Republic of China

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The Republic of China (民国 1911-1949), following China’s last dynasty, the Qing, was a transitional period during which the country was transformed from a semi-colonial and semi-feudalistic society to an independent and integrated sovereign state.

The period was kaleidoscopic, replete with political arguments and wars. Having gone through a transient republic, Yuan Shikai’s short-lived monarchy, warlords’ rule and Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, China experienced one of the most turbulent periods in its history, in which its integration was challenged and 2,000-year-old philosophy collapsed.

Upon the establishment of the republic, democracy was ingrained into the public psyche, and Western philosophies crushed Confucianism to become the nation’s guiding set of values, if incompletely. The republican road was not smooth. Although Manchurian authoritarianism was undermined, political struggles were unending. From Yuan’s failed attempt to build another monarchic empire in 1915 to warlords’ endless infighting, democratic theories were constantly challenged.

Centralized authority wasn’t strong until 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang unified China. But Chiang’s purge of communists caused inextricable animosity between the two parties, which triggered the decades-long civil war. The two parties reconciled during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), which was also part of World War II. However, the corruption-plagued Kuomintang lost its control on the Chinese mainland during the civil war from 1945 to 1949 and retreated to Taiwan.

Despite the political unrest, the period witnessed the rise of a number of prominent philosophers, historians, diplomats and literary figures such as Chen Yinque, Lin Yutang andHu Shi, whose academic achievements remain influential today. Women also played an increasingly important role in the period, gaining access to schooling and even going overseas to pursue further education. Glamorous and grounded with knowledge, those like the Soong sisters, Lin Huiyin and He Xiangning left behind legacies that remain unforgettable today.