Admittedly, I never had much regards for this young fellow called Lu Xun. That is, until we finally met. Hear me out:
When Lu Xun and Kungfucius met
Sometimes in the early 20th century, I, Kungfucius was sipping on this West Lake Longjing Tea (西湖龙井). If you have never tried it, then you are missing out! It is pure bliss. The delicate flavor and smooth texture bring feelings of calm and serenity with each sip. The rich aroma alone is enough to transport me to a place of peace and righteousness and leaves me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated….
That was until Lu Xun entered the tea house (茶馆 / Cháguǎn).
Difficult to ponder about the ways of the world, when Lu Xun walks in, looking for a quiet place to work on his latest writing. Probably another unorthodox text about the madness of modern reality. Well, who could blame him!
As we sat across from each other, we couldn’t help but notice the other’s presence. Well, Lu Xun couldn’t help notice my present. I was aware of this young chap the second the door swang open. Anyways, I struck up a conversation with him. “Greetings, young man. I am Kungfucius, Master of Kung Fu and some classical texts. What is it that you do?”
Lu Xun, always ready for a good debate, replied with a smile, “I am a writer, Master Kungfucius. I write about the world and the people who inhabit it.”
“The world and its people?”, I replied, “That is a heavy subject for one so young. Tell me, what is it that you hope to achieve through your writing?”
Lu Xun leaned forward, his eyes shining with passion. “I hope to awaken the people from their slumber, Master Kungfucius! I believe that they are being held back by the old ways of thinking and that they need to embrace new ideas and ways of life.”
Nodding to him, I said that I understand his passion. “I, too, believe in the power of new ideas, but I also believe in the value of tradition. We must not forget the wisdom of our ancestors.”
Lu Xun smiled. “But Master Kungfucius, what good is tradition if it holds us back and causes us to suffer? I believe that we must question tradition and not blindly follow it.”
“I see your point, young man. But we must not forget that tradition is the foundation upon which we build our future. Without it, we would be lost. Anyways, Master Kungfucius is all for lifelong learning and seeking deeper understanding of our world.”
Did Kungfucius or Lu Xun won the debate?
This is up to you to decide. Let me help you with reasoning before you make your verdict:
- Lu Xun died in 1936. Kungfucius is still rolling and balling and has created this website.
- Have a look at google trends to see who is more influential:
To be fair: In Japan, there are more people who google Lu Xun than who google Kung Fu. But we all know that the Japanese always have a kink for the extraordinary.
Who was Lu Xun?
Lu Xun (鲁迅), born Zhou Zhangshou (周钊寿), was a Chinese writer, literary critic, and translator who is widely regarded as the father of modern Chinese literature. He was very good and very influential. Born in 1881 in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, Lu Xun was a man of many talents, who left an indelible mark on the cultural and intellectual landscape of China.
Lu Xun was born into a family of scholars and, like his ancestors, he received a classical “Kungfucian” education. However, he soon came to the conclusion that the traditional ways of thinking were holding him back and that he needed to embrace new ideas and ways of life. Obviously, it is difficult for new writers in a world that only respect writers that have died centuries ago. So, why not challenge the status quo?
In 1903, Lu Xun went to Japan to study medicine, but he soon discovered his true passion for writing and literary critique. In other words: he dropped out of his studies.
Lu Xun was a fierce critic of Chinese society and the Kungfucian culture that dominated it. He saw the dangers of blindly following tradition and advocated for change, progress and wokeness (I know this will trigger many of you… you are welcome!). His writing was often satirical and aimed at exposing the faults and weaknesses of the old ways of thinking. He used his writing to urge people to awaken from their slumber and to embrace new ideas and ways of life.
Lu Xun’s writing style was unique and innovative. He was one of the first writers in China to use the colloquial language of the people in his writing, and he was known for his use of irony, sarcasm, and humor. His writing was often dark and cynical, but it was also infused with a deep sense of humanity and compassion.
One of Lu Xun’s most famous works is “A Madman’s Diary” (狂人日记 / Kuángrén rìjì), a short story that was first published in 1918. The story is about a madman who becomes convinced that everyone around him is a cannibal and that they are plotting to eat him. The story is a powerful critique of the Kungfucian values and traditions that Lu Xun saw as being a major cause of the problems and suffering in Chinese society.
Another of Lu Xun’s most important works is “The True Story of Ah Q” (阿Q正传), a novel that was first published in 1921. The novel is about a poor and uneducated man named Ah Q who is struggling to survive in a rapidly changing world. The story is a biting critique of the Chinese people’s lack of courage and their inability to stand up for themselves.
“Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk” (晨光已经摘下), another of Lu Xun’s works, is a collection of short stories that were first published in 1922. The stories are set in rural China and are often dark and cynical, but they are also infused with a deep sense of humanity and compassion.
Lu Xun passed away in 1936, but his influence on Chinese literature and culture continues to this day. He is remembered as one of China’s greatest writers and intellectuals, and his works are still widely read and studied.
In conclusion, Lu Xun was a man of many talents who left an indelible mark on the cultural and intellectual landscape of China. He was a fierce critic of Chinese society and he used his writing to urge people to awaken from their slumber and embrace new ideas and ways of life. His writing was often dark and cynical, but it was also infused with a deep sense of humanity and compassion. Lu Xun’s legacy continues to inspire generations of Chinese writers and intellectuals, and his works will always be remembered as some of the greatest pieces of literature in Chinese history.
What language did Lu Xun write in?
Lu Xun was one of the first Chinese writers to use everyday language in his texts, instead of classical, literal Chinese. This was a main difference in his writing style.
At the same time, he wrote many of his texts in the teens and twenties of the 20th century and in the last hundred years, language changed quite a bit. In other words, words used by Lu Xun can be understood, but are not the most used words in China today. Moreover, Lu Xun often used literary Chinese – for example in his own diary. Besides, while not using classical literary Chinese, the words and phrases he used were not necessarily common in spoken Chinese. But how could they? Most Chinese used local dialects of Mandarin or other roots of Chinese and few people in China a hundred years ago had access to radio. Hence, there was no unifying, nationwide spoken language in China. This developed later and Lu Xun is rather an influential writer that was a root of that process, instead of showing the fruits of it.
Did Lu Xun like Chinese Characters?
What a question to ask a writer you might think. But think again. The answer might just be: Nope!
Lu Xun was constantly worried about the traditions that hold China back in its development. Famously, Lu Xun might have said before he died:
If the Chinese characters are not destroyed, China will die.
This means that he saw the Chinese characters as the main reason to be in the way of China’s development. Lu Xun’s impact can’t be underestimated for the cultural development of China. Not necessarily as direct impact, but in indirect ways.
- Need for reform became obvious.
- Development of unified written and spoken language.
- Script simplification.
What about the legacy of Lu Xun?
As mentioned, the most important legacy was probably that the characters that he used for his writing are not used any more…. That is, over the years, China simplified its characters and the core of 8300 characters are now what is part of the standardized set of characters. Malaysia and Singapore adopted the Chinese simplifications in steps and with a time lag.