Shao Piaoping

Shao Piaoping

Shao Piaoping (邵飄萍, Shào Piāopíng) (October 11 1884-1926), originally named Jingqing (鏡清), later renamed himself Zhenqing (振青), was a journalist, an author and a political activist in China during the 19th century.

Born in Jinhua (金華) in the province of Zhejiang (浙江), Shao spent most of his life pursuing his aspirations for journalism. "To die as a journalist" was his lifetime motto. Shao contributed to the development of journalism in China through efforts such as founding the influential newspaper, Jingbao (京報). He also entangled politics with his journalistic career with his criticisms against the government, which placed him in jail for several times, and eventually led to his death.


-1884 : born in Jinhua city, Zhejiang province.

-1903 : began his secondary study in Zhejiang High School. Shao's interest in journalism was enlightened by Zhang Gong, the starter of "Cuixinbao". (萃新報; a Chinese newspaper)

-1906 : entered Zhejiang Advanced College (浙江高等学堂, now Zhejiang University) in Hangzhou [ [ ÖªÃûÈËÎï ] at]

-1909 : launched his first newspaper in school with his friend called "Yi Ri Bao".(一日報)(一日報)-1911 : became the chief editor of "Hanmin Daily" (漢民日報).

-1913 : was arrested by the warlords for three times and later fled to Japan.

-1916 : established the "Tokyo Editing Society" (東京編譯社) and became the reporter of "Shenbao" in Tokyo.

-1918 : set up the first Chinese News Editing Society in Beijing which aimed at self-editing local news and self-translating foreign news.-1918 : published the first newspaper in China with independent background called "Jin Bao" (京報) -1918 : set up "The Journalism Study Society of Beijing University" ( 北京大學新聞研究會) for indoctrinating new journalism concepts to the youth.

-1919 : was arrested by the An Xin Government and fled to Japan again. Meanwhile, "Jing Bao" was put under suspension.

-1920 : relaunched "Jing Bao"

-1925 : advocated and supported the anti-warlordism revolution held by Feng Yu Xiang (馮玉祥) and Guo Song Ling (郭松齡) through "Jing Bao"

-1926 : was executed by Zhang Zuolin (張作霖)in Beijing by accused of "promoting communism, colluding with Russia".

Life As a Journalist-A brief biography

The beginning of a journalistic career

Shao studied in Zhejiang High School in Hangzhou (杭州) and graduated in 1902. After his graduation, he went back to Jinhua and taught at the Jinhua No. 1 High School of Zhejiang. At that time he started writing articles for several newspapers in Shanghai (上海). In 1912, Shao established Hanmin Daily ( 漢民日報) with Han Sin Jai in Hangzhou. One year later after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, he was arrested and sent to jail, being charged with "accusing the government with bad intention" because of his opposition to president Yuan Shikai (袁世凱). In the spring of 1914, he was rescued from the prison and fled to Japan. It was in Japan where he wrote massive amounts of journal articles and critics for two Chinese papers; "Shenbao" (申報) and "Current issues in Xinbao" "Si Shi Xinbao" (時事新報).

Active participation from 1916 onwards

In 1916, Shao returned to China and was soon appointed as the first Beijing correspondent of Shenbao, the oldest Shanghai newspaper with the largest circulation at that time. During his time in Beijing, Shao was impressed by the emergence of the New Culture Movement (新文化運動).

As the movement launched, Shao widely spread the idea of patriotism and democracy while promoting journalism in a revolutionary way. He established the News Editing Society (新聞編譯社) which was the first Editing Society established by Chinese and published the Beijing Special Notice(北京特別通訊), which contained more than 200 articles. His works facilitated the improvement of Chinese newspapers .

Later in 1918 he established a very influential paper in northern China called Jingbao (京報, Beijing Press). However, it was put under suspension in 1919 because the official government was offended by its critiques. It was relaunched in 1920 with the support of Shao's wife. Yet due to Jingbao's anti-warlordism nature, Shao was being charged for "promoting communism, colluding with Russia", according to the decision of Zhang Zuolin (張作霖, a warlord).

A martyr's death

Shao was detested by contemporary warlord government since he constantly offended the officials. On the 26th of April 1926, Shao was arrested by military officials and executed in Beijing at his age of 40. In memory of him, the Memorial Hall was built in Hengdian Town of Dongyang City, 5 kilometers from Zixi Village, where is the birthplace of Shao.

Contribution to Journalism

Shao Piaoping was the pioneer of journalism at the early 20th century in China. His major contributions included:

"1. reforming the style and practice of newspaper;"

"2. combating censorship;"

"3. laying out the guidelines for journalists;"

1. Reforming the style and practice of newspaper

Shao observed that there were numerous problems with the newspapers at his time. The first and most prominent problem is a biased point of view caused by pressure from the authorities and limited sources. During the years 1910 to 1925 in particular, many Chinese newspapers fell under the influence of different parties. For instance, "Beijing Shi Bao" (北京時報) was controlled by Duan Qirui (段祺瑞), a powerful warlord; "Huang Bao", on the other hand, was under the control of Zhang Zongchang (張宗昌), another warlord, while "Shun Tian Shi Bao" was run by the Japanese and "Chen Bao" under the direct control of Yan Jiu Xi, yet another warlord. In view of this, Shao attempted to change the situation by stating that journalists should report truthfully and practice the discipline of verification. He put this principle into practice when working for Shenbao.

Another problem of news organizations in China, especially in the 1910s is the heavy dependence on foreign news agencies. Shao found this practice a barrier to the development of Chinese journalism because when journalists only copied the news scripts offered by foreign organizations, they failed to produce news on their own through self-exploration of the truth. Thus, in 1917, Shao requested local reporters working for Shenbao to increase the length of their texts from 200 words per article to 500. He also enlarged the coverage of news to include both local news and foreign news, domestic and foreign policies of the government as well as critiques.

2. Combating censorship

In the 1910s, when China was under the repressive rule of warlords, freedom of speech was suppressed and newspapers were under strict censorship. Shao, against all odds, insisted on reporting political and military news on Shenbao while most journalists were confined in the scope of reporting news on non-political and non-military issues. Even though the government was offended from time to time by Shao's daring practice, he managed to reveal the down-to-earth truth to the public with the help of his keen social skills and wide interpersonal network with the officials.

With Shao pointing out the fact that democratic and free journalism can be a powerful weapon against the repressive government, people were made to realize that freedom of speech and publication would not be granted by the government unless they fight for it. Journalists were also inspired and guidances on combating censorship was laid down.

3. Laying out guidelines for journalists

Summarized from the books, articles and speeches by Shao, he believed that in order to be a good journalist, one should:

1. be aware of the current affairs.

2. be able to analyze and understand the background of news.

3. emphasize the ability to judge the value of news, and the complex and changing situation.

4. have the courage to stand against any pressure from authorities (e.g. the warlords).

5. be aware of the fact that one is influential to the society and has the power to change it through the news-making.

6. stay in close touch with different social classes in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the society and the different needs of the readers.

7. have common sense.

8. keep the news comprehensive, that is to be able to choose the news of the highest value, from the most appropriate time and of the most interest to the readers.

9. be observative, analytical and imaginative.

10. be communicative and organized in news writing to ensure that the news are understandable, systematic, comprehensive and persuasive.


Jingbao was set up in October 1918 with two main objectives: 1. to provide an independent platform for the public to express their opinions and 2. to act against the malpractices of contemporary journalism, such as reporting faulty and biased news. When "Jing Bao" was first launched, he wrote the famous slogan "Tie Jian La Shou" (鐡肩辣手) which literally means "iron shoulders and critical hands", meaning that it is the newspaper's responsibility to criticize whatever unjust in the society. He hoped to remind himself and his co-workers to retain the essence of journalism, namely a critical manner and objectively.

At the early stage, Jingbao mainly reported news concerning social issues, the economy, finance, diplomacy, education, art and literature. In addition, it acted as a means to deliver notice from the government. In its later stage political and military news, sino-foreign relationships and culture were also the focus of Jing Bao. With its revolutionary way of reporting and its diverse coverage, Jingbao became a popular newspaper at that time in Beijing.

In order to enrich the contents of the paper, supplementary papers including Little Jingbao (小京報) and Jingbao supplementary paper (京報副刊) were added. Famous writers such as Lu Xun (魯迅) and Sun Fu Yuan (孫伏園)also wrote for the supplementary papers.

Jingbao supplementary paper includes different topics ranging from social science, economy, literature, science to religion. It emphasizes the freedom of speech and encourages people to voice out their opinions. One of its major functions was to allow young writers to express their opinions. This laid the foundation to the establishment of The Journalism Study Society of Beijing University(北京大學新聞研討會).

Contribution to Journalistic Education

The Establishment of The Journalism Study Society of Beijing University (北京大學新聞研究會)

As a supporter of the study of journalism in China, Shao joined the Journalism Study Society at the University of Beijing in 1918. The society recruited 113 students, among them there was the later famous political leader Mao Zedong(毛澤東).

Shao introduced the western model of journalism and shared his experience as a journalist with the students. He kept reminding his students that morality, particularly in terms of helping the poor and undermining the power of the rascals, was the most crucial element for journalists. He also made it clear to his students that journalists should verify the authenticity of news and be truthful to the readers. He told his students the need to observe, apply logical thinking and imagination and to judge the value of news. While at the same time, he taught his students the basic concepts of journalism, including the methods of interview, truthfulness of news, the timing of news-reporting and even the appearance of a journalist from dressing, the use of language to his own attitude.

Shao also arranged visits to news agencies for his students in order to have a taste of the real world. The students were encouraged to submit writings to newspapers. As a result, the Journalism Study Society, with the organized training to young journalists, generated a group of intellectuals who later became the pillar of modern journalism in China.

Books and Writings On Journalism

During the first two years when Shao was working as the Beijing correspondent of Shenbao, he wrote 251 articles with more than 220 thousand words. In 1923, he published the books "Practical Applied Journalism" (實際應用新聞學) and "The Journalism Pandect" (新聞學總論), which focus on the discipline of journalism and promote social justice and political renewal. In 1917, he published a famous article entitled "The hostile relation between the World and my country" (我國與世界戰局) in Shenbao. The article reveals the relationships among nations during the First World War and gives the Chinese a clearer picture of what was happening in the world. His other famous writings include, the "A General studies of Sociological Ideologies in other countries"(綜合研究各國社會思潮), "Studies of New Russia"(新俄國之研究)and the "Collection of Shao Piaoping's Articles" (邵飄萍新聞通訊選).

Influence on literature

After Jingbao was relaunched in 1920, Shao focused on writing supplementary papers which contained many literary contents. Xiaojingbao (小京報) was the first of them. Later Shao cooperated with the famous universities in Beijing to publish more supplementary papers. In total there were more than 10 supplementary papers, including “Film Weekly”(戲劇周刊),”Women Weekly”(婦女周刊),””Human Arts Weekly”(民眾文藝周刊) ”Economics Bimonthly”(經濟半月刊) and “Social Science Bimonthly”(社會科學半月刊) etc. He even invited Lu Xun(魯迅) to write the famous paper, "Mang Yuan" (莽原) .The contents of these papers were of great diversity, varying from film review, art and culture to literature and so on. Freedom of speech in these supplementary papers was maintained and Shao claimed that the principles of these papers could be different from the one that Jingbao held based on their different nature.Inspired by Shao's efforts in expanding the coverage of newspaper to include literary contents, his students Zhang Youluan (張友鵉), Zhao Shaojun (周紹鈞) and Huang Jinqing (黃近青) established the "Xingxing Literature Society" (星星文學社) and published "Literature Weekly" (文學周刊).

Politics: Shao As an Advocate Democracy

Objection to the Government

While Shao was recognized as an outstanding journalist, it should be noted that politics was an inseparable ingredient in his journalistic career. Shao foresaw Yuan's aggression to set up his own regime and thus launched the anti-Yuan force in China. His open objection to the new power naturally put him into trouble. Shao was arrested twice and his newspaper Hanmin Daily was forced to close down. He fled to Japan to continue working in the field of journalism. He was the earliest to unveil Yuan's conspiracy in accepting the infamous Twenty-One Demands proposed by the Japanese Government. In December 1916 he flew back to China to join the protest against Yuan's coronation.

During the May Fourth Movement (五四運動) in 1919, Shao took part in rallying for the support of Chinese students to save the country from Japanese aggression. He spoke at the University of Beijing on the reasons of China's frustration at the Paris Peace Conference and criticized the weaknesses of the Chinese Government in Jingbao. This again agitated the authority and eventually the newspaper was put under suspension. After fleeing to Japan for refuge, he returned to China when Duan Qi Rui's (段祺瑞) government lost power in 1920.

In 1925 he became a secret member of the Communist Party of China where he made large numbers of reports on the communist movement. A year later, the Chinese military, under the command of Zhang Zuolin (張作霖), executed Shao without trial for he "propagandized communism".

Involvement in the Communist Party

When the operation of Jingbao was restarted in 1920, Shao published an article entitled "Study of the New Russia" (新俄國之研究). His aims were to introduce the theory of Karl Marx to the Chinese people, and more important of all, to promote the way he believed that could save China, that was, revolution. The article presented the theory of socialism, glorified the October Revolution in the Soviet Union in 1917 and ensured the success of Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (U.S.S.R.). The article sowed the seeds of communism in the hearts of many Chinese. Later, in 1921, Shao joined the "Marxist theory Study Society"(馬克斯學說研究會). He promoted communism with great effort while discouraging capitalism. In 1925, he joined the Communist party (中國共產黨).

Reference List

" Shao Piaoping Xuan Ji" <<邵飄萍選集>>;方漢奇主編 ;中國人民大學出版社(1987)

"Shao Piaoping zhuan lüe"<<邵飄萍傳略>>; 旭文編著; 北京 : 北京師範學院出版社,(1990)

"Shao Piaoping Xin Wen Tong Xun Xuan" <<邵飄萍新聞通訊選>>;邵飄萍編著;新華出版社(1993)

"Shao Piaoping"<<邵飄萍>> 作者:孫曉陽 :人民日報出版社 (1996)

"Biography of Shao Piaoping"<<邵飄萍傳>>作者:華德韓 :杭州出版社 (1998)


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