Lu Xun


Lu Xun
Zhou Shuren
Born September 25, 1881(1881-09-25)
Shaoxing, Zhejiang, China
Died October 19, 1936(1936-10-19) (aged 55)
Pen name Lu Xun
Occupation Short Story writer, critic, Essayist
Period 1881-1936


Lu Xun (simplified Chinese: 鲁迅; traditional Chinese: 魯迅; pinyin: Lǔ Xùn) or Lu Hsün (Wade-Giles), was the pen name of Zhou Shuren (simplified Chinese: 周树人; traditional Chinese: 周樹人; pinyin: Zhōu Shùrén; Wade–Giles: Chou Shu-jen) (September 25, 1881 – October 19, 1936) is one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the leading figure of modern Chinese literature, he wrote in baihua (白話) (the vernacular) as well as classical Chinese. Lu Xun was a short story writer, editor, translator, critic, essayist and poet. In the 1930s he became the titular head of the Chinese League of the Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai.

Lu Xun's works exerted a very substantial influence after the May Fourth Movement to such a point that he was highly acclaimed by the Communist regime after 1949. Mao Zedong himself was a lifelong admirer of Lu Xun's works. Though sympathetic to the ideals of the Left, Lu Xun never actually joined the Chinese Communist Party. Like many leaders of the May Fourth Movement, he was primarily a liberal. Lu Xun's works became known to English readers through numerous translations, beginning in 1960 with Selected Stories of Lu Hsun translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang, and more recently in 2009 when Penguin Classics published a complete anthology of his fiction titled The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, of which, the scholar Jeffrey Wasserstrom,[2] said "could be considered the most significant Penguin Classic ever published."[3]

Contents

Life

Early life

Former residence of Lu Xun in Shaoxin

Born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, Lu Xun was first named Zhou Zhangshou, then Zhou Yucai, and finally himself took the name of Shùrén (Ch.樹人), figuratively, "to be an educated man".

The Shaoxing Zhou family was very well-educated, and his paternal grandfather Zhou Fuqing 周福清 held posts in the Hanlin Academy; Zhou's mother, née Lu, taught herself to read. However, after a case of bribery was exposed – in which Zhou Fuqing tried to procure an office for his son, Lu Xun's father, Zhou Boyi – the family fortunes declined. Zhou Fuqing was arrested and almost beheaded. Meanwhile, a young Zhou Shuren was brought up by an elderly servant Ah Chang, whom he called Chang Ma; one of Lu Xun's favorite childhood books was the Classic of mountains and seas.

His father's chronic illness and eventual death during Lu Xun's adolescence, apparently from tuberculosis, persuaded Zhou to study medicine. Distrusting traditional Chinese medicine.he went abroad to pursue a Western medical degree at Sendai Medical Academy (now medical school of Tohoku University) in Sendai, Japan, in 1904.

Lu Xun in his youth

Education

Lu Xun was educated at Jiangnan Naval Academy 江南水師學堂 (1898–99), and later transferred to the School of Mines and Railways 礦路學堂 at Jiangnan Military Academy 江南陸師學堂. It was there Lu Xun had his first contacts with Western learning, especially the sciences; he studied some German and English, reading, amongst some translated books, Huxley's Evolution and Ethics, J. S. Mill's On Liberty, as well as novels like Ivanhoe and Uncle Tom's Cabin.

On a Qing government scholarship, Lu Xun left for Japan in 1902. He first attended the Kobun Gakuin (Kobun Institute) (Hongwen xueyuan, 弘文學院), a preparatory language school for Chinese students attending Japanese universities. His earliest essays, written in Classical Chinese, date from here. Lu also practised some jujutsu.

Lu Xun returned home briefly in 1903. At age 22, he complied to an arranged marriage with a local gentry girl, Zhu An 朱安. Zhu, illiterate and with bound feet, was handpicked by Lu Xun's mother. Lu Xun possibly never consummated this marriage, although he took care of her material needs all his life.

Sendai

Lu Xun left for Sendai Medical Academy in 1904 and gained a minor reputation there as the first foreign student of the college. At the school he struck up a close student-mentor relationship with lecturer Fujino Genkurou (藤野厳九郎); Lu Xun would recall his mentor respectfully and affectionately in an essay "Mr Fujino" in the memoirs in Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk. (Incidentally, Fujino would repay the respect with an obituary essay on Lu Xun's death, in 1937.) However, in March 1906, Lu Xun abruptly terminated his pursuit of the degree and left the college.

Lu Xun, in his well-known Preface to Nahan (Call to Arms), the first collection of his short stories, tells the story of why he gave up completing his medical education at Sendai. One day after class, one of his Japanese instructors screened a lantern slide documenting the imminent execution of an alleged Chinese spy during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). Lu Xun was shocked by the complete apathy of the Chinese onlookers; he decided it was more important to cure his compatriots' spiritual ills rather than their physical diseases.

"At the time, I hadn't seen any of my fellow Chinese in a long time, but one day some of them showed up in a slide. One, with his hands tied behind him, was in the middle of the picture; the others were gathered around him. Physically, they were as strong and healthy as anyone could ask, but their expressions revealed all too clearly that spiritually they were calloused and numb. According to the caption, the Chinese whose hands were bound had been spying on the Japanese military for the Russians. He was about to be decapitated as a 'public example.' The other Chinese gathered around him had come to enjoy the spectacle." (Lyell , pp 23).

Moving to Tokyo in spring 1906, he came under the influence of scholar and philologist Zhang Taiyan and with his brother Zuoren, also on scholarship, published a translation of some East European and Russian Slavic short stories, including the works of a Polish Nobel laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz. He spent the next three years in Tokyo writing a series of essays in classical Chinese on the history of science, Chinese and comparative literature, European literature and intellectual history, Chinese society, reform and religion, as well as translating the literature of various countries into Chinese.

Career

The statue of Lu Xun and his wife Xu Guangping in Guangzhou

Returning to China, Lu Xun began teaching in the Zhejiang Secondary Normal School (浙江两级师范学堂), the predecessor of Hangzhou High School (浙江省杭州高级中学), Shaoxing Chinese-Western School Middle school of Shaojun (绍郡中西学堂, the predecessor of Shaoxing No.1 High School) in his hometown. With the establishment of the republic, he took a post in the Ministry of Education in Nanjing and moved with the Republican Government to Beijing, where he began to write. Lu Xun remained at the Ministry of Education until 1926 becoming first a section head and then Assistant Secretary. In 1920, encouraged by some fellow associates, he took up part-time teaching positions at the Peking University and Peking Women's Teachers College.

In May 1918, Lu Xun used this pen name for the first time and published the first major baihua short story, Kuangren Riji (狂人日記, "A Madman's Diary"). He chose the surname Lu as it was his mother's maiden family name. Partly inspired by the Gogol short story, it was a scathing criticism of outdated Chinese traditions and feudalism which was metaphorically 'gnawing' at the Chinese like cannibalism. It immediately established him as one of the most influential writers of his day.

Another of his well-known longer stories, The True Story of Ah Q (A Q Zhengzhuan, 阿Q正傳), was published in installments from 1921 to 1922. The latter would become his most famous work. Both works were included in his first short story collection Na Han (吶喊) or Call to Arms, published in 1923.

Between 1924 to 1926, Lu wrote his essays of ironic reminiscences in Zhaohua Xishi (朝花夕拾, Dawn Blossoms Picked at Dusk), published 1928, as well as the prose poem collection Ye Cao (野草, Wild Grass, published 1927). Lu Xun also wrote many of the stories to be published in his second short story collection Pang Huang (彷徨) in 1926. Becoming increasingly estranged with his brother Zuoren, the stories are typically more melancholic than in his earlier collection. From 1926, after the March 18 Massacre, for supporting the students' protests which led to the incident, he went on an imposed exile to Xiamen, Amoy University, then to Zhongshan University at Guangzhou with his student and lover Xu Guangping.

From 1927 to his death, Lu Xun shifted to the more liberal city of Shanghai, where he co-founded the Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers.[4] Most of his essays date from this last period. Xu Guangping gave birth to a son, Haiying, on September 27, 1929. She was in labor with the baby for 27 hours. The child's name meant simply "Shanghai infant". His parents chose the name thinking that he could change it himself later, but he never did so.[5] In 1930 Lu Xun's Zhongguo Xiaoshuo Shilue (中國小說史略, A Concise History of Chinese Fiction) was published. It is a comprehensive overview of history of Chinese fiction up till that time, drawn from Lu Xun's own lectures delivered at Peking University and would become one of the landmark books of Chinese literary criticism in the twentieth-century.

His other important works include volumes of translations — notably from Russian (he particularly admired Nikolai Gogol and made a translation of Dead Souls, and his own first story's title is inspired by a work of Gogol) — discursive writings like Re Feng (熱風, Hot Wind), and many other works such as prose essays, which number around 20 volumes or more. As a left-wing writer, Lu played an important role in the history of Chinese literature. His books were and remain highly influential and popular even today. Lu Xun's works also appear in high school textbooks in Japan. He is known to Japanese by the name Rojin (ロジン in Katakana or 魯迅 in Kanji).

Lu Xun was the editor of several left-wing magazines such as New Youth (新青年, Xin Qingnian) and Sprouts (萌芽, Meng Ya). Because of his leanings, and of the role his works played in the subsequent history of the People's Republic of China, Lu Xun's works were banned in Taiwan until the late 1980s. He was among the early supporters of the Esperanto movement in China.

Last days and death

Luxun residence till death
Lu Xun's tomb

By 1936, Lu Xun's lungs had been greatly weakened by tuberculosis. He was a chronic smoker. In March of that year, he was stricken with bronchitic asthma and a fever. The treatment for this involved draining 300 grams of fluid in the lungs through puncture. From June to August, he was again sick, and his weight dropped to only 83 pounds. He recovered some, and wrote two essays in the fall reflecting on mortality. These included "Death", and "This Too Is Life". At 3:30 am on the morning of October 18, the author woke with great difficulty breathing. Dr. Sudo, his physician, was summoned, and Lu Xun took injections to relieve the pain. His wife was with him throughout that night, but Lu Xun was found without a pulse at 5:11 am the next morning, October 19.[6] His remains were interred in a mausoleum within Lu Xun Park in Shanghai. Mao Zedong made the calligraphic inscription above his tomb. He was survived by his son, Haiying. He was also posthumously made member of the Communist Party for his contributions to the May Fourth Movement.

Style and thought

Lu Xun was a versatile writer. He wrote using both traditional Chinese conventions and 19th century European literary forms. His style has been described in equally broad terms, conveying both "sympathetic engagement" and "ironic detachment" at different moments.[7] His essays are often very incisive in his societal commentary, and in his stories his mastery of the vernacular language and tone make some of his literary works (like A Q Zhengzhuan, 阿Q正傳, The True Story of Ah Q) very hard to convey through translation. In them, he frequently treads a fine line between criticizing the follies of his characters and sympathizing with those very follies. Lu Xun is a master of irony (as can been seen in The True Story of Ah Q) and yet can write impressively direct with simple engagement (My Old Home, A Little Incident).

Lu Xun is typically regarded[by whom?] as the most influential Chinese writer who was associated with the May Fourth Movement. He produced harsh criticism of social problems in China, particularly in his analysis of the "Chinese national character". He has often been considered to have had leftist leanings. He was sometimes called a "champion of common humanity."[by whom?][citation needed]

Lu Xun felt that the 1911 Xinhai Revolution had been a failure. In 1925 he opined, "I feel the so-called Republic of China has ceased to exist. I feel that, before the revolution, I was a slave, but shortly after the revolution, I have been cheated by slaves and have become their slave". He even recommended that his readers take seriously the critique of Chinese culture in Chinese Characteristics by the missionary writer Arthur Henderson Smith. This disillusionment with politics led the author to come to the conclusion in 1927 that "revolutionary literature" alone could not bring about radical change. Rather, "revolutionary men" needed to lead a revolution using force.[8] In the end, he had a profound disappointment in the new government, which he viewed as negatively affecting China.

Legacy

Lu Xun's importance to modern Chinese literature lies in the fact that he contributed significantly to every modern literary medium except the novel during his lifetime. He wrote in a clear lucid style which was to influence many generations, in stories, prose poems and essays. Lu Xun's two short story collections, Nahan (A Call to Arms or Outcry) and Panghuang (Wandering), are often taken to mark the beginning of modern Chinese literature, and are established classics. Lu Xun's translations were important in a time when Western literature were seldom read, and his literary criticisms remain acute and persuasively argued.

The relationship between Lu Xun and the Communist Party of China after the author's death was a complex one. On one hand, Party leaders depicted him as "drawing the blueprint of the communist future". Mao Zedong defined him as the "chief commander of China's cultural revolution," although Lu did not join the party. During the 1920s and 1930s, Lu Xun and his contemporaries often met informally for freewheeling intellectual discussions. As the Party sought more control over intellectual life in China, this type of intellectual independence was suppressed, often violently. Finally, Lu Xun's satirical and ironic writing style itself was discouraged, ridiculed, then as often as possible destroyed. Mao wrote that "...the style of the essay should not simply be like Lu Xun's. [In a Communist society] we can shout at the top of our voices and have no need for veiled and round-about expressions, which are hard for the people to understand". Thus, during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party both hailed Lu Xun as one of the fathers of communism in China, yet ironically suppressed the very intellectual culture and style of writing that he represented. Some of his essays and writings are now part of the primary school and middle school compulsory curriculum in China.[9] However, starting in 2007 his works began to be removed from textbooks; Julia Lovell, who has translated Lu Xun's writing suggests, "Perhaps also it was an attempt to discourage the youth of today from Lu Xun's inconveniently fault-finding habits."[10]

The work of Lu Xun has also received attention outside of China. In 1986, Fredric Jameson cited "A Madman's Diary" as the "supreme example" of the "national allegory" form that all Third World literature takes.[11] Gloria Davies compares Lu Xun to Nietzsche, saying that both were "trapped in the construction of a modernity which is fundamentally problematic".[12]

A major literature prize in China, the Lu Xun Literary Prize is named after him. Asteroid (233547) 2007 JR27 was named after him. A crater on Mercury is named after him.

Works

Lectures

"What Happens After Nora Leaves Home?" A Talk given at the Beijing Women's Normal College, December 26, 1923 Ding Ling and Lu Hsun, The Power of Weakness.' The Feminist Press (2007) 84-93

Stories

  • from 《呐喊》 Call to Arms (1922)
    • 狂人日记 "A Madman's Diary" (1918)
    • 孔乙己 "Kong Yiji" (1919)
    • 药 "Medicine" (1919)
    • 明天 "Tomorrow" (1920)
    • 一件小事 "An Incident" (1920)
    • 头发的故事 "The Story of Hair" (1920)
    • 风筝 "Kite" (1925)
    • 风波 "Storm in a Teacup" (1920)
    • 故乡 "Hometown" (1921)
    • 阿Q正传 "The True Story of Ah Q" (1921)
    • 端午节 "The Double Fifth Festival" (1922)
    • 白光 "The White Light" (1922)
    • 兔和猫 "The Rabbits and the Cat" (1922)
    • 鸭的喜剧 "The Comedy of the Ducks" (1922)
    • 社戏 "Village Opera" (1922)
    • "New Year Sacrifice" (1924)
  • from《彷徨》"Wandering"
    • 祝福 Well Wishes(1924)
    • 在酒楼上 In the Drinking House (1924)
    • 幸福的家庭 A Happy Family (1924)
    • 肥皂 Soap (1924)
    • 长明灯 The Eternal Flame (1924)
    • 示众 Public Exhibition (1925)
    • 高老夫子 Old Mr. Gao (1925)
    • 孤独者 Dictator (1925)
    • 伤逝 Sadness
    • 弟兄 Brothers
    • 离婚 Divorce (1925)
  • from《故事新编》"Old Tales Retold" (1935)
    • 补天 Mending Heaven (1935)
    • 奔月 The Flight to the Moon (1926)
    • 理水 Curbing the Flood (1935)
    • 采薇 Gathering Vetch (1935)
    • 铸剑 Forging the Swords (1926)
    • 出关 Going out (1935)
    • 怀旧 Leaving the Pass (1935)
    • 非攻 Opposing Aggression (1934)
    • 起死 Resurrect the Dead (1935)

Essays

  • 我之节烈观 My Views on Chastity (1918)
  • 我们现在怎么做父亲 What is Required to be a Father Today (1919)
  • Knowledge is a Crime (1919)
  • 说胡须 My Moustache (1924)
  • 看镜有感 Thoughts Before the Mirror (1925)
  • On Deferring Fair Play (1925)

Collections

  • 《呐喊》 Call to Arms (Na han) (1923)
  • 《彷徨》 Wandering (Pang huang) (1925)
  • 《中国小说史略》 Brief History of Chinese Fiction (Zhongguo xiaoshuo shilüe) (1925) a substantial study of pre-modern Chinese literature
  • 《故事新编》 Old Tales Retold (Gu shi xin bian) (1935)
  • 《野草》 Wild Grass (Ye cao) (1927)
  • 《朝花夕拾》 Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk (Zhao hua xi shi)(1932) a collection of essays about his youth

See also

Further reading

Notes

  1. ^ Pusey, James Reeve, Lu Xun and Evolution (SUNY Press, 1998) pg.197
  2. ^ Jeffrey Wasserstrom, UC Irvine, Department of History
  3. ^ "China's Orwell", Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Time (magazine)|TIME]], Dec. 07, 2009
  4. ^ Laurence, Patricia Ondek (2003). Lily Briscoe's Chinese eyes: Bloomsbury, modernism, and China. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 106. ISBN 1570035059. 
  5. ^ McDougall, Bonnie S.; Lu Xun, Xu Guangping (2002). Love-letters and Privacy in Modern China: The Intimate Lives of Lu Xun and Xu Guangping. Oxford University Press. pp. 64. http://books.google.com/books?id=wrq5R6GZJswC&lpg=PP1&dq=Love-letters%20and%20Privacy%20in%20Modern%20China%3A%20The%20Intimate%20Lives%20of%20Lu%20Xun%20and%20Xu%20Guangping&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  6. ^ Jenner, W. J. F. (September 1982). "Lu Xun's Last Days and after". The China Quarterly (Cambridge University Press on behalf of the School of Oriental and African Studies) 91: 424–445. doi:10.1017/S0305741000000643. JSTOR 653365. 
  7. ^ Hesford, Walter (April 1992). "Overt Appropriation". College English (National Council of Teachers of English) 54 (4): 406–417. doi:10.2307/377832. JSTOR 377832. 
  8. ^ Lee, Leo Ou-Fan (July 1976). "Literature on the Eve of Revolution: Reflections on Lu Xun's Leftist Years, 1927-1936". Modern China (Sage Publications, Inc.) 2 (3): 277–326. doi:10.1177/009770047600200302. JSTOR 189028. ; Lydia Liu,”Translating National Character: Lu Xun and Arthur Smith,” Ch 2, Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity: China 1900-1937 (Stanford 1995).
  9. ^ Goldman, Merle (September 1982). "The Political Use of Lu Xun". The China Quarterly (Cambridge University Press on behalf of the School of Oriental and African Studies) 91: 446–447. doi:10.1017/S0305741000000655. JSTOR 653366. 
  10. ^ Lovell, Julia (2010-06-12). "China's conscience". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jun/12/rereading-julia-lovell-lu-xun. 
  11. ^ Jameson, Fredric (Autumn, 1986). "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism". Social Text (Duke University Press) 15 (15): 65–88. JSTOR 466493. 
  12. ^ Davies, Gloria (July 1992). "Chinese Literary Studies and Post-Structuralist Positions: What Next?". The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs (Contemporary China Center, Australian National University) 28 (28): 67–86. doi:10.2307/2950055. JSTOR 2950055. 

External links

Translations

  • Kong Yi Ji, Lu Hsun translated by SparklingEgnlish
  • Reference Archive: Lu Xun (Lu Hsun) at www.marxists.org
  • Selected Stories, Lu Hsun (1918-1926) at www.coldbacon.com
  • An Outsider's Chats about Written Language, a long essay by Lu Xun on the difficulties of Chinese characters
  • The Lyrical Lu Xun: a Study of his Classical-style Verse—a book by Jon Eugene von Kowallis (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996) -- includes a complete introduction to Lu Xun's poetry in the classical style, with Chinese characters, literal and verse translations, and a biographical introduction which summarizes his life in relation to his poetry.
  • The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun. Trans. Julia Lovell. London: Penguin, 2009




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