Reading the Rural Modern: Literacy and Morality in Republican China†
Article first published online: 6 NOV 2008
© 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 44–54, January 2009
How to Cite
Merkel-Hess, K. (2009), Reading the Rural Modern: Literacy and Morality in Republican China. History Compass, 7: 44–54. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2008.00565.x
- Issue published online: 29 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 6 NOV 2008
- History Compass 7/1 (2009): 44–54, 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2008.00565.x
This essay was runner-up in the 2007 History Compass Graduate Essay Prize, Asia Section.
In the mid-1920s many education reformers turned their attention away from the urban illiterates who had been the focus of recent mass education efforts and toward the countryside and rural residents instead. In order to engage rural readers, reformers created a body of literature that addressed rural issues, articulating a reformed vision of a modern countryside as they did so. As the most prominent of the mass education programs, the Mass Education Movement's publications reached millions of Chinese. On the pages of their 1920s publications, the MEM constructed a vision of a ‘rural modern’ that emphasized a literate citizenry as the basis of a reformed countryside and modern nation. In this way, even while reformers attempted to democratize access to knowledge, they affirmed a Confucian relationship of education to morality.