Nine ambitious, young Chinese men and women living in a rapidly changing society defy Eastern cultural traditions in pursuit of more Western values.
China in the 1920s was a new republic confronting great challenges—economic, political, and social. One of the most devastating was the early 1920s North China famine. Because this region of China was densely populated, the effects of this crisis affected millions. Triggered by a severe drought, the famine killed crops and devastated the livelihood of farmers in the northern plains of China. But dying crops was only one consequence. Thousands fled the area; others sold children into slavery, and upward of half a million people died. The areas decimated were largely governed by warlords, which further aggravated the situation since they used the crisis for their own political and economic gain.
First Opium (First Anglo-Chinese) War. Treaty of Nanking signed (1842) ending the First Opium War. China to pay large indemnity and extraterritoriality and most favored nation principle established in China
By the turn of the twentieth century, Japan began to develop its own imperial ambitions. With its growing population and need for natural resources, it began to pursue its expansionist ambitions more aggressively. It established a military draft in 1872, forcing all able-bodied males between the ages of 17 or 18 and 35, regardless of class, to serve a mandatory term of three years in the reserves and subjecting them to the military draft at age 20. Many Japanese, including peasants and samurai, opposed mandatory military service. For the samurai it signaled the end of their social standing, as they were now sharing military service with what they called “dirt farmers.” For the peasants, the expectation of military service was viewed as a “blood tax” since the idea of dying for Japan, the nation that gave them so little, was not welcomed.