mao_dun_silkworms.pdf - Primary Source Document with Questions(DBQs “SPRING SILKWORMS” By Mao Dun Introduction Beginning around 1917 Chinese

mao_dun_silkworms.pdf - Primary Source Document with...

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Primary Source Document with Questions (DBQs) “ S P R I N G S I L K W O R M S ” B y M a o D u n Introduction Beginning around 1917, Chinese intellectuals began to engage each other in serious discussion and debate on culture, history, philosophy, and related subjects — all with an eye to the bigger problem of China’s weakness and the possible solutions to that problem. This period of intellectual debate, labeled the May Fourth Movement, lasted to around 1921. Literature played a major part in the lives and the intellectual debates of the Chinese intellectuals of the May Fourth period and on into the 1920s and 1930s. Writing in the vernacular (rather than in the stilted and inaccessible classical forms that had been the “proper” way of writing), a new generation of Chinese authors tackled social and political issues in essays, short stories, novels, and satires. Mao Dun (pen name of Shen Yanbing, d. 1981) was born in Zhejiang Province in 1896. Educated at Beijing University, Mao Dun was active in the Communist Party and was a leader of the League of Left Wing Writers, a Communist Party front organization. In this short story, Mao Dun addresses the situation of China’s farmers — the most numerous segment of the population, but one with which urban-based authors had little meaningful contact. Document Excerpts with Questions (Longer selection follows this section, also with questions) From Chinese Civilization and Society (A Sourcebook) , edited by Patricia Buckley Ebrey (New York: The Free Press, 1981). © 1981 The Free Press. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. [Note: This translation uses the Wade-Giles system of romanization.] “Spring Silkworms” By Mao Dun None of these women or children looked really healthy. Since the coming of spring, they had been eating only half their fill; their clothes were old and torn. As a matter of fact, they weren’t much better off than beggars. Yet all were in quite good spirits, sustained by enormous patience and grand illusions. Burdened though they were by daily mounting debts, they had only one thought in their heads — If we get a good crop of silkworms, everything will be all right! … They could already visualize how, in a month, the shiny green leaves would be converted into snow‑white cocoons, the cocoons exchanged for clinking silver dollars. Although their stomachs were growling with hunger, they couldn’t refrain from smiling at this happy prospect. …
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Primary Source Document with Questions (DBQs) on “SPRING SILKWORMS” BY MAO DUN Asia for Educators l Columbia University l Page 2 of 7 … Old Tung Pao was able to borrow the money at a low rate of interest — only twenty‑ five per cent a month! Both the principal and interest had to be repaid by the end of the silkworm season. … Old Tung Pao’s family, borrowing a little here, getting a little credit there, somehow managed to get by. Nor did the other families eat any better; there wasn’t one with a spare bag of rice! Although they had harvested a good crop the previous year, landlords, creditors, taxes,
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