Origins of the May 1st Labour Day Celebrations in China


Original Chinese Language Article By:

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

May Day is a world-wide celebration held in more than 80 different countries.  In July, 1889, Friedrich Engels presided over the Second International Congress which was held in Paris.  The Conference adopted a resolution stating that May 1st, 1890 would be the first International Labour Day, which would be marked by the workers participating in mass marches around the world celebrating the power of ‘Labour’.

The Chinese Central People’s Government Administration Council made a decision in December 1949, confirming that May 1st of each year would be designated as ‘Labour Day.’  After 1989, the State Council decided that National Model Workers and Advanced Workers would be recognised and rewarded every five years, with around 3000 people receiving these recognitions.

However, Chinese people celebrating Labour Day activities can be traced back to 1918.  In this year, some revolutionary intellectuals circulated ‘May 1st leaflets to people in Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Hankou and other places.  This was the first time that Chinese people were made aware of ‘Labour Day.’

On May 1st, 1920, the ‘New Youth’ (Volume 7, Issue 6) published an article entitled ‘Celebrating in the Name of Labour Day.’  This inspired masses of workers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Jiujiang, Tangshan and other industrialised cities, to come together in mighty and powerful demonstrations of solidarity in marches across China.  Throughout the day, workers and intellectuals rallied together and during these mass meetings, representatives made various speeches, with the workers proposing an eight hour working day, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of education.  There was also a call for the establishment of ‘Marching’ legislation, together with the shouting of slogans such as ‘Long Live the Workers’, and ‘Long Live the Chinese Workers’, as well as others.  This was the first ‘official’ celebration of ‘Labour Day’ in China’s history.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2016.

Original Chinese Language Source Article:


五一国际劳动节是世界上80多个国家的全国性节日。1889年7月,由恩格斯领导的第二国际在巴黎举行代表大会。会议通过决议,规定1890年5月1日国际劳动者举行游行,并决定把5月1日这一天定为国际劳动节。中央人民政府政务院于1949年12月作出决定,将5月1日确定为劳动节。 1989年后,国务院基本上每5年表彰一次全国劳动模范和先进工作者,每次表彰3000人左右。





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