Annotated by Daisy Tong

From Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century , compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 341-344.

Outline of the New Life Movement [annotated excerpts]

By Chiang Kai‑shek[1]


The New Life Movement aims at the promotion of a regular life guided by the four virtues, namely, li [ritual/decorum], yi [rightness or duty], lian [integrity or honesty], and chi [sense of shame].[2] Those virtues must be applied to ordinary life in the matter of food, clothing, shelter, and action. The four virtues are the essential principles for the promotion of morality. They form the major rules for dealing with men and human affairs, for cultivating oneself, and for adjustment to one’s surroundings. Whoever violates these rules is bound to fail, and a nation that neglects them will not survive.


Although li, yi, lian, and chi have always been regarded as the foundations of the nation, yet the changing times and circumstances may require that these principles be given a new interpretation. As applied to our life today, they may be interpreted as follows:

Li means “regulated attitude.”

Yi means “right conduct.”

Lian means “clear discrimination.”

Chi means “real self‑consciousness.”[3]


By the observance of these virtues, it is hoped that beggary and robbery will be eliminated and that the life of our people will be productive. The poverty of China is primarily caused by the fact that there are too many consumers and too few producers.[4] Those who consume without producing usually live as parasites or as robbers. They behave thus because they are ignorant of the four virtues. To remedy this we must make them produce more and spend less. They must understand that luxury is improper and that living as a parasite is a shame.


By the observance of these virtues, it is hoped that social disorder and individual weakness will be remedied and that people will become more military‑minded.[5] If a country cannot defend itself, it has every chance of losing its existence. … Therefore our people must have military training. As a preliminary, we must acquire the habits of orderliness, cleanliness, simplicity, frugality, promptness, and exactness. We must preserve order, emphasize organization, responsibility, and discipline, and be ready to die for the country at any moment.


[1] Chiang Kai-shek was born on October 31, 1887, and died on April 5, 1975. He was the leader of the Nationalist government in mainland China until May, 1948. He inaugurated the New Life Movement on February 19, 1934, in Nanchang.

[2] The four virtues came from traditional Confucianism ideas. Chiang regarded these virtues as “foundational virtues of Chinese civilization.” He thought these moral principles were universal that they could interpret and guide the modern situation and problems.

[3] Chiang Kai-shek wanted to use new interpretations of traditional Confucianism’s four virtues for the purposes of social mobilization and national reconstruction.

[4] Chiang Kai-shek thought the imbalance of consumers and producers was the main cause of poverty, but this statement should be doubted. In fact, the problem of poverty in China at that time were caused by many reasons, for example, the economic pressure caused during Yuan Shin-Kai’s government. Since 1920s, Yuan Shi-kai’s central government was unable to collect all tax and had to pay foreign loan. The government could only depend on foreign and domestic borrowing, which rooted economic problem in the society.

[5] Chiang Kai-shek was impressed by Germany and Japan’s militarization. He wanted to imitate these successful models in China. Chiang thought the militarization of Chinese people would overcome their weaknesses and disorders, thus strengthen the nation.

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