Lu Hsun

Lu Hsun: (also romanized as Lu Xun; pseudonym of Chou Shu-jen, 1881-1936) Generally regarded as modern China’s finest writer. Born to a family of traditional scholars, because of the death of his father and a decline in the family fortunes, he was sent to a school that taught Western technical subjects. He later studied Western medicine in Japan, but soon realized that his people needed more than physical healing. He quit his medical studies and turned to literature, returning to China to use his writing to expose the superstitions and injustices of the early Republican period. He his best known for his two collections of short stories, Nahan (generally translated as Call to Arms), published in 1923, and Panghuang (Wandering) published in 1926. His story “A Madman’s Diary” (“K’uang-jen ji-chi) vividly and painfully chronicles the growing realization of the cannibalistic, “dog-eat-dog” nature of Chinese society. “The New Year’s Sacrifice” (“Chu-fu”) is an account of a modern intellectual’s disturbing and eye-opening return to his traditional home for the New Year’s festivities. Painfully aware of the limitations of literature for effecting real change, in 1926 he stopped writing fiction altogether. Translations of his works include Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (1990), The Complete Stories of Lu Xun (1956-60), and Selected Stories of Lu Xun (1980), as well as his seminal scholarly work, A Brief History of Chinese Fiction (1959).

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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