The Other Vernacular: Commoner Knowledge Culture Circa 1919
This essay complicates our understanding of the May Fourth Movement of the late 19teens by isolating a layer of culture that was integral to the era but largely forgotten in later scholarship. This cultural layer of discourse and practice intersected with two of the Movement’s most iconic projects – connecting with “the people” and establishing a vernacular language. This view from the cultural margins helps us excavate the less known byways and potentialities of what has come down to us as an epochal history. It further leads us to question the inevitability of established historical trajectories: from May Fourth populism to the mass politics of the PRC, from the vernacular movement to the linguistic form that stabilized to become baihua.