How the New Life Movement has affected the expected social role and the ideal behavior pattern of women in China.
  2. The fusion and conflict between the New Life movement and religion.
  3. The interrelation between The New Life Movement in China and the New Life Movement in other countries.

Archival Research Progress Report

Xueyi Liu

List of databases:

(Primary Material Databases)

The Bibliography and Index of Late Qing and Minguo Periodicals

The Portable Document Format files of Late Qing and Minguo Periodicals

The Bibliography and Index of Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspaper

The Portable Document Format files of Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspaper

(Secondary Material Databases)

The Bibliography of Duke Library

The Bibliography of CNKI

The Bibliography and Index of Late Qing and Minguo Periodicals
The Portable Document Format files of Late Qing and Minguo Periodicals
The Portable Document Format files of Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspaper
The Bibliography and Index of Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspaper
The Bibliography of Duke Library &The Bibliography of CNKI

As for Secondary Material Databases, I chose CNKI and Duke library as potential databases. I used “new village” and “China” as keywords to search Duke Library through Endnote, which leads to more than 400 results. I saved all the results including any perspective about “new village” in China, especially those articles recording the period of the Republican-Era of China. However, the amount of closely related articles is still limited, so I also included those ones about “new village” in other countries or someone which are not tightly correlated. I also adopted “new village” and “China” as keywords to search for target materials in CNKI. However, the amount is even less than Duke Library. Therefore, according to my crude understanding about “new village,” I changed the keywords into “rural construction” and “Republican-Era China.” I recorded all those articles discussing the rural construction and rural development in Republican-Era China. Besides, as for primary materials, I chose Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspaper and Late Qing and Minguo Periodicals as databases. I firstly decided to determine myself to those newspapers with the keywords “new village” and “China.” According to these findings, I find that most newspaper adopting “new village” as a concept of community and interestingly, there are many “new village” commercials touting their newly developed uptowns. However, due to my limited understanding over “new village”, I drew the conclusion that these “new village” in those newspapers are not the target “new village, ” and believed that the “new village” should be interpreted as “new rural construction and development.” Therefore, I change these keywords to be “rural construction in Minguo”. I also found some related newspaper. However, due to the time limit, I have not finished all of them and I planned to work on them after I completed primitive material database. As to Late Qing and Minguo Periodicals, I have had many discussions with Professor Zhu and changed my view about “new village” and repeated using “new village” as the keyword instead of “rural construction” to investigate this database in the hope of having further understanding about new village. During the process, I kept all kinds of compositions about new village ranging from poetry and dramas to editorials, newspaper reports and government decrees. All the indexes and bibliographies were recorded chronologically.

Most of texts I read are editorials and newspaper reports. I am used to read the out to understand them because most of these articles are organized longitudinally, which makes understanding process more strenuous. I made masses of annotations and summaries in the early period, especially for the secondary materials and some editorials from primitive materials which I thought are far penetrating and interesting. The chance for me to choose the materials to analyze in the June research memoir is I spontaneously found that a representative KMT Party newspaper reporting the cooperation between the governments of KMT and US government, which gave greatly high praise to this collaboration and imprinted the significance of resisting CCP into this cooperation. This report triggered my interest to research various perspectives of this event. Therefore, I chose another unbiased newspaper and a secondary material analyzing the reforming advocacy of the professional leader in this cooperation——Yan Yangchu. Most of data of secondary materials are familiar to me because I have browsed all the summaries and gist of them, as well as constructed connections among these materials and drew my own summaries and conclusions. As for the primitive materials, I also checked and read all the newspaper and the periodicals before 1928. Therefore, I am familiar with most of materials from newspaper database and periodicals before 1928. As for the periodicals after 1928, I picked some of them which triggered my interests through their titles. In the next weeks, I plan to review more materials after 1928. According to my observation, the main types of materials attracting most are the debates between group running for constructing “new village” and group against “new village. Additionally, the actual plans and surroundings of new village also impressed me.

I still feel confused about the concept of “new village.” In the early period of searching the periodicals, I found that most of materials concentrating on the arguments of the supporters and refutes from opponents. After read most of these materials, I speculated that the “new village” was very likely to be a communist concept, because the advocates proclaims that the most outstanding character of new village is “shared labor, shared gains and equality.” Concurrently, the critiques are also target at these features. However, in the late period of searching, these editorials and debates around new village has gradually disappeared. Most periodicals are political decrees and plans about rural construction in the terms of infrastructure, agricultural modernization, autonomy and so on. Additionally, considering the materials from newspaper database, “new village” also represents a new-fashioned commercial community. Therefore, to find out the further and wider understandings of “new village” is my long-term goal in the future. Now, I would like to investigate more about the transitions from academic debates of “new village” to the governmental plan. Specifically, I want to learn about which part of academic proposals of new village has been reserved for the national plan and which is not and why.