The early history of Beijing University illuminates the struggle by intellectuals to reposition themselves after the collapse of the late-imperial Confucian order. The refashioning of Beida was a gradual, difficult process that involved numerous internal power struggles in addition to countless battles against conservative forces outside the university. It is clear that Beida's vanguard tradition has led to horror and heroism, and that control over the university and its symbolically powerful history has been continuously contested. In spite of Beida's leadership role in 1989 the activism of that year did not carry over with much force into the following decade. If a self-styled heroic movement is to emerge from the university in the near term, it seems likely that it will draw more heavily from Beida's legacy of strident nationalism than from its equally important legacy of broad, independent-minded intellectual inquiry.
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