Lu Xun

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Lu Xun

Lu Xun (Chinese: 鲁迅, pinyin: Lǔ Xn) or Lu Hsn (September 25, 1881October 19, 1936), the pen name of Zhou Shuren (周树人), has been considered the most influential Chinese writer of the 20th century and is sometimes known as "the father of modern Chinese literatre". He is often seen as the founder of modern baihua (白话) or vernacular Chinese literature. His social thought, which substantially criticized traditional cultural values, was also highly influential in 20th century Chinese history, in particular, to the May Fourth Movement and the strains of thought it gave rise to, which in turn had a great impact on the Chinese communist movement and the rise of the People's Republic of China. He was also a noted translator and helped introduce Chinese to modern international literature.

Contents

Life

Early Life

Born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, Lu Xun was born into the Zhou family; he was first named Zhou Zhangshu and later renamed Shuren, literally, "to nurture a man". His family was educated, of the higher classes, but impoverished, and his father's long sickness and eventual death during his adolescence persuaded Zhou to take up medical science, in particular Westernized medicine, feeling that the pratice of Chinese medicine in his times was not effectual for helping the ill, and in fact often practiced by charlatans. He set out to study abroad in Japan, like most Chinese of his era who wished to attain a Westernized education, heading to Tohoku University in Sendai. Returning to China in 1909, he became a lecturer in the Peking University and began writing.

Lu Xun, in a widely known account, was later to explain that he consciously gave up the pursuit of a medical career for one in literature. On one particularly day during his attendance at Tohoku, after class, one of his Japanese instructors showed a lantern slide that depicted an imminent public execution of an alleged Chinese spy by Japanese soldiers, surrounded by his Chinese compatriots. Lu Xun was shocked by the apathy of the Chinese audience at the execution and decided that it was more important to cure his fellow-countrymen's souls than their bodies.

Early Career

In May 1918, he used his pen name for the first time and published the first major baihua short story ever, Kuangren Riji (狂人日记, A Madman's Diary), which was to become one of his two most famed works. With its criticism of many old Chinese traditions and family rules, it became a cornerstone of the New Culture Movement or May Fourth Movement. Another of his well-known longer stories, The True Story of Ah Q(Ah Q Zhengzhuan, 阿Q正传), was published in the 1920s. Both works were included in his short story collection Na Han (呐喊) or Call to Arms, published in 1923.

Later Career

Between 1924 to 1926, Lu wrote his masterpiece of ironic reminiscences, Zhaohua Xishi (朝花夕拾, Dawn Dew-light Collected at Dusk, published 1928), as well as the prose poem collection Ye Cao (野草, Wild Grass, published 1927). Lu Xun also wrote some of the stories to be published in his second short story collection Pang Huang (彷徨, Wandering) in 1926. In 1930 Lu Xun published Zhongguo Xiaoshuo Leshi (中国小说略史, A Concise History of Chinese Fiction), a comprehensive overview of Chinese fiction and one of the landmark pieces of twentieth-century Chinese literary criticism.

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 is inspired by Gogol), -- discursive writings like Re Feng (热风, 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, particularly amongst youths. 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).

The old residence of Lu Xun, converted into a museum in memory of him
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The old residence of Lu Xun, converted into a museum in memory of him

Lu Xun was also the editor of several left-wing magazines such as New Youth (新青年, Xin Qingnian) and Sprouts (萌芽, Meng Ya). He was the brother of another important Chinese political figure and essayist Zhou Zuoren (周作人). Though highly sympathetic of the Chinese Communist movement, Lu Xun never joined the Chinese Communist Party. 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 late 1980s. He was among the early supporters of the Esperanto movement in China.

Style

Lu Xun's style is wry, often sardonic but with a biting edge on societal issues. His mastery of the vernacular language, coupled with his expertise with tone -- often refusing to occupy any easy position, using linguistic virtuosity as his shield -- make some of his works (like A Q Zhengzhuan, 阿Q正传, The True Story of Ah Q) virtually untranslatable. Lu Xun's importance to modern Chinese literature lies in the fact that he contributed significantly to every modern literary genre except the novel during his lifetime.

Thought

Lu Xun, termed "chief commander of China's modern cultural revolution" by canonical translators Xianyi and Gladys Yang (to the entire revolution from traditional Chinese culture to Chinese modernity from the second decade of the 20th century to the Communist period), is typically regarded 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. Called by some a "champion of common humanity," he helped bring many fellow writers to support communist thought, though he never took the step of actually joining the Communist Party.

Works

Stories

Essays

Collections

External links

Translations

Template:Wikiquote Template:-


Lu Xun is also another name of Lu Yi, a general of the Kingdom of Wu, during the Three Kingdoms period of China.de:Lu Xun fr:Lu Xun ja:魯迅 nl:Lu Xun zh:鲁迅

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