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Lu Xun

Lu Xun (1881 -1936) was a great modern Chinese man of letters, thinker and revolutionary, and also the founder of modern literature in China.

Lu Xun was born in Shaoxing, in Zhejiang province, into an impoverished but educated gentry family. He received a traditional education before he attended Jiangnan Naval Academy (1898-99) and School of Railway and Mines (1899-1902) in Nanjing. In 1902 went to Japan where he studied Japanese language and then medicine at Sendai Provincial Medical School. In 1906 he dropped out of the school to devote himself entirely to writing. He studied privately and returned in 1909 to China. In 1910-1911 he was a teacher in Shaoxing. From 1912 to 1926 he held a post in the ministry of education in Beijing. He was Chinese literature instructor at National Beijing University (1920-26), and also taught at Xiamen (Amoy) University (1926) and University of Canton (1927).

The literary style of modern Chinese fiction was formed based on foreign fiction and the reformed traditional Chinese storytelling scripts. Lu Xun was a great pioneer in this reform. A Madman's Diary, a short story published in New Youth (a progressive journal of that time) in May 1918, had epochal significance, marking the beginning of a brand new literary era. This story attempts to expose the maladies of feudal patriarchy and the feudal code ethics. However, in the novel, Lu Xun doesn't describe the harms of feudal patriarchy and the oppression born by the madman in detail, instead he points to the cruel nature of feudal ethics through describing the mad man's eyes, his derangement and frenzied words. A Madman's Diary denounces the cannibalistic ethics of feudal society with a most sobering realistic spirit. Artistically, this novel is shaded with subtle symbolism. Before A Madman's Diary was published, poetry and prose written in the vernacular had already appeared. But it was A Madman's Diary that contained true revolutionary thought and seamlessly blended a thoroughly anti-feudal spirit and new art forms. A Madman's Diary is regarded as the first piece of modern Chinese fiction.

Lu Xun's short stories are brought together in two collections -- Call to Arms and Wandering. Call to Arms includes 14 works written between1918 and 1922. Works in this collection were marked by the strong patriotic and revolutionary passion that prevailed in China during the May 4th Movement. Wandering is made up of 11 stories, reflecting Lu Xun's spiritual depression in the mid-1920s and his unending search for the truth. Lu Xun cares about peasants' lives very much. Many stories in Call to Arms and Wandering truthfully depict peasants' tragic lives after the Revolution of 1911.

The True Story of Ah Q, which is included in Call to Arms, is Lu Xun's most representative work. The story is set in Chinese society around the Revolution of 1911. The novel, through describing Ah Q's tragic story of oppression, trying to resist oppression and being killed by the reactionary forces, reveals the class confrontations in the rural areas at that time and criticizes the bourgeoisie's tyranny to and alienation from the masses in leading the 1911 Revolution.

Kong Yiji describes an intellect inflicted by the imperial examination system. The story is written with a laconic and simple structure and in concise language. It castigates the evil of the examination system in trampling and destroying people's lives.

Hometown is a short story known to every household in China. Through the author's first-person witnessing, of especially boyhood friend Runtu's experience, the story exposes, before reader's eyes, a picture of the tragic lives led by Chinese peasants in the 1920s. The story points to the countless tragedies peasants were forced to endure due to hunger, too many children, heavy taxes, wars, bandits, corrupt officials and cruel landlords. The author's sympathy for and concern about the benumbed peasants and their sufferings has stirred the readers' hearts generation after generation of readers' hearts.

By learning from the concise, flexible and varied structure of foreign fiction, Lu Xun broke away from the exclusive form of traditional Chinese fiction, which had been written only in chapters, to create a new form for modern Chinese fiction. Therefore, Lu Xun is regarsed as the father of the modem Chinese fiction.

Lu Xun wrote stories, poetry, essays, literary criticism and literary history, most of which reflected the lives of Chinese people in the early 20th century. Some of his works are:

Gu Shi Xin Bian (Old Tales Retold)

Na Han (Call to Arms)

Pang Huang (Wandering)

Ye Cao (Wild Grass)

A Madman's Diary (1918)

Kong Yi Ji (1919)

Medicine (1919)

A Small Incident (1920)

Storm in a Teacup (1920)

The Story of Hair (1920)

Tomorrow (1920)

My Old Home (1921)

The True Story of Ah Q (1921)

Double Fifth Festival (1922)

Village Opera (1922)

The White Light (1922)