Go to contents

‘May Wind’ that changed history

Posted May. 04, 2015 07:21,   


Qingdao in Shandong Province of China has many European style buildings with red roof. They are leftovers from its sad history when the city was leased to Germany. That is why Tsingdao beer has gained reputation for its German-style brew. One of the city’s landmarks is "May Wind" in the May Fourth Square. The sculpture, 30 meters in height and 27 meters in width, is an artistic representation of a torch burning in wind. The landmark was established to remind the fact that Qingdao was the origin of the nationwide May fourth protest against imperialism in China. It is also a tourist attraction in the region, frequently appearing in souvenir pictures of Korean tourists.

On May 4, 1919, around 3,000 students gathered in Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital of Beijing. They assembled to protest against China’s failure to regain sovereignty over the Shandong Peninsula because the allied victors of World War I (between 1914 and 1918) accepted a notorious "21 Demands" of Japan, while dividing privileges that Germany held before the war at the Paris Peace Conference. Outraged students took to the street calling for "return of Qingdao" and local merchants and laborers joined forces with them. The protest, which swept 22 provinces and 200 cities for two months, became a trigger to spread socialism in China.

“People in Joseon said during their independence movement that they’d rather die if they cannot achieve independence.” At that time, students in Beijing likened the May Fourth protest to Korea’s March First independence movement. The Weekly Review, established by Chen Duxiu who led creation of the Communist Party in China, praised it was the biggest incident that shook the Chinese public in articles to report the Korea’s independence movement. Some Koreans went to China to join the May Fourth protest, avoiding the Japanese colonial authority’s suppression on the March 1 independence movement.

“On that day, the weather was fine unlike usual days. There was no wind blowing dust in the air, a unique feature of Beijing.” This is a part from the record in a history book written for the day when the May Fourth protest started. It was like a calm before the tempest. Now, after a century has passed on, the North-east Asia is right before a tempest because of Japan. Although national power and dynamics have changed among Korea, China and Japan, it seems far-off to achieve peaceful co-existence of three nations. Looking back the history of today gives a heavy heart in the midst of wine in May.