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weihong2 2009-02-11 16:23

Lu Xun  

Preface to Call to Arms  
From Hundred Plant Garden to Three Flavor Study  
The Collapse of Leifeng Pagoda
Wu Chang, or Life-is-Transient
The Hanging Woman  
Mr. Fujino
Three Summer Pests
In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen
Fighters and Flies  
Thoughts on the League of Left-wing Writers  
On Deferring Fair Play
We Can No Longer Be Duped
Autumn Night
The Kite
The Good Story
The Passer-by
Dead Fire
Eighteen Hundred Piculs
Such a Fighter  
The Wise Man, the Fool and the Slave
Amid Pale Bloodstains
The Blighted Leaf
On Using Old Forms

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:24
Preface to the First Collection of Short Stories, "Call to Arms"
By Lu Xun

When I was young I, too, had many dreams. Most of them came to be forgotten, but I see nothing in this to regret. For although recalling the past may make you happy, it may sometimes also make you lonely, and there is no point in clinging in spirit to lonely bygone days. However, my trouble is that I cannot forget completely, and these stories have resulted from what I have been unable to erase from my memory.
For more than four years I used to go, almost daily, to a pawn-broker's and a medicine shop. I cannot remember how old I was then; but the counter in the medicine shop was the same height as I, and that in the pawn-broker's twice my height. I used to hand clothes and trinkets up to the counter twice my height, take the money proffered with contempt, then go to the counter the same height as I to buy medicine for my father who had long been ill. On my return home I had other things to keep me busy, for since the physician who made out the prescriptions was very well-known, he used unusual drugs: aloe root dug up in winter, sugar-cane that had been three years exposed to frost, twin crickets, and ardisia … all of which were difficult to procure. But my father's illness went from bad to worse until he died.
I believe those who sink from comparative prosperity to poverty will probably come, in the process, to understand what the world is really like. I wanted to go to K-school in N-,* perhaps because I was in search of a change of scene and faces. There was nothing for my mother but to raise eight dollars for my traveling expenses, and say I might do as I pleased. That she cried was only natural, for at that time the proper thing was to study the classics and take the official examinations. Anyone who studied "foreign subjects" was looked down upon as a fellow good for nothing, and forced to sell his soul to foreign devils out of desperation. Besides, she was sorry to part with me. But in spite of that, I went to N- and entered K- school; and it was there that I heard for the first time the names of such subjects as natural science, arithmetic, geography, history, drawing and physical training. They had no physiology course, but we saw woodblock editions of such works as A New Course on the Human Body and Essays on Chemistry and Hygiene. Recalling the talk and prescriptions of physicians I had known and comparing them with what I now knew, I came to the conclusion those physicians must be either unwitting or deliberate charlatans; and I began to sympathize with the invalids and families who suffered at their hands. From translated histories I also learned that the Japanese Reformation had originated, to a great extent, with the introduction of Western medical science to Japan.

* The Jiangnan Naval Academy in Nanjing.

These inklings took me to a provincial medical college in Japan. I dreamed a beautiful dream that on my return to China I would cure patients like my father, who had been wrongly treated, while if war broke out I would serve as an army doctor, at the same time strengthening my countrymen's faith in reformation.
I do not know what advanced methods are now used to teach microbiology, but at that time films were used to show the microbes; and if the lecture ended early, the instructor might show films of natural scenery or news to fill up the time. This was during the Russo-Japanese War, so there were many films on the war, and I had to join in the clapping and cheering in the lecture hall along with the other students. It was a long time since I had seen any compatriots, but one day I saw films showing some Chinese, one of whom was bound, while many others stood around him. They were all strong fellows but appeared completely apathetic. According to the commentary, the one with his hands bound was a spy working for the Russians, who was to have his head cut off by the Japanese military as a warning to others, while the Chinese beside him had come to enjoy the spectacle.
Before the term was over I had left for Tokyo, because after this incident I felt that medical science was not so important after all. The people of a weak and backward country, however strong and healthy they may be, can only serve to be made examples of, or to witness such futile spectacles; and it is not necessarily deplorable no matter how many of them die of illness. The most important thing, therefore, was to change their spirit, and since at that time I felt that literature was the best means to this end, I determined to promote a literary movement. There were many Chinese students in Tokyo studying law, political science, physics and chemistry, even police work and engineering, but not one studying literature or art. However, even in this uncongenial atmosphere I was fortunate enough to find some kindred spirits. We gathered the few others we needed, and after discussion our first step, of course, was to publish a magazine, the title of which denoted that this was a new birth. As we were then rather classically inclined, we called it Xin Sheng (New Life).
When the time for publication drew near, some of our contributors dropped out, and then our funds were withdrawn, until finally there were only three of us left, and we were penniless. Since we had started our magazine at an unlucky hour, there was naturally no one to whom we could complain when we failed; but later even we three were destined to part, and our discussions of a dream future had to cease. So ended this abortive "New Life."
Only later did I feel the futility of it all; at that time I did not really understand anything. Later I felt if a man's proposals met with approval, it should encourage him; if they met with opposition, it should make him fight back; but the real tragedy for him was to lift up his voice among the living and meet with no response, neither approval nor opposition, just as if he were left helpless in a boundless desert. So I began to feel lonely.
And this feeling of loneliness grew day by day, coiling about my soul like a huge poisonous snake.
But in spite of my unaccountable sadness, I felt no indignation; for this experience had made me reflect and see that I was definitely not the heroic type who could rally multitudes at his call.
However, my loneliness had to be dispelled, for it was causing me agony. So I used various means to dull my senses, both by conforming to the spirit of the time and turning to the past. Later I experienced or witnessed even greater loneliness and sadness, which I do not like to recall, preferring that it should perish with me. Still my attempt to deaden my senses was not unsuccessful - I had lost the enthusiasm and fervour of my youth.
In S-Hostel* there were three rooms where it was said a woman had hanged herself on the locust tree in the courtyard. Although the tree had grown so tall that one could no longer reach its branches, the rooms remained deserted. For some years I stayed here, copying ancient inscriptions. I had few visitors, there were no political problems or isms in those inscriptions, and my only desire was that my life should slip quietly away like this. On summer nights, when there were too many mosquitoes, I would sit under the locust tree, waving my fan and looking at the specks of sky through the thick leaves, while the caterpillars which came out in the evening would fall, icy-cold, on to my neck.

* Shaoxing Hostel in Peking, the hostel provided exclusively for people from Shaoxing, Lu Hsun's native place. Lu Hsun lived here from May 1912 to November 1919.

The only visitor to come for an occasional talk was my old friend Jin Xinyi. He would put his big portfolio down on the broken table, take off his long gown, and sit facing me, looking as if his heart was still beating fast after braving the dogs.
"What is the use of copying these?"' he demanded inquisitively one night, after looking through the inscriptions I had copied.
"No use at all."
"Then why copy them?"
"For no particular reason."
"I think, you might write something…."
I understood. They were editing the magazine New Youth,* but hitherto there seemed to have been no reaction, favourable or otherwise, and I guessed they must be feeling lonely. However I said:

* The most influential magazine in the cultural revolution of that time.

"Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel any of the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?"
"But since a few have awaked, you can't say there is no hope of destroying the iron house."
True, in spite of my own conviction, I could not blot out hope, for hope lies in the future. I could not use my own evidence to refute his assertion that it might exist. So I agreed to write, and the result was my first story, A Madman's Diary. From that time onwards, I could not stop writing, and would write some sort of short story from time to time at the request of friends, until I had more than a dozen of them.
As for myself, I no longer feel any great urge to express myself; yet, perhaps because I have not entirely forgotten the grief of my past loneliness, I sometimes call out, to encourage those fighters who are galloping on in loneliness, so that they do not lose heart. Whether my cry is brave or sad, repellent or ridiculous, I do not care. However, since it is a call to arms, I must naturally obey my general's orders. This is why I often resort to innuendoes, as when I made a wreath appear from nowhere at the son's grave in Medicine, while in Tomorrow I did not say that Fourth Shan's Wife had no dreams of her little boy. For our chiefs then were against pessimism. And I, for my part, did not want to infect with the loneliness I had found so bitter those young people who were still dreaming pleasant dreams, just as I had done when young.
It is clear, then, that my short stories fall far short of being works of art; hence I count myself fortunate that they are still known as stories, and are even being compiled in one book. Although such good fortune makes me uneasy, I am nevertheless pleased to think they have readers in the world of men, for the time being at least.
Since these short stories of mine are being reprinted in one collection, owing to the reasons given above, I have chosen the title Na Han (Call to Arms).

December 3, 1922, Peking
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No.9,1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:24
From Hundred Plant Garden to Three Flavour Study*
By Lu Xun

Behind our house was a great garden commonly known as Hundred Plant Garden. It has long since been sold with the house to the descendants of Zhu Xi,** and the last time I saw it, already seven or eight years ago, I am sure there were only weeds there. But it was my paradise when I was a child.

*This essay was written in 1926.
**A well-known Song-dynasty philosopher. This simply means that the family's name was Zhu.

I need not speak of the green vegetables plots, the slippery stone coping round the well, the tall honey locust tree, or the purple mulberries. I need not speak of the long shrilling of the cicadas among the leaves, the fat wasps couched in the flowering rape, or the nimble skylarks who soared suddenly up from the grass to the sky. Just the foot of the low mud wall around the garden was a source of unfailing interest. Here field crickets would drone away, while house crickets chirruped merrily. Turning over a broken brick, you might find a centipede. There were Spanish flies as well, and if you pressed a finger on their backs, they emitted puffs of vapour from behind. Milkwort interwove with climbing fig, which had fruit shaped like the calyx of a lotus, while the milkwort had swollen tubers. Folk said that some of these tubers were shaped like human beings, and if you ate them you would become immortal, so I kept on pulling them up. By uprooting one I pulled out those next to it, and in this way spoilt part of the mud wall, but I never found a tuber shaped like a human being. If you were not afraid of thorns, you could pick raspberries too, like strings of little coral beads. They were sweet yet tart, with a much finer colour and flavour than mulberries.

I did not go into the long grass, because there was said to be a huge tiger snake in the garden.

Mama Chang once told me a story. There was formerly a scholar who was staying in an old temple to study. One evening when he was enjoying the cool of the courtyard, he heard someone call his name. Calling out in return, he looked round and saw the head of a beautiful woman over the wall. She smiled, then disappeared. He was very happy, till the old monk who came to chat with him every evening discovered what had happened. Detecting an evil influence on his face, he declared the scholar must have seen the Beautiful Woman Snake - a creature with a human head and the body of a snake, who was able to call men's names. If a man answered, the snake would come that night to devour him. The scholar was nearly frightened to death, of course; but the monk said all would be well, and gave him a little box, assuring him that if he put this by his pillow he could sleep quite peacefully. But though he did as he was told, it is not surprising that he could not sleep. That midnight, to be sure, with a hiss and a rustle the monster came! There was a sound like wind and rain outside the door, and as he was shaking with fright he heard a scratch, and a golden streak flew out from beside his pillow. Then outside the door utter silence fell, and the golden streak flew back to nestle down in the box. And after that? After that the old monk to him this was a flying centipede which could suck out the brains of a snake - the Beautiful Woman Snake had been killed by it.

The moral of this way: If a strange voice calls your name, you must on no account answer!

This story brought home to me the perils with which human life is fraught. When I sit outside on a summer night I often feel apprehensive and dare not look at the wall, but long for a box with a flying centipede in it like that old monk's. This was often in my thoughts when I walked to the edge of the long grass in Hundred Plant Garden. Up to the present I have never procured one, but neither have I encountered the tiger snake or the Beautiful Woman Snake. Of course, strange voices often call my name; but the owners have never proved to be Beautiful Woman Snakes.

In winter the garden was relatively dull; but as soon as it snowed, that was a different story. Imprinting a snow man (by pressing your body on the snow) or building snow Buddhas required appreciative audiences; and since this was a deserted garden where visitors seldom came, such games were out of place here. I was therefore reduced to catching birds. This could not be done after a light fall of snow. The ground had to be covered for one or two days, so that the birds had gone hungry for some time. You swept a patch clear of snow, propped up a big bamboo sieve on a short stick and sprinkled some rice husks beneath it, then tied a long string to the stick and held it at a distance, waiting for the birds to come. When they were under the sieve, you tugged the string and trapped them. Most of those caught were sparrows or the white-throated wagtails, who were very wild and would not live more than a day in captivity.

It was Runtu's father who taught me this method, but I was not much of a hand at it. I saw birds hop under my sieve, yet when I pulled the string and ran over to look there was usually nothing there, and after long efforts I would catch only three or four. In much less time Runtu's father could catch dozens, which he put in his bag where they cheeped and jostled each other. I asked him once the reason for my failure. With a quiet smile, he said:

"You're too impatient. You don't wait for them to get to the middle."

I don't know why my family decided to send me to school, or why they chose the school reputed the strictest in town. Perhaps it was because I had spoilt the mud wall by uprooting milkwort, perhaps because I had thrown bricks into the Liangs' courtyard next door, perhaps because I had climbed the stone coping round the well to jump off it … there is no means of knowing. At all events, I would no longer be able to go so often to Hundred Plant Garden. Adieu, my crickets! Adieu, my raspberries and climbing figs!

Less than half a li east of our house, across a stone bridge, was my teacher's home. You went in through a black-lacquered bamboo gate, and the third room was the study. In the center hung a placard on which was written: Three Flavour Study. Under this was a picture of a very fat spotted deer lying beneath an old tree. Since there was no shrine to Confucius, we kowtowed to the placard and the deer. The first kowtow was for Confucius, the second for our teacher.

When we kowtowed the second time, our teacher bowed in return from the side. He was a thin, tall old man with a grizzled beard, who wore large spectacles. And I had the greatest respect for him, for I had heard he was the most upright, honourable and erudite man in our town.

I forget who told me that Dongfang Shuo* was another great scholar who knew of an insect called guai zai,** the incarnation of some unjustly slain ghost, which would vanish if you poured alcohol over it. I longed to learn the details of this story, but Mama Chang could not enlighten me, for she after all was not a great scholar. Now my chance had come, for I could ask my teacher.

*A courtier of the time of Emperor Wu who reigned from 140 to 87 B.C. of the Han Dynasty, famous for his jokes.
**This means "How extraordinary!"

"What is this insect guai zai, sir?" I asked hastily after a new lesson, just before returning to my seat.

"I don't know!" He seemed not at all pleased. Indeed, he looked rather angry.

Then I realized students should not ask questions like this, but concentrate on studying. Since he was such a learned scholar, of course he must know the answer. When he said he did not know, it meant he would not tell me. My seniors were often like this, as I knew from many similar experiences.

So I concentrated on studying. At midday I practiced calligraphy, in the evening I made couplets. For the first few days the teacher was very stern, though later he treated me better; but by degrees he increased the amount of reading to be done and the number of characters in each line of the couplets - from three to five, and finally to seven.

There was a garden behind Three Flavour Study. Although it was small, you could climb the terrace there to pick winter plum, or look for cicadas' skins on the ground or on the cassia trees. Best of all was catching flies to feed ants, for that did not make any noise. But it was no use too many of us slipping out into the garden at the same time or staying out too long, for the teacher would shout from the study:

"Where has everyone gone?"

Then everyone would slip back one after the other: it was no use all going back together. He had a ferule which he seldom used, and a method of punishing students by making them kneel, which was also seldom used. Generally, he simply glared round several times and shouted:

"Read your books!"

Then all of us would read at the top of our voices, with a roar like a seething cauldron.

One read: "Is humanity far? When I seek it, it is here."

A second read: "Laughing at someone whose front teeth were out, he said: 'The hold for the dog is wide open.'"

A third read: "On the upper ninth let the dragon hide himself and bide his time."

A fourth read: "Its soil is poor, its tribute oranges and pomelos."*

*The first, third and fourth quotations, with slight modifications, come from three well-known Confucian classics: The Analects of Confucius, The Book of Change and The Book of History. The second comes from The Jade Forest, a school primer containing short historical allusions.

The teacher read aloud too. Later our voices grew lower, but he read on as loudly as ever:

"The iron scepter waves, and all people stand amazed. - Aha! - The golden goblet brims over with wine, but a thousand cups will not make him drunk. - Aha! -"

I suspected this must be the finest literature, for whenever he reached this point he would smile to himself, throw back his head a little, shake it, and lean further and further back.

When our teacher was completely absorbed in his reading, that was most convenient for us. Some boys would then stage puppet shows with paper helmets on their fingers. I used to draw, using Jingchuan paper to trace the illustrations in various novels, just as you trace calligraphy. By the time I had studied a good many books, I had also traced a good many illustrations. I never became a good student, but I made not a little progress as an artist; for I had a big volume each of illustrations from Suppressing the Bandits and The Pilgrimage to the West.* Later, because I needed money, I sold them to a rich classmate whose father sold the paper coins used at funeral. I hear he is now the owner of the shop and will soon rise to the rank of one of the local gentry. I suppose my drawings must have vanished long ago.

*A famous Ming dynasty novel by Wu Cheng-en.

September 18

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No.9,1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:24
The Collapse of Leifeng Pagoda
By Lu Xun

I hear Leifeng Pagoda by the West Lake in Hangzhou has collapsed. This is hearsay only, not something I have seen for myself. I did see the pagoda before it collapsed, though. A tottering structure standing out between the lake and the hills, with the setting sun gilding its surroundings, this was "Leifeng Pagoda at Sunset," one of the ten sights of the West Lake. Having seen "Leifeng Pagoda at Sunset" for myself, I cannot say I was much impressed.

But of all the vaunted beauty spots of the West Lake, the first I heard of was Leifeng Pagoda. My grandmother often told me that Lady White Snake was a prisoner underneath it. A man named Xu Xian rescued two snakes, one white and one green. Later the white snake changed into a woman to repay Xu's kindness, and married him, while the green snake changed into her maid and accompanied her. Then a Buddhist monk by the name of Fa Hai, a most religious man, saw from Xu's face that he had been bewitched by an evil spirit - apparently all men who marry monsters have a ghostly look on their faces, but only those with unusual gifts can detect it - so he hid Xu behind the shrine in Jinshan Monastery, and when Lady White Snake came to look for her husband the whole place was flooded. This was a much better story the way my grandmother told it. She probably based it on a ballad called The Faithful Serpent; but since I have never read that, I don't know whether I have written the names Xu Xian and Fa Hai correctly or not. Anyway, Fa Hai trapped Lady White Snake in the end, and put her in a small alms-bowl. He buried this bowl in the ground, and built a pagoda over it to prevent her getting out - that was Leifeng Pagoda. This was not the end by any means: for instance, her son who came first in the court examination sacrificed at the pagoda, but I have forgotten all that happened.

My one wish at that time was for Leifeng Pagoda to collapse. When later, grown-up, I went to Hangzhou and saw this tottering pagoda, I felt uncomfortable. And although later I read somewhere that the people of Hangzhou also called it Baoshu Pagoda* because it was actually built by Prince Qian Liao's son, so obviously there could be no Lady White Snake under it, I still felt uncomfortable and hoped it would collapse.

* In an appendix Lu Xun stated that this was a mistake. Baoshu Pagoda was a different pagoda at the West Lake.

Now that it has collapsed at last, of course everyone in the country should be happy.

This is easy to prove. If you go to the hills and coast of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to discover what people are thinking, you will find all the peasants, their silkworm-breeding womenfolk, old gaffers, and village loafers - all but a few who are slightly wrong in the head - sympathize with lady White Snake and blame Fa Hai for being too meddlesome.

A monk should stick to chanting his sutras. If the white snake chose to bewitch Xu Xian, and Xu chose to marry a monster, what business was that of anybody else? Yet he had to set down his sutra and stir up trouble, I expect he was jealous - in fact, I am sure of it.

I heard that later the Heavenly Emperor felt Fa Hai had gone too far, tormenting poor mortals like that, and decided to arrest him. Then the monk fled hither and thither, and finally took refuge in a crab's shell, from which he has not dared emerge to the present day. I have objections to a great deal of the Heavenly Emperor's handiwork, but I am more than satisfied with this, because the fact is it was Fa Hai who was responsible for flooding Jinshan Mountain, and the emperor was quite right to take the action he did. I am only sorry I did not find out at the time where this report came from: it may not have been from The Faithful Serpent but from some popular legend.

In mid-autumn when the rice is ready to harvest, the Yangtse Valley abounds with crabs. If you boil them till they turn crimson, take one at random and remove its shell, you will find the yellow and the fat inside. If it is a female, it will have seeds as red as a pomegranate. After eating these, you come to a filmy cone which you must carefully sever from its base with a pocket knife, extract and turn upside-down to show its inside. If it has not been broken, it will look like an arhat sitting there, complete with head and body. The children in our parts call this "the crab monk," and this is Fa Hai who took refuge there.

Formerly Lady White Snake was imprisoned under the pagoda, and Fa Hai hid himself in the crab's shell. Now only the old monk is left sitting there, unable to come out until the day when crabs are no more. Can it be that when he built the pagoda it never occurred to him that it was bound to collapse some day?

Serves him right.

October 28, 1924

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No.5,1959)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:25
Wu Chang, or Life-is-Transient
By Lu Xun
If the gods who parade at temple fairs have power of life and death -- no, this is wrongly put, for all gods in China seem able to kill men at will -- if their task rather, like that of the guardian god of a city or the Emperor of the East Mountain, is to control human fate, in their retinue you will find some unusual figures: ghostly attendants, the ghostly king, and Wu Chang, or Life-is-Transient.

These spirits are usually impersonated by farm labourers or clumsy villagers. The ghostly attendants and their king wear red and green and go barefoot, while on their blue faces are painted fish scales -- perhaps the scales of dragons or some other creatures -- I am not quite clear on this point. The ghostly attendants carry steel prongs with rings attached which clang when shaken; and the ghostly king carries a small tiger-head tally. According to tradition, the king should walk with one foot; but since he is simply a clumsy villager after all, even though he has painted his face with the scales of a fish or some other creature, he still has to walk with two feet. Hence spectators are not much impressed by these ghosts and pay scant attention to them, with the exception of some devout old women and their grandchildren, who treat all spirits with proper reverence in order that none of them may feel left out.

As for the rest of us -- I believe I am speaking for others as well as myself -- what we most enjoy watching is Wu Chang. Not only is he lively and full of fun; the mere fact of his being completely in white among that gaudy throng makes him stand out like a stork in a flock of fowls. A glimpse of his tall white paper hat and his tattered palm-leaf fan in the distance makes everyone feel pleasantly excited.

Of all spirits he is the nearest and dearest to men, and we often come across him. In the temple of the guardian god of a city or the Emperor of the East Mountain, for example, behind the main hall is a dark room called the Court of Hell; and barely perceptible through the gloom are the images of ghosts: the one who died by hanging, the one who fell to his death, the one who was killed by a tiger, the one who expired in the examination cell ... but the long white figure you see as you enter is Wu Chang. Though I once paid a visit to the Court of Hell, I was much too timid then to take a good look. I have heard that he carries an iron chain in one hand, because he is the summoner of dead men's spirits. Tradition has it that the Court of Hell in the temple of the Emperor of the East Mountain in Fanchiang was strangely constructed with a movable plank just inside the threshold. When you entered and stepped on one end of this plank, Wu Chang would fly over from the other end and throw his iron chain neatly round your neck; but after a man had been frightened to death in this way they nailed the plank down. Even in my young days it no longer moved.

If you want to take a good look at him, you will find his picture in The Jade Calendar.* It may not be in the abridged version, but in the complete version you are sure to find it. He is wearing deep mourning and straw sandals, with a straw belt round his waist and a string of paper money round his neck. He holds the tattered palm-leaf fan, a chain and an abacus; his shoulders are slightly hunched and his hair is disheveled; his eyebrows and eyes tilt down at the sides like an inverted V. He wears a peaked, rectangular hat, which, reckoned in proportion to the portrait as a whole, must be about two feet high. In front of the hat, where old and young gentlemen left over from the Ching Dynasty would fasten a pearl or jewel on their melon-shaped caps, are these words written vertically: Lucky to meet. According to another version, the words are: You are here too. This is the same phrase sometimes found on the horizontal tablet over the Court of the Venerable Pal.** Whether Wu Chang wrote these words on his hat himself or the King of Hell wrote them for him I have not yet been able to ascertain in the course of my researches.

* An old religious book, probably dating from the Sung Dynasty, describing the torments of hell as a warning to mortals.
** Pao Cheng was a magistrate of Kaifeng during the Northern Sung Dynasty (960-1127). Respected and loved for his justice, he became a popular character in Chinese folklore and was worshipped as one of the ten kings of hell.

The Jade Calendar has Life-if-Transient's opposite number, a ghost similarly equipped whose name is Death-is-Predestined. He also appears in temple fairs, where he is wrongly known as Death-is-Transient. Since his face and clothes are black, nobody cares to look at him. He too appears in the Court of Hell, where he stands facing the wall with a funereal air about him -- a genuine case of "knocking against the wall."* All who come in to worship and burn incense are supposed to rub his back, and this is said to rid you of bad luck. I rubbed his back too when I was small, but I never seem to have been free of bad luck. Perhaps if I had not rubbed it my luck would have been still worse. This again I have not yet been able to ascertain in the course of my researches.

* In previous articles Lu Hsun described himself as always "knocking against the wall" when he tried to do what he thought right.

I have made no study of the cannons of Hinayana Buddhism, but I hear that in Indian Buddhist lore you have the god Yama and the ox-headed devil, both of whom reign in hell. As for Mr. Life-is-Transient, who summons spirits, his origin cannot be traced to ancient times; yet the saying "life is transient" is a common one. I suppose once this concept reached China, we personified it. So Wu Chang is actually a Chinese invention.

But why is everyone pleasantly excited to see him?

When a great scholar or famous man appears anywhere, he has only to flourish his pen to make it a "model district."* At the end of the Han Dynasty Yu Fan praised my native place; but that after all was too long ago, for later it gave birth to the notorious "Shaohsing pettifoggers."** Of course, not all of us -- old and young, men and women -- are pettifoggers in Shaohsing. We have quite a few other "low types" too. And you cannot expect these low types to express themselves in such wonderful gibberish as this: "We are traversing a narrow and dangerous path, with a vast and boundless marshland on the left and a vast and boundless desert on the right, while our goal in front looms darkly through the mist."*** That would be expecting too much. Yet in some instinctive way they see their path very clearly to that darkly looming goal: betrothal, marriage, rearing children, and death. Of course, I am speaking here of my native district only. The case must be quite different in model districts. Many of them -- I mean the low types of my unworthy district -- have lived and suffered, been slandered and blackmailed so long that they know that in this world of men there is only one association which upholds justice,**** and even that looms darkly. Inevitably, then, they look forward to the nether regions. Most people consider themselves unjustly treated. In real life "upright gentlemen" can fool no one. And if you ask ignorant folk they will tell you without reflection: Fair judgements are given in hell!

* Professor Chen Yuan described his native place, Wuhsi, as the "model district" of China.
** Many of the pettifogging yamen clerks in the old days were natives of Shaohsing, hence the term "Shaohsing pettifogger." In an attack on Lu Hsun, professor Chen Yuan declared he had the temperament of a Shaohsing pettifogger.
*** Quoted from Professor Chen Yuan's open letter to the poet Hsu Chih-mo.
**** Referring to the so-called Association of Educational Circles for Upholding Justice set up by Chen Yuan and other professors.

Of course, when you think of its pleasures life seems worth living; but when you think of its sorrows Wu Chang may not be unwelcome. High or low, rich or poor alike, we must all appear empty-handed before the King of Hell, who will right all wrongs and punish evil-doers. Even low types sometimes stop to reflect: What sort of life have I led? Have I "leapt with rage"? Have I "stabbed other people in the back"?* In Wu Chang's hand is a large abacus, and no amount of superior airs will do a man any good. We demand undiluted justice for others, yet even in the infernal regions we hope to find some mercy for ourselves. But when all is said, this is hell. And the King of Hell, the ox-headed devil, and the horse-faced devil, invented by the Chinese, are all getting on with their job whole-heartedly and fairly, though they have published no significant articles in the papers. Before becoming ghosts, honest people who think of the future have to search for fragments of mercy in the sum total of justice; and to them Mr. Life-is-Transient appears the least of the evils confronting them.

* In a slanderous attack Chen Yuan said Lu Hsun always "leapt with rage" when criticized and "stabbed other people in the back" in his essays.

You cannot see Wu Chang's charm from the clay figure in the temple or the printed picture in the book. The best way is to see him in the opera. And ordinary opera will not do: it must be the Great Drama or Maudgalyayana Drama. Chang Tai has described in his Reminiscences of the Past what a fine spectacle the Maudgalyayana was, taking two to three days to stage one play. It was already not nearly so grand in my young days, but just like an ordinary Great Drama, starting in the evening and ending at dawn the next day. Such operas were performed to honour the gods and avert calamities, and each one had an evil-doer who met his end at dawn, when the cup of his sins was full and the King of Hell issued a warrant for his arrest. This was the point at which Wu Chang appeared on the stage.

I remember sitting in a boat below such a stage, with the audience in a different mood from usual. Generally, as the night wore on the crowd grew listless, but at this point they showed fresh interest. Wu Chang's tall paper hat which had been hanging in one corner of the stage was now taken inside, and the musicians took up a peculiar instrument and prepared to blow it lustily. This instrument looked very much like a trumpet, being long and slender, seven or eight feet in length; and it must have been a favourite with ghosts, for it was only played when there were ghosts on the stage. When you blew it, it blared: Nhatu, nhatu, nhatututuu! And we called it the Maudgalyayana trumpet.

As the crowd watched eagerly for the fall of the evil-doer, Wu Chang made his appearance. His dress was simpler than in the illustration, all he had neither chain nor abacus; he was simply an uncouth fellow all in white, with white face, red lips and knitted, jet black eyebrows so that it was hard to tell whether he was laughing or crying. Upon his entrance he had to sneeze a hundred and eight times and break wind a hundred and eight times before introducing himself. I am sorry I cannot remember all he said, but one passage went something like this:

The King of Hell issued a warrant,
And ordered me to arrest the scabby head next door.
When I asked who he was, I found that he was my cousin's son.
What was his illness? Typhoid and dysentery.
What was his medicine? Aconite, amarantus and cinnamon.
The first dose brought on a cold sweat;
The second made his legs turn stiff;
His mother was weeping so sadly
That I let him come to life for a little while;
But the king said I had been bribed;
He had me bound and given forty strokes!

The King of Hell does not cut too good a figure in this description, misjudging Wu Chang's character as he did. Still, the fact that he detected that Wu Chang's nephew had been allowed to come to life for a little while shows him not to be lacking in the attributes of a just and omniscient god. However, the punishment left our Wu Chang with an ineradicable impression of injustice. As he spoke of it he knitted his brows even more and, grasping his tattered palm-leaf fan and hanging his head, he started to dance like a duck swimming in the water.

Nhatu, nhatu, nhatu-nhatu-nhatututuu! The Maudgalyayana trumpet also wailed on in protest against this unendurable wrong.

So Wu Chang made up his mind:

Now I shall let no man off,
Not though he is surrounded by a wall of bronze or iron,
Not though he is a kinsman of the emperor himself!

He has no mercy now. But this hardness was forced upon him by the punishment he received from the King of Hell. Of all the ghosts, he is the only one with any human feeling. If we ever become ghosts, he will naturally be the only one with whom we can make friends.

I still remember distinctly how in my home town, with those other low types, I enjoyed watching this ghostly yet human, just yet merciful, frightening yet lovable Wu Chang. We enjoyed the distress or laughter on his face, the bravado and jokes that fell from his lips.

The Wu Chang in temple fairs was not quite the same as on the stage. He went through certain motions but did not speak, as he followed a sort of clown who carried a plate of food. Wu Chang wanted to eat, but the clown would not give him the food. There were two additional characters as well -- the wife and the child. All low types have this common failing: they like to do to others as they would be done by. Hence they will not let even a ghost be lonely, but pair them all off; and Wu Chang was no exception. His better half was a handsome though rather countrified woman who was known as Sister-in-law Wu Chang. Judging by this mode of address, Wu Chang must belong to our own generation. No wonder he did not give himself any professorial airs. Then there was a boy in a smaller tall hat and smaller white clothes. Though only a child, his shoulders were already slightly hunched up while his eyes and eyebrows slanted down. Obviously he was Wu Chang Junior, though everyone called him Ah-ling and showed him little respect -- perhaps because he was Sister-in-law Wu Chang's son by a former husband? In that case, though, how could he look so like Wu Chang? Well, it is hard to fathom the ways of ghosts and spirits, and we shall simply have to leave it at that. As for why Wu Chang had no children of his own, this is easy to explain now. Spirits can foresee the future. He must have feared that if he had many children gossips would try to use this as circumstantial evidence to prove that he had accepted Russian roubles. Hence he not only studies birth control but practices it as well.

The scene with the food is called "The Send Off." Because Wu Chang is the summoner of spirits, the relatives of anyone who dies have to give him a farewell feast. As for not allowing him to eat, this is just a bit of fun in the temple fairs and not the case in fact. But everyone likes to have a bit of fun with Wu Chang, because he is so frank, out-spoken and human. If you want a true friend, you will find few better than him.

Some say he is a man who goes to the spirit world, in other words a human being whose spirit serves in hell while he is asleep. That is why he looks so human. I remember a man who lived in a cottage not far from my home, who claimed he was such a Wu Chang, and incense and candles were burnt outside his door. I noticed, though, he had an unusually ghostly expression. Could it be that when he became a ghost in the nether regions his expression became more human? Well, it is hard to fathom the ways of ghosts and spirits, and we shall simply have to leave it at that.

June 23, 1926

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No.3,1956)


Originally, the land adjacent to the city wall outside the West Gate had been public land. The zigzag path slanting across it, trodden out by passers-by seeking a short cut, had become a natural boundary line. Left of the path, executed criminals or those who had died of neglect in prison were buried. Right of the path were paupers' graves. The series of grave mounds on both sides looked like the rolls laid out for a rich man's birthday.

The Qingming Festival that year was unusually cold. Willows were only beginning to put forth shoots no larger than grains of rice. Shortly after daybreak, Old Shuan's wife brought four dishes and a bowl of rice to set before a new grave in the right section, and wailed before it. When she had burned paper money she sat on the ground in a stupor as if waiting for something; but for what, she herself did not know. A breeze sprang up and stirred her short hair, which was certainly whiter than in the previous year.

Another woman came down the path, grey-haired and in rags. She was carrying an old, round, red-lacquered basket, with a string of paper money hanging from it; and she walked haltingly. When she saw Old Shuan's wife sitting on the ground watching her, she hesitated, and a flush of shame spread over her pale face. However, she summoned up courage to cross over to a grave in the left section, where she set down her basket.

That grave was directly opposite Little Shuan's, separated only by the path. As she watched the other woman set out four dishes and a bowl of rice, then stand up to wail and burn paper money. Old Shuan's wife thought: "It must be her son in that grave too." The older woman took a few aimless steps and stared vacantly around, then suddenly she began to tremble and stagger backward in a daze.

Fearing sorrow might send her out of her mind, Old Shuan's wife got up and stepped across the path, to say quietly: "Don't grieve, let's go home."

The other nodded, but her eyes were still fixed, and she muttered: "Look! What's that?"

Looking where she pointed, Old Shuan's wife saw that the grave in front had not yet been overgrown with grass. Ugly patches of soil still showed. But when she looked carefully, she was surprised to see at the top of the mound a wreath of red and white flowers.

Both of them suffered from failing eyesight, yet they could see these red and white flowers clearly. There were not many, but they were placed in a circle; and although not very fresh, were neatly set out. Little Shuan's mother looked round and found her own son's grave, like most of the rest, dotted with only a few little, pale flowers shivering in the cold. Suddenly she had a sense of futility and stopped feeling curious about the wreath.

Meantime the old woman had gone up to the grave to look more closely. "They have no roots," she said to herself." They can't have grown here. Who could have been here? Children don't come here to play, and none of our relatives have ever been here. What could have happened?" She puzzled over it, until suddenly her tears began to fall, and she cried aloud:

"Yu, my son, they all wronged you, and you do not forget. Is your grief still so great that today you worked this wonder to let me know?"

She looked all around, but could see only a crow perched on a leafless bough. "I know," she continued. "They murdered you. But a day of reckoning will come, Heaven will see to it. Close your eyes in peace... If you are really here, and can hear me, make that crow fly on to your grave as a sign."

The breeze had long since dropped, and the dry grass stood stiff and straight as copper wires. A faint, tremulous sound vibrated in the air, then faded and died away. All around was deadly still. They stood in the dry grass, looking up at the crow; and the crow, on the rigid bough of the tree, its head drawn in, stood immobile as iron.

Time passed. More people, young and old, came to visit the graves.

Old Shuan's wife felt somehow as if a load had been lifted from her mind and, wanting to leave, she urged the other:

"Let's go."

The old woman sighed, and listlessly picked up the rice and dishes. After a moment's hesitation she started slowly off, still muttering to herself:

"What could it mean?"

They had not gone thirty paces when they heard a loud caw behind them. Startled, they looked round and saw the crow stretch wings, brace itself to take off, then fly like an arrow towards the far horizon.

April 1919

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 1,1972)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:26
The Hanging Woman
By Lu Xun
I believe it was Wang Ssu-jen at the end of the Ming Dynasty who said: "Kuaichi* is the home of revenge, not a place that tolerates filth." This reflects great credit on us Shaohsing people, and it gives me great pleasure to hear or quote these words. It is not strictly true, however; for really any description can be applied to our district.

* The ancient name for Shaohsing.

It is a fact, nonetheless, that the average citizen of Shaohsing does not hate revenge as much as those "progressive writers"* in Shanghai do. Just look at our art, for example. In our opera we have created an avenging spirit, lovelier and stronger than all other ghosts. This is the Hanging Woman. To my mind Shaohsing can boast two unique ghosts. One is Wu Chang, so helpless yet careless in the face of death, whom I had the honour of introducing to my fellow-countrymen in Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk. Today I will speak of the other.

* Referring to certain progressive writers who misinterpreted the policy of the Chinese Communist Party regarding the national united front against Japanese aggression. In the name of this policy they abandoned the struggle against the Kuomintang and other reactionaries and criticized Lu Hsun for insisting, rightly, that a struggle would have to be waged against wrong ideas whether this concerned the building and consolidation of the united front on a national scale or particularly among writers and artists.

The Hanging Woman may be a local name, which would have to be expressed in standard speech as "the ghost of a woman who died by hanging." The truth is, when we talk of ghosts who died by hanging we naturally assume they are females, for there have always been more women than men who met their death in this way. There is a spider which suspends itself in mid air from one thread which is called the Hanging Woman in Erh Ya.* This shows that as early as the Chou or Han Dynasty most of those who hanged themselves belonged to the feminine sex; hence the spider was not called the Hanging Man nor given a neuter gender and called the Hanging Creature. But during the performance of a Great Drama or Maudgalyayana Drama you hear the name Hanging Woman from the audience, as well as the name Hanging Goddess. I know of no other case in which a ghost who died an unnatural death has been deified; and this shows how much the people love and respect her. Why do they call her the Hanging Woman then? The reason for this is simple: in the opera there is also a Hanging Man.

* A dictionary of various terms, probably written during the early Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.)

The Shaohsing I knew was the Shaohsing of forty years ago. Since there were no high officials there at that time, there were no private performances in the houses of the great. All performances were a kind of religious drama. The gods in their shrines were the guests of honour, while we mortals owed them thanks for this opportunity to watch. For the Great Drama or Maudgalyayana Drama, a yet more comprehensive audience was invited. That the gods came goes without saying; but ghosts were invited too, especially those avenging spirits who had died unnatural deaths. This made the occasion more exciting and solemn. I think it very interesting that the presence of these avenging spirits should make the occasion more exciting and solemn.

I may have mentioned elsewhere that though the Great Drama and the Maudgalyayana Drama were both performed for gods, mortals and spirits, they were nonetheless very different. One difference lay in the actors: in the former they were professionals, in the latter amateurs --peasants and workers assembled for the occasion. Another difference lay in the librettos, the former having many, the latter just the one Maudgalyayana Rescues His Mother. Both types, however, opened with the same "Summoning of the Spirits," ghosts put in an appearance from time to time, and in the end the good men went to heaven and the evil-doers to hell.

Before the performance started you could see this was no ordinary religious opera, for on both sides of the stage hung paper hats for the gods and ghosts to wear. So when an old stager had leisurely had his supper, drunk his tea, and strolled across to watch, he need only look at the hats left hanging there to know which gods or ghosts had already appeared. Since these operas started rather early, the "Summoning of the Spirits" would be played at sunset; hence by the time supper was over the performance would be fairly well advanced; but the beginning was by no means the best. Actually, the only spirits summoned were those who had died unnatural deaths. Of course this included all those fallen in battle, as we see from the ode by Chu Yuan:*

* An ancient poet, believed to have lived from 340-278 B.C.

"Their spirits deathless, though their bodies slain,
Proudly as kings among the ghosts shall reign."

When the Ming Dynasty fell, many Shaohsing people revolted against the invaders and were killed, and they were called rebels in the Ching Dynasty. Their gallant spirits too are summoned on this occasion. In the gloaming, some dozen horses stand at the foot of the stage while an actor masquerades as the ghostly king with a blue face painted with lines resembling scales, and a steel prong in his hand. There are also about a dozen ghostly soldiers, and for these parts ordinary boys can volunteer. In my teens I served as such a volunteer ghost. We scrambled up the stage to express our wish; then they smeared some colours on our faces and handed each of us a steel prong. When we numbered about a dozen, we rushed to the horses and galloped to the many deserted graves in the open country. There we described three circles, alighted and cried aloud, then lunged at the grave mounds again and again with our prongs. This done we seized the prongs and galloped back, mounted the stage, gave a great shout together, and hurled the prongs to stand transfixed in the floor. Our work now at an end, we washed our faces, left the stage and were free to go home. Of course, if we were found out by our parents we could hardly escape a beating with the split bamboo (the most common implement in Shaohsing for beating children), to punish us for mixing with ghosts and to vent the parental relief that we had not fallen off the horses and killed ourselves. Luckily I was never found out. I may have been protected by evil spirits.

This ceremony signified that the manifold lonely ghosts and avenging spirits had now come with the ghostly king and his ghostly soldiers to watch the performance with the rest of us. There was no need to worry, though. These ghosts were on their best behaviour, and would not make the least trouble all this night. So the opera started and slowly unfolded, the human beings interspersed with apparitions: the ghost who died by fire, the ghost who was drowned, the one who expired in an examination cell, the one eaten by a tiger.... Boys could have these parts too if they wanted, but few boys cared to play these insignificant ghosts, nor was the audience much impressed by them. When the time came for the Hanging Ghost Dance, however, the atmosphere grew much more tense. As the trumpet wailed on the stage, a noose of cloth about two fifths the height of the stage was let down from the central beam. The spectators held their breath, and out rushed a man with a painted face wearing nothing but a short pants. This was the Hanging Man. He dashed to the pendent cloth and, like a spider clinging to its thread or weaving its web, swung himself to and fro, worming in and out of the noose. He used the cloth to suspend himself by various parts of his body: the waist, the sides, the thighs, the elbows, the knees, the nape of the neck ... in forty-nine (seven times seven) different places. Last of all he came to the neck. But he did not actually fasten his neck in the noose: instead he gripped the cloth with both hands and stretched his neck through it, then jumped down and made off. This dance was most difficult, and the Hanging Man's was the only part in the Maudgalyayana Drama for which a professional had to be engaged.

The old folk told me then this dance was extremely dangerous, for it might cause the genuine Hanging Man to appear. So behind the scenes there had to be someone dressed as Wang the Controller of Ghosts, who held up one hand in a magic sign, grasped a mace in the other, and fixed his eyes on a mirror reflecting the stage. If he saw two Hanging Men in the mirror, one must be the real ghost. In that case, he had to leap out at once and beat the false one with his mace so that he fell off the stage. As soon as the false one fell off the stage he had to run to the river and wash the paint off his face, then squeeze his way into the crowd to watch the performance before going slowly home. If beaten down too slowly, the real ghost would recognize him and follow him. This squeezing into the crowd and watching his own people playing on the stage is like the case of a high official who resigns and must embrace Buddhism or go abroad to study foreign conditions --a ceremony of transition which cannot be dispensed with.

After this came the Hanging Woman Dance. Of course this too was preceded by mournful trumpeting. The next moment, the curtain was raised and she emerged. She wore a red jacket and a long black sleeveless coat, her long hair was in disorder, two strings of paper coins hung from her neck, and with lowered head and drooping hands she wound her way across the stage. According to the old stagers, she was tracing out the heart sign; but why she should do this I do not know. I do know, though, why she wore red. From Wang Chung's Lun Heng* I learned that the ghosts of the Han Dynasty were red. In later pictures or descriptions, however, ghosts do not seem to have any definite colour, while in drama the only one to wear red is this Hanging Goddess. This is easy to understand. When she hanged herself she intended to become an avenging spirit, and red, as one of the more vital colours, would make it easier for her to approach living creatures.... Even today, some of the women of Shaohsing powder their faces and change into red gowns before hanging themselves. Of course, suicide is an act of cowardice, and to speak of avenging spirits is unscientific; but these are all foolish women who cannot even read or write, so I hope our "progressive" writers and "fighting" heroes will not be too angry with them. I fear you may make utter fools of yourselves.

* A collection of essays written during the first century A.D.

Only when she shook back her disheveled hair could people see her face clearly: a round, chalk-white face, thick, pitch-black eyebrows, dark eyelids, crimson lips. I have heard that in the opera of some prefectures in eastern Chekiang the Hanging Goddess also has a false tongue several inches long lolling out; but we do not have this in Shaohsing. It is not that I want to favour my own district, but I do think it is better without the tongue. And compared with the present fashion of slightly darkening the eyelids, we can say her make-up is more thorough-going and charming. Only her lower lip should curve slightly upwards to form a triangular mouth, and this is not bad-looking either. If in the dim light after mid-night a woman with a powdered face and red lips like this appeared faintly in the distance, old as I am I might still run over to look at her; though I doubt if I would be tempted to hang myself. She shrugged her shoulders slightly, looked around and listened as if startled, happy or angry. At last in mournful tones she began singing slowly:

"I was a daughter of the Yang family,
Ah me, unhappy me!..."

What followed I do not know. Even these lines I have just learned from Keh-shih.* At any rate, the drift of her song was that she had become a child-bride and been so cruelly treated that she was forced to hang herself. As her song ended there was the sound of distant wailing from another woman who was weeping bitterly over her wrongs and preparing to kill herself. The Hanging Woman was overjoyed to hear this, and wanted to make this woman take her place. Just then, however, out jumped the Hanging Man and declared the new ghost must take his place instead. From words they fell to blows, and naturally the weaker sex was outmatched; but luckily at this juncture Wang the Controller of Ghosts appeared on the scene. Though not a handsome man, he was a fervent supporter of the feminine cause; so with one blow of his mace he killed the Hanging Man, setting the Hanging Woman free to go about her business.

* Alias of Chou Chien-jen, Lu Hsun's younger brother.

The old folk told me that in ancient times the same number of men hanged themselves as women; but after the Controller of Ghosts killed the Hanging Man, few men committed suicide in this way. Again, in ancient times there were forty-nine (seven times seven) different places on the body by which you could hang yourself; it was only after the Controller of Ghosts killed the Hanging Man that the neck became the single fatal spot. Chinese ghosts are peculiar this way: after becoming ghosts they can die again. In our district we call this sort the ghosts of ghosts. But if the ghostly Hanging Man was already killed, why need we fear his appearing during the dance? I cannot understand the logic of this, and when I asked the old folk they could give no satisfactory explanation.

I must say Chinese ghosts have one bad habit, that is this practice of finding substitutes. This is pure selfishness. If not for this, we could mix with them quite at our ease. This being the custom, however, even the Hanging Woman is no exception, and sometimes in her search for a successor she forgets to take revenge. In Shaohsing we cook rice in iron pans over firewood and straw. When the soot beneath the pan becomes too thick, the heat will not penetrate; thus we often find the soot scraped off on the ground. It always lies scattered, though, for no countrywoman will take the easy way of setting the pan upside-down on the ground and scraping the soot off round it to form a black circle. This is because the Hanging Goddess makes her noose to lure folk to death out of just such soot. To scatter the soot is some sort of passive resistance, aimed merely at preventing her finding a substitute, not for any fear of her taking revenge. Even if the oppressed are not bent on taking revenge, at least they do not fear lest others take revenge on them. Only those assassins and their stooges who secretly suck men's blood and devour their flesh will give such advice as "Do not take revenge" or "Forgive past injuries." This year I have seen more clearly into the secret thoughts of these creatures with human faces.

September 19 and 20, 1936

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No.3,1956)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:28
Mr. Fujino
By Lu Xun

Tokyo was not so extraordinary after all. When cherry blossom shimmered in Ueno, from the distance it really resembled light, pink clouds; but under the flowers you would always find groups of short-term "students from the Chinese Empire," their long queues coiled on top of their heads upraising the crowns of their student caps to look like Mount Fujiyama. Others had undone their queues and arranged their hair flat on their heads, so that when their caps were removed it glistened for all the world like the lustrous locks of young ladies; and they would toss their heads too. It was really a charming sight.

In the gatehouse of the Chinese Students' Union there were always some books on sale, and it was worth going there sometimes. In the mornings you could sit and rest in the foreign-style rooms inside. But towards the evening the floor of one room would often be shaken by a deafening tramp of feet, and dust would fill the whole place. If you questioned those in the know, the answer would be: "They are learning ball-room dancing."

Then why not go somewhere else?

So I went to the Medical College in Sendai. Soon after leaving Tokyo I came to a station called Nippori; somehow or other, even now I remember the name. The next place I remember was Mito, where Chou Shunshui who remained loyal to the Ming Dynasty after its downfall died in exile. Sendai was a small market town, very cold in the winter, with as yet no Chinese students studying there.

No doubt the rarer a thing the higher its value. When Peking cabbage is shipped to Chekiang, it is hung upside-down in the green-grocer's by a red string tied to its root, and given the grand title "Shantung Vegetable." When the aloe which grows wild in Fukien comes to Peking, it is ushered into a hot-house and given the beautiful name "Dragon-tongue Orchid." In Sendai I too enjoyed such preferential treatment; for not only did the school not ask me for fees, but several members of the staff even showed great concern over my board and lodging. At first I stayed in an inn next to the gaol, where although the early winter was already quite cold there were still a good many mosquitoes, so I learned to cover myself completely with the quilt and wrap my clothes round my head, leaving only two nostrils exposed through which to breathe. In this area, shaken by my continuous breathing, mosquitoes could find no place to bite; thus I slept soundly. The food was not bad either. But one of our staff thought that since this inn also catered for the convicts, it was not fitting for me to stay there; and he pleaded with me earnestly time and again. Though I considered the fact that this inn also catered for the convicts had nothing to do with me, I could not ignore his kindness, so I had to look for a more fitting place. Thus I moved to another house a long way from the gaol, where unfortunately I had to drink taro tuber soup every day, which I found rather hard to swallow.

After this I met many new teachers and attended many new lectures. The anatomy course was taught by two professors. First came osteology. There entered a dark, lean instructor with a moustache, who was wearing glasses and carrying under his arm a pile of books, large and small. Having set the books on the table, in measured and most rhythmic tones he introduced himself to the class:

"My name is Genkuro Fujino...."

Some students at the back started laughing. He went on to outline the history of the development of anatomical science in Japan, those books, large and small, being the chief works published on this subject from the earliest time till then. There were first a few books in old-fashioned binding, then some Chinese translations reprinted in Japan. So they had not started translating and studying new medical science any earlier than in China.

Those sitting at the back and laughing were students who had failed the previous term and been kept down, who after one year in the college knew a great many stories. They proceeded to regale the freshmen with the history of every professor. This Mr. Fujino, they said, dressed so carelessly that he sometimes even forgot to put on a tie. Because he shivered all winter in an old overcoat, once when he travelled by train the conductor suspected him of being a pickpocket and warned all the passengers to be on their guard.

What they said was probably true: I myself saw him come to class once without a tie.

A week later, on a Saturday I think, he sent his assistant for me. I found him in his laboratory sitting amid skeletons and a number of separate skulls -- he was studying skulls at the time and later published a monograph on this subject in the college journal.

"Can you take notes of my lectures?" he asked.

"I can take some."

"Let me see them"

I gave him the notes I had taken, and he kept them, to return them a day or two later with the instruction that henceforth I should hand them in every week. When I took them back and looked at them, I received a great surprise, and felt at the same time both embarrassed and grateful. From beginning to end my notes had been supplemented and corrected in red ink. Not only had he added a great deal I had missed, he had even corrected every single grammatical mistake. And so it went on till he had taught all the courses for which he was responsible: osteology, angiology, neurology.

Unfortunately, I was not in the least hard-working, and was sometimes most self-willed. I remember once Mr. Fujino called me to his laboratory and showed me a diagram in my notes of the blood vessels of the forearm. Pointing at this, he said kindly:

"Look, you have moved this blood vessel a little out of place. Of course, when moved like this it does look better; but anatomical charts are not works of art, and we have no way of altering real things. I have corrected it for you, and in future you should copy exactly from the black-board."

(the following to be scanned, sorry)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:30
Three Summer Pests
By Lu Xun

Summer is coming. We shall have three pests: fleas, mosquitoes and flies.

If someone were to ask which of the three I prefer, and I must name one of them instead of handing in a blank sheet as in the case of "Required Reading for the Young,"* then my answer would be: fleas.

* In January 1925, the Peking News supplement asked Lu Hsun to recommend ten books which all students should read. Instead of doing so, Lu Hsun wrote an essay attacking intellectuals like Hu Shih, who spread reactionary doctrines on the pretext of urging young people to study the classics.

Though fleas are unpleasant when they suck your blood, the way they bite you without a word is very straight-forward and frank. Mosquitoes are different. Of course, their method of piercing the skin may be considered fairly thoroughgoing; but before biting they insist on making a long harangue, which is irritating. If they are carrying on about the reasons which make it right for them to feed on human blood, that is even more irritating. I am glad I do not know their language.

When a sparrow or deer falls into men's hands, it always tries to escape. Actually, in the hills and woods there are eagles and hawks, as well as tigers and wolves; so small creatures are not necessarily safer there than in human hands. Why is it, then, that they do not escape to us, but want to escape to the eagles, hawks, tigers and wolves? It may be because the latter treat them just as the fleas treat us. When they are hungry, they bite without trying to justify themselves or indulging in any tricks. And those eaten do not have to admit first that they deserve to be eaten, that they are happy to be eaten, and that in this faith they will live and die. Since mankind is much addicted to this sort of thing, small creatures choose the lesser evil and run away from men as fast as they can, thus showing their great wisdom.

When flies finally alight after much preliminary buzzing and fuss, all they do is to lick off a little sweat or grease; if they find sores or boils, of course they may do better; and on anything good, beautiful and clean it is their rule to leave some filth. However, since they simply lick a little grease or sweat, or add a little filth, thick-skinned people who feel no sharp pain let them go. The Chinese do not realize yet that flies can spread germs; hence the movement to wipe them out will probably not do too well; they will live to a ripe old age, and multiply even more.

But apparently after leaving filth on things that are good, beautiful and clean, they do not gloat over what they have done and turn to laugh at the filth of what they have defiled. At least they have that much decency.

Gentlemen past and present have abused men by calling them beasts, yet actually even insects are in many respects worthy models for human beings.

April 4, 1925

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 5, 1959)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:31
In Memory of Miss Liu Ho-Chen

On March the twenty-fifth in the fifteenth year of the Republic, the National Peking Women's Normal College held a memorial service for two girls, Liu Ho-chen and Yang Teh-chun, who were killed on the eighteenth in front of Tuan Chi-jui's Government House. I was pacing alone outside the hall, when Miss Cheng came up to me.

"Have you written anything, sir, for Liu Ho-chen?" she asked.

I answered, "No."

"I think you should, sir," she urged. "Liu Ho-chen always liked to read your essays."

I was aware of this. All the magazines I edit have a very poor circulation, quite likely because they often cease publication suddenly. Yet in spite of financial difficulties, she was one of those who took the risk of ordering Thorny Plain for a whole year. And I have felt for some days that I should write something, for though this has no effect on the dead, it seems to be all the living can do. Of course, if I could believe that "the spirit lives on after death," that would give me greater comfort -- but, as it is, this seems to be all I can do.

I really have nothing to say, though. I just feel that we are not living in the world of men. In a welter of more than forty young people's blood, I can barely see, hear or breathe, so what can I say? We can make no long lament till after our pain is dulled. And the insidious talk of some so-called scholars since this incident has added to my sense of desolation. I am beyond indignation. I shall sup deeply of the dark desolation which is not of the world of men, and present my deepest grief to this world which is not of men, letting it delight in my pain. This shall be the poor offering of one still living before the shrine of the dead.

True fighters dare face the sorrows of humanity, and look unflinchingly at bloodshed. What sorrow and joy is theirs! But the Creator's common device for ordinary people is to let the passage of time wash away old traces, leaving only pale-red bloodstains and a vague pain; and he lets men live on ignobly amid these, to keep this inhuman world going. When will such a world come to an end?

We are still living in such a world, and some time ago I felt I must write something. A fortnight has passed since March the eighteenth, and soon the forgotten Saviour will be descending. I must write something now.

Miss Liu Ho-chen, one of the more than forty young people killed, was my pupil. So I used to call her, and so I thought of her. But now I hesitate to call her my pupil, for now I should present to her my sorrow and my respect. She is no pupil now of one dragging on an ignoble existence like myself. She is a Chinese girl who has died for China.

I first saw her name early last summer, when Miss Yang Yin-yu as president of the Women's Normal College dismissed six members of the students' union. She was one of the six, but I did not know her. Only later -- it may have been after Liu Pai-chao led his men and women lieutenants to drag the students out of the college -- did someone point out one of the students to me and tell me that was Liu Ho-chen. When I knew who she was, I secretly marvelled. I had always imagined that any student who could stand up to the authorities and oppose a powerful president and her accomplices must be rather bold and domineering; but she nearly always had a smile on her face, and her manner was very gentle. After we found temporary lodgings at Tsungmao Hutung and started classed again, she began attending my lectures, and so I saw more of her. She still always had a smile on her face, and her manner was very gentle. When the college was recovered, and the former members of the staff who felt they had now done their duty prepared to resign, I first noticed her in tears through concern for the college's future. After that, I believe, I never saw her again. At least, as far as I remember, that was our last meeting.

On the morning of the eighteenth I knew there was a mass demonstration before Government House; and that afternoon I heard the fearful news that the guards had actually opened fire, that there had been several hundred casualties, and that Liu Ho-chen was one of the dead. I was rather skeptical, though, about these reports. I am always ready to think the worst of my fellow-countrymen, but I could neither conceive nor believe that we could stoop to such despicable barbarism. Besides, how could smiling, gentle Liu Ho-chen have been slaughtered for no reason in front of Government House?

Yet on that same day it proved to be true -- the evidence was her body. There was another body, Yang Teh-chun's. Moreover these made clear that this was not only murder but brutal murder, for their bodies bore the marks of clubs also.

The Tuan government, however, issued a decree declaring them "rioters."

But this was followed by a rumour that they were the tools of other people.

I could not bear to look at this cruel sight. Even more, I could not bear to hear these rumours. What else is there I can say? I understand why a dying race remains silent. Silence, silence! Unless we burst out, we shall perish in this silence!

But I have to say.
I did not see this, but I hear that she -- Liu Ho-chen -- went forward gaily. Of course, it was only a petition, and no one with any conscience could imagine such a trap. But then she was shot before Government House, shot from behind, and the bullet pierced her lung and heart. A mortal wound, but she did not die immediately. When Miss Chang Ching-shu who was with her tried to lift her up, she was pierced by four shots, one from a pistol, and fell. And when Miss Yang Teh-chun who was with them tried to lift her up, she was shot too: the bullet entered her left shoulder and came out to the right of heart, and she also fell. She was able to sit up, but a soldier clubbed her savagely over her head and her breast, and so she died.

So gentle Liu Ho-chen who was always smiling has really died. It is true: her body is the evidence. Yang Teh-chun, a brave and true friend, has also died; her body is the evidence. Only Chang Ching-shu, just as brave and true a friend, is still groaning in hospital. How magnificent of these three girls to fall so calmly, pierced by bullets invented by civilized men! The valour shown by Chinese soldiers in butchering women and children and the martial prowess of the Allied troops in teaching students a lesson have unfortunately been eclipsed by these few streaks of blood.

But Chinese and foreign murderers are still holding their heads high, unaware of the bloodstains on their faces...

Time flows eternally on: the streets are peaceful again, for a few lives count for nothing in China. At most, they give good-natured idlers something to talk about, or provide malicious idlers with material for "rumours." As for any deeper significance, I think there is very little for this was only an unarmed demonstration. The history of mankind's battle forward through bloodshed is like the formation of coal, where a great deal of wood is needed to produce a small amount of coal. But demonstrations do not serve any purpose, especially unarmed ones.

Since blood was shed, however, the affair will naturally make itself more felt. At least it will permeate the hearts of the kinsmen, teachers, friends and lovers of the dead. And even if with the flight of time the bloodstains fade, the image of a gentle girl who was always smiling will live on for ever amid the vague sorrow. The poet Tao Chien wrote:

My kinsmen may still be grieving,
While others have started singing.
I am dead and gone -- what more is there to say?
My body is buried in the mountains.

And this is quite enough.

As I have said before, I am always willing to think the worst of my fellow-countrymen. Still, quite a few things have surprised me this time. One is that the authorities could act so barbarously, another that the rumour-mongers could sink so low, yet another that Chinese girls could face death so bravely.

Only last year did I begin to notice how Chinese women manage public affairs. Though they are few, I have often been impressed by their ability, determination and indomitable spirit. The attempt of these girls to rescue each other amid a hail of bullets, regardless of their own safety, is a clearer indication of the courage of Chinese women which has persisted through the thousands of years of conspiracies against them and suppression. If we are looking for the significance of this casualty for the future, it probably lies here.

Those who drag on an ignoble existence will catch a vague glimpse of hope amid the pale bloodstains, while true fighters will advance with greater resolution.

Alas, I can say no more. But I have written this in memory of Miss Liu Ho-chen.

April1, 1926

Translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 5, 1959)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:31
Fighters and Flies*
By Lu Xun
*The fighters refer to Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the martyrs of the 1911 Revolution, the flies to the hirelings of the reactionaries. This essay was written in 1925.

Schopenhauer has said that, in estimating men's greatness, the laws governing spiritual stature and physical size are the reverse of each other. For the further they are from us, the smaller men's bodies and the greater their spirit appear.

Because a man seems less of a hero at close quarters, where his blemishes and wounds stand out clearly, he appears like one of us, not a god, a supernatural being or a creature of a strange new species. He is simply a man. But this precisely a is where his greatness lies.

When a fighter has fallen in battle, the first thing flies notice is his blemishes and wounds. They suck them, humming, very pleased to think that they are greater heroes than the fallen fighter. And since the fighter is dead and does not drive them away, the flies buzz even more loudly, and imagine they are making immortal music, since they are so much more whole and perfect than he is.

True, no one pays any attention to he blemishes and wounds of flies.

Yet the fighter for all his blemishes is a fighter, while the most whole and perfect flies are only flies.

Buzz off, flies! You may have wings and you may be able to hum, but you will never surpass a fighter, you insects!

March 24

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1961)


weihong2 2009-02-11 16:31
Thoughts on the League of Left-wing Writers
A talk given at the inaugural meeting of the League of Left-wing Writers on March 2*
By Lu Xun
* In 1930.
I need not speak about subjects already dealt with in detail by others. In my view, it is very easy for "left-wing" writers today to turn into "right-wing" writers. First of all, if you simply shut yourself up behind glass windows to write or study instead of keeping in touch with actual social conflicts, it is easy for you to be extremely radical or "left." But the moment you come up against reality all your ideas, but equally easy to turn "rightist." This is what is meant in the West by "salon-socialists." A salon is a sitting-room, and it is most artistic and refined to sit discussing socialism -- with no idea of bringing it into being. Socialists like this are quite unreliable. Indeed today, with the exception of Mussolini who is not a professional author, it is rare to find writers or artists without any socialist ideas at all, who say workers and peasants ought to be enslaved, killed and exploited. (Of course, we cannot say there are none whatsoever, as witness the literati of China's Crescent Moon clique and D'Annunzio, the favourite of the aforesaid Mussolino.)

Secondly, it is easy to become "right-wing" if you do not understand the actual nature of revolution. Revolution is a bitter thing, mixed with filth and blood, not as lovely or perfect as poets think. It is eminently down-to-earth, involving many humble, tiresome tasks, not as romantic as the poets think. Of course there is destruction in a revolution, but construction is even more necessary to it; and while destruction is simple, construction is troublesome. So it is easy for all who have romantic dreams about revolution to become disillusioned on closer acquaintance when a revolution is actually carried out. The Russian poet Yesenin is said to have welcomed the October Revolution at first with all his heart, shouting: "Long live the revolution in heaven and on earth!... I am a Bolshevik!" But afterwards, when the reality proved completely different from what he had imagined, he grew disillusioned and decadent. And they say this disillusionment was one of the reasons for his subsequent suicide. Pilnyak and Ehrenburg are other cases in point. And we find similar instances during our 1911 Revolution. Writers like those of the South Society started as most revolutionary; but they cherished the illusion that once the Manchus were driven out there would be a return to the "good old days," and they could all wear wide sleeves, high hats and broad girdles, and tread with majestic strides. To their surprise, though, after the Manchu emperor was driven out and the Republic set up it was all quite different. So they were disillusioned and some of them even opposed the new movement. Unless we understand the true nature of revolution, it will be easy for us to do the same.

Another mistaken view is this notion that poets or writers are superior beings, and their work nobler than any other work. For example, Heine thought since poets were the noblest beings and God was infinitely just, when poets died they went up to sit by God who offered them light refreshments. Today, of course, no one believes that about God offering refreshments, but some still believe that the poets and writers who support the workers' revolution today will be richly rewarded by the working class when the revolution is accomplished, enjoying special treatment, riding in special cars, and eating special food. The workers may even offer them bread and butter, saying: "Eat this, because your are our poets!" This is another illusion: it simply could not happen. Probably things will be harder after the revolution than they are now. There may not even be black bread, let alone bread and butter, as happened for a year or two after the Russian revolution. If we fail to understand this, it is easy for us to become "right-wing." The fact is that no workers, unless they are the type described as "deserving" by Mr. Liang Shih-chiu,* feel any special respect for intellectuals. Look at Metik, an intellectual in Fadeyev's The Nineteen which I translated, who was often laughed at by the miners. Needless to say, intellectuals have their own tasks which we should not belittle; but it is certainly not the duty of the working class to give poets or writers any preferential treatment.

*A reactionary writer of the aforesaid Crescent Moon clique.

Now let me mention a few points to which we must pay attention.

First, we must battle doggedly and continuously against the old order and old forces, and make the best use of our strength. The roots of the old society go deep, and we cannot shake it unless our new movement is even stronger. Besides, the old society has good means of making our new forces compromise, although it will never compromise itself. There have been many new movements in China, yet each has succumbed to the old, largely because they lacked definite, general aims, their demands were too modest, and they were too easily satisfied. Take the movement for the vernacular, which was opposed at the start by the forces of the old society. Before long they sanctioned writing in the vernacular, granted it a wretched sort of status, and allowed essays written in the vernacular to appear in odd corners of newspapers, because from their point of view they could permit this new thing to exist as if was perfectly harmless, and the new for its part was content now that the vernacular had the right to live. It has been much the same with the proletarian literary movement of the last couple of years. The old society has sanctioned working-class writing because it is no menace -- in fact they have tried their hand at it themselves and used it as an ornament, for putting a workman's coarse bowl beside the old porcelain in the sitting-room seems so original. And when working-class writers had their small corner in the world of letters and were able to sell their manuscripts, they stopped struggling, and their theorists sang paeans of triumph: "Proletarian literature has conquered!" But apart from the success of a few individuals, what has proletarian literature itself achieved? It should be an intrinsic part of the proletarian struggle for liberation, growing apace with the strength of the working class. The fact that proletarian literature has a high position in the world of letters while the social status of the proletariat is so low only goes to show that it has become divorced from the proletariat and gone over to the old society.

Secondly, I think we should broaden our battlefront. Last year and the year before we did have some battles in literature, but on too limited a scale. Instead of dealing with the old literature and old ideas, our new writers started scrapping in one corner, allowing the old school to watch in comfort from the side.

Thirdly, we ought to bring up a host of new fighters, for today we are really short-handed. We have several magazines, and quite a few books are published; but because they all have the same few writers, the contents are bound to be thin. Nobody specializes, each dabbles in everything -- translation, story-writing, criticism, even poetry. Of course the result is poor. But the reason for this is the dearth of writers. If we had more, translators could concentrate on translating, writers on writing, critics on criticism; then when we engaged the enemy of our forces would be strong enough to overcome them easily. Let me give an illustration of this in passing. The year before last when the Creation Society and the Sun Society attacked me, they were actually so weak that even I lost interest later on and there seemed no point in making a counter-attack, for I realized they were using "empty city tactics."* The enemy devoted its strength to raising a din instead of drilling troops. And though there were many articles abusing me, you could tell at once that they were written under pseudonyms -- all the abuse boiled down to the same few remarks. I was waiting to be attacked by someone who has mastered the Marxist method of criticism, but no such man appeared. I have always thought it important to train a younger generation of fighters, and have formed several literary groups in my time, though none of them amounted to much. But we must pay more attention to this in future.

*Chuko Liang, the famous strategist of the Three Kingdoms Period, is said to have invited the enemy into an undefended city. The enemy, fearing a trap, dared not go in.

While we urgently need to create a host of new fighters, those of us now on the literary front must also be "resilient." By resilient I do not mean like those Ching Dynasty scholars who used the examination essays as "a brick to open the door." These essays were the means by which scholars passed the examinations and became officials in the Ching Dynasty. Once you passed the examinations on the strength of this "introduction, elucidation, change of approach and summing up"* you could then throw it aside and never use it again for the rest of your life. That is why it was called a "brick," for it was used only to open the door, after which if could be thrown aside instead of being carried around. Similar methods are still being used today. We notice that after men have published one or two volumes of verse or short stories they often disappear for ever. Where do they go? After winning a greater or lesser amount of fame by publishing a couple of books, they become professors or find some other job. Since their name is made and they need not write any more, they disappear for ever. This is why China has so little to show in literature and science. But we need some works, for they would come in useful. (Lunacharsky even proposed preserving Russia's handicrafts because foreigners would buy what the peasants made, and the money would come in useful. I believe if we had some contribution to make in literature and science, it might even help us in our political movements to free ourselves from the imperialists.) But to achieve anything in literature, we must be "resilient."

*The four chief parts in this form of essay.

Last of all, I think it essential for a united front that we have a common aim. I seem to remember hearing someone say: "The reactionaries already have their united front, but we have not yet united." In fact, theirs is not a deliberate united front, but because they have a common aim and act consistently they seem to us to have one. And the fact that we cannot unite shows that we are divided in our aims -- some of us are working for a clique, some for an individual. If all of us wanted to serve the workers and peasants, our battlefront would naturally be united.

Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:32
On Deferring Fair Play
By Lu Xun

I. Broaching the subject

In Number 57 of The Tattler Mr. Lin Yu-tang refers to fair play, and remarks that since this spirit is extremely rare in China we should do our best to encourage it. He adds that "don't beat a dog in the water" supplements the meaning of fair play. Not knowing English, I do not understand the full connotation of this term; but if "don't beat a dog in the water" represents the true spirit of fair play, then I must beg to differ. In order not to offend the eye -- not to "add false antlers to my head,"* I mean -- I did not state this explicitly in my title. What I mean, anyway, is this: a dog in the water may -- or rather should -- be beaten.

* Chen Yuan, a reactionary professor and a leading contributor to the Modern Review, accused Lu Xun of doing this in order to pose as a fighter.

II. On three kinds of dogs in the water which should be beaten

Modern critics often compare "beating a dead tiger" with "beating a dog in the water," considering both as somewhat cowardly. I find those who pose as brave by beating dead tigers rather amusing. They may be cowards, but in an engaging way. Beating a dog in the water is not such a simple issue, however. You must first see what sort of dog it is and how it fell in. There are three chief reasons for a dog's falling into the water:

1. It may fall in by mistake.
2. It may be pushed in by someone.
3. It may be pushed in by you.

In the first two cases, of course, it is pointless if not cowardly to join in beating the dog. But if you are in a fight with a dog and have pushed it into the water yourself, even to go on belabouring it with a bamboo pole is not too much, for this is different from the two other cases.

They say that a brave prize-fighter never hits his opponent when he is down, and that this sets a fine example for us all. But I agree to this only on condition that the opponent is a brave pugilist too; for then once he is beaten he will be ashamed to come back, or will come back openly to take his revenge, either of which is all right. But this does not apply to dogs, who cannot be considered in the same class; for however wildly they may bark, they really have no sense of "propriety." Besides, a dog can swim, and will certainly swim ashore. If you are not careful, it will shake itself, spattering water all over you, then run away with its tail between its legs. But next time it will do exactly the same. Simple souls may think that falling into the water is a kind of baptism, after which a dog will surely repent of its sins and never bite men again. They could hardly be more mistaken.

So I think all dogs that bite men should be beaten, whether they are on the land or in the water.

III. Pug, in particular, must be pushed into the water and soundly beaten

Pugs or pekes are called Western dogs in south China, but I understand this is a special Chinese breed. At international dog shows they often win gold medals, and a number of the photographs of dogs in the Encyclopedia Britannica are pictures of our Chinese pugs. This is also a national honour. Now dogs and cats are mortal enemies, but this pug, although a dog, looks very much like a cat, so moderate, affable and self-possessed, its smug air seeming to say: "Everyone else goes to extremes, but I practise the Doctrine of the Mean." That is why it is such a favourite with influential persons, eunuchs, and the wives and daughters of rich men, and its line remains unbroken. It is kept by toffs because it looks so cute, with a tiny chain attached to its neck, and its function is to patter after Chinese or foreign ladies when they go shopping.

These dogs should be pushed into the water, then soundly beaten. If they fall into the water themselves, there is no harm in beating them either. Of course, if you are over-scrupulous, you need not beat them; but neither need you feel sorry for them. If you can forgive these dogs, there is no call for you to beat any other dogs; for though the others also fawn on the rich and bully the poor, they at least look something like wolves and are rather wild -- not such fence-sitters as these pugs.

But this is just a digression, which may not have much bearing on the main subject.

IV. On the harm done to posterity by not beating dogs in the water

So whether or not a dog in the water should be beaten depends first of all on its attitude after it crawls ashore.

It is hard for a dog to change its nature. Ten thousand years from now it may be somewhat different, but I am talking about today. If we think it looks pathetic in the water, so do many other pests. And though cholera germs breed so fast, they look very tame; yet doctors show them no mercy.

Present-day officials and Chinese or foreign-style gentlemen call everything that does not suit them "Red" or "Bolshevik." Before 1912 it was slightly different: first they referred to Kang Yu-wei's partisans as undesirables, then revolutionaries, and even informed against them. They were trying, for one thing, to keep their high position, but they may also have wanted "to stain their cap button red with human blood."* But at last the revolution came, and those gentlemen with their high and mighty airs suddenly panicked like homeless curs, and wound up their little queues on their heads. And the revolutionaries were very up-to-date, very "civilized" in a way these gentlemen detested. They said: "The revolution is for all. We will not beat a dog in the water: let it crawl ashore." This was just what the others did. They lay low till the second half of 1913 and the time of the second revolution, then suddenly came forward to help Yuan Shih-kai kill many revolutionaries, so that things became daily worse in China again. Thus now, besides the old die-hards, there are many young ones. This is thanks to those martyrs who were too kind to these snakes in the grass and allowed them to multiply. The young people who understand this will have to strive much harder and sacrifice many more lives to oppose the forces of darkness.

* In the Ching Dynasty, mandarins of the first rank had a coral bead on their caps. Some officials killed revolutionaries in order to gain promotion.

Chiu Chin* died at the hands of these informers. Just after the revolution she was called a heroine, but this title is rarely heard now. When the revolution started, a general came to her district -- what we would call a "warlord" today -- and he was her comrade. His name was Wang Chin-fa. He arrested the man responsible for her death and collected evidence to avenge her. But in the end he let the informer go, because -- so they say -- the Republic had been founded, and bygones should be bygones. When the second revolution was defeated, however, Wang was shot by Yuan Shih-kai's stooge; and the man who brought about Chiu Chin's death and whom Wang had set free had a great deal to do with this.

* 1875-1907. A woman revolutionary, educated in Japan, who was one of the leaders of the movement against the Ching government. In 1907 she was arrested and killed in Shaohsing.

Since then this informer has died peacefully in bed. But because there are still many of his sort lording it in that district, Chiu Chin's native place has remained unchanged from year to year, and made no progress at all. From this point of view, Miss Yang Yin-yu and Professor Chen Yuan are really supremely fortunate to come from China's "model district."*

* Wusih, described as "a model district" by Chen Yuan.

V. Those who have fallen from power are not the same as dogs in the water

Passive resistance is merciful. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is just. In China, however, most things are topsy-turvy: instead of beating dogs in the water, we let ourselves be bitten by them. This is no more, though, than simple souls deserve.

"Kindness is another name for folly," says the proverb. This may be going too far. Yet if you think carefully, this is not intended to lead men astray, but is the conclusion reached after many bitter experiences. There may be two reasons for the reluctance to hit a man when he is down: it is either because we are not strong enough, or because we have made a false analogy. We need not go into the first possibility. As regards the second, we can find two serious flaws. First, we make the mistake of considering dogs in the water as the same as men who have come down in the world. Secondly, we make the mistake of considering all those who have fallen from power as alike, without drawing a distinction between the good and the bad. The result is that evil-doers go unpunished. At present, for instance, since the political situation is unstable, men rise and fall all the time. Relying on some short-lived authority, a bad man may commit any crime he pleases, until one day he falls and has to beg for mercy. Then simple souls who have known him or suffered at his hands consider him a dog in the water, and instead of beating him feel sorry for him. They imagine justice has already been done and they may as well be chivalrous, unaware that the dog is not really in the water, but has long since prepared its hide-out and laid in food in the foreign concessions. Sometimes it may look hurt, but this is put on: it pretends to limp to enlist sympathy, so that it can go into hiding comfortably. It will come out later and make a fresh start by biting simple souls, then go on to commit all manner of crimes. And the reason for this is partly that those simple souls would not beat a dog in the water. So strictly speaking, they are digging their own graves, and they have no right to blame fate or other people.

VI. We cannot yet afford to be too fair

Humanitarians may ask: In that case, don't we want fair play at all? I can answer this at once: Of course we do, but not yet. This is using their own argument. Though humanitarians may not be willing to use it, I can make out a case for it. Do not Chinese and foreign-style gentlemen often say that China's special features make foreign ideas of liberty and equality unsuitable for us? I take this to include fair play. Otherwise, if a man is unfair to you but you are fair to him, you will suffer for it in the end: not only will you fail to get fair treatment, but it will be too late to be unfair yourself. So before being fair, you have to know your opponent. If he does not deserve fair treatment, you had better not be polite. Only when he is fair can you talk to him of fair play.

This sounds rather like a proposal for a dual morality, but I cannot help it; for without this China will never have a better future. The dual morality here takes many forms: different standards for masters and for slaves, for men and for women. It would be quite unrealistic and premature to treat dogs in the water and men in the water as the same. This is the argument of those gentlemen who say that while freedom and equality are good, in China it is still too early for them. So if anyone wants indiscriminate fair play, I suggest we wait till those dogs in the water are more human. Of course, this does not mean that fair play cannot be practised at all at present; the important thing, as I have just said, is first to know your opponent. And a certain discrimination is required. In other words, your fairness must depend on who your opponent is. Never mind how he has fallen into the water, if he is a man we should help him; if a dog, we should ignore him; if a bad dog, we should beat him. In brief, we should befriend our own kind and attack our enemies.

We need not trouble ourselves just now with the aphorisms of those gentlemen who have justice on their lips but self-interest in their hearts. Even the justice so loudly demanded by honest folk cannot help good people in China today, but may actually protect the bad instead. For when bad men are in power and ill-treat the good, however loudly someone calls for justice, they will certainly not listen to him. His cry is simply a cry, and the good continue to suffer. But if the good happen for once to come out on top while the bad fall into the water, those honest upholders of justice shout: "Don't take vengeance!... Be magnanimous!... Don't oppose evil with evil!" And this time their outcry takes effect, instead of going unheeded; for the good agree with them, and the bad are spared. After being spared, though, they simply congratulate themselves on their luck instead of repenting. Besides, they have prepared hide-outs in advance, and are good at worming their way into favour; so in no time they become as powerful and as vicious as before. When this happens, the upholders of justice may raise another outcry, but this time it will not be heard.

Nevertheless it is true that when reformers are over-zealous, like the scholars at the end of the Han Dynasty or those of the Ming Dynasty, they defeat their own ends. Indeed, this is the criticism usually levelled against them. But though the other side detest good folk, nobody reproaches them for it. If there is no fight to the finish between darkness and light, and simple souls go on making the mistake of confusing forgiveness with giving free rein to evil, and continue pardoning wicked men, then the present state of chaos will last for ever.

VII. On dealing with them as they deal with others

Some Chinese believe in traditional Chinese medicine, others in Western medicine, and both types of doctors can now be found in our larger towns, so that patients may take their choice. I thoroughly approve of this. If this were applied more generally, I am sure there would be fewer complaints, and perhaps we could even secure peace and prosperity. For instance, the usual form of greeting now is to bow; but if anyone disapproves of this, he can kowtow instead. The new penal code has no punishment by bastinado; but if anyone approves of corporal punishment, when he breaks the law he can have his bottom specially spanked. Bowls, chopsticks and cooked food are the custom today; but if anyone hankers after ancient times, he can eat raw meat. We can also build several thousand thatched huts, and move all those fine gentlemen who so admire the age of Yao and Shun* out of their big houses to live there; while those who oppose material civilization should certainly not be compelled to travel in cars. When this is done, there will be no more complaints, for everyone will be satisfied, and we shall enjoy peace and quiet.

* Two legendary Chinese rulers of the earliest times, described in old books as living in thatched huts.

But the pity is that nobody will do this. Instead, they judge others by themselves, and hence there is all this trouble in the world. Fair play is particularly liable to cause trouble, and may even be made use of by the forces of evil. For example, when Liu Pai-chao* beat up and carried off students of the Women's Normal College, there was not so much as a squeak from Modern Review. But when the buildings were recovered, and Professor Chen Yuan encouraged the students of the Women's University to stay on in the dormitories, the journal said: "Suppose they don't want to go? Surely you aren't going to carry off their things by force?" If they remained silent the first time, when Liu Pai-chao beat up students and carried things away, how was it that this time they felt it would not do? It was because they felt there was fair play in the Women's Normal College. But this fair play had become a bad thing, since it was utilized to protect the followers of Chang Shih-chao.

* In 1925, the minister of education, Chang Shih-chao, disbanded the Women's Normal College, and set up a new women's college in the same premises under Liu Pai-chao. Liu sent thugs to take over.

VIII. Conclusion

I may be accused of stirring up trouble by this argument between the old and the new or some other schools of thought, and of aggravating their enmity and sharpening the conflict between them. But I can state with certainty that those who oppose reform have never relaxed their efforts to injure reformers, and have always done their worst. It is only the reformers who are asleep, and always suffer for it. That is why China has never had reforms. From now on we should modify our attitude and our tactics.

December 29, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 5, 1959)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:32
We Can No Longer Be Duped*
By Lu Xun

* Written in 1932.

The imperialists are bent on attacking the Soviet Union. The better the Soviet Union does, the more impatient they are to attack it, for the sooner they will face destruction.

We have been duped too long by the imperialists and their lackeys. Ever since the October Revolution they have been telling us how poor the Soviet Union is growing, what savages and vandals they are. Yet what are the facts? The world has been made to sit up by their export of petroleum and wheat. The leaders of the Industrial Party* -- their immediate enemies -- have been sentenced to merely ten years' imprisonment. No libraries or museums have been blown up in Leningrad or Moscow. The works of such writers as Serafimovich, Fadeyev, Gladkov, Seifulina and Sholokhov are admired from Western Europe to Eastern Asia. And though I know very little about their art, according to K. Umansky's Neue Kunst in Russland, there were twenty exhibitions in Moscow in 1919, and two in Leningrad. From this we can judge the healthy situation today.

* A counter-revolutionary clique unmasked in the Soviet Union in 1930. Most of its members were engineers or technicians who carried on sabotage in league with the imperialists.

But the rumour-mongers are both brazen and crafty. When events refute their lies they bob down, only to come up at once with a fresh crop.

I have just been reading a pamphlet on the likelihood of the economic recovery of the United States, the preface to which says that as the Russians have to stand in a long queue to buy anything today the situation there must be unchanged. The author sounds quite indignant, as if he sympathized with those in the queues.

In this case I believe him. Because the Soviet Union is in the throes of construction work and threatened by the imperialists, of course many commodities are in short supply. But we have heard how the unemployed in other countries queue up in long hunger marches. And the Chinese people, caught in the meshes of civil war, foreign aggression, flood, famine and exploitation, are queuing up in a long death march.

Still the imperialists and their slaves come to tell us how bad the Soviet Union is, as if they longed to see it transformed into a paradise where everyone would be happy. They are disappointed and grieved by the way things are going. What crocodile tears!

When they open their eyes, you can see them for the devils they are -- they want to "take disciplinary action."

While "taking disciplinary action," they start spreading lies again. Terms like "right," "humanity" and "justice" are bandied about once more. But we can remember how these terms were bandied about during the Great War in Europe, to trick us into sending coolies to die for them at the front. Yet after that in the Central Park in Peking they erected that shameless, incredibly stupid archway with the inscription "Justitita vincit." (It was later taken down.) But where is justice now? As that happened a mere sixteen years ago, we have not forgotten it.

The imperialists' interests and ours -- I am not speaking of their flunkeys -- are diametrically opposed. Since our sores are their treasures, their enemies must naturally be our friends. They are tottering to ruin, unable to prop themselves up, but hoping to stave off their final fate by hating the Soviet Union for its advance. When slander, curses and hatred prove ineffective, as a last resort they must prepare to fight -- they cannot sleep till the enemy is destroyed. But what of us? Are we going to be duped again?

"The dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union means that the intellectuals will starve to death," a well-known journalist warned me.

Yes, that prospect ought to prevent me from sleeping too. But the dictatorship of the proletariat, as I see it, is aimed at bringing about a classless society. The less you sabotage it, the sooner it will succeed and the sooner classes will be done away with, so that nobody need "starve to death." Queues, of course, are a necessary evil for the time, but they will not last very long.

The imperialists' flunkeys want to fight. Let them go with their bosses and fight -- our interests are diametrically opposed. We oppose any attack on the Soviet Union. In fact we want to fight the devils who attack it, no matter what honeyed words they use, nor how just they pose as being.

This is our road to life too!

May 6
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:33
By Lu Xun

* Written in 1936.

While preparing a selection of Kaethe Kollwitz's works for publication, I asked Miss Agnes Smedley to write a preface. This struck me as most appropriate because the two of them were good friends. Soon the preface was ready, I made Mr. Mao Tun translate it, and it has now appeared in the Chinese edition. One passage in it reads:

All these years Kaethe Kollwitz -- who never once used any title conferred on her -- has made a great many sketches, pencil and ink drawings, woodcuts and etchings. When we study these, two dominant themes are evident: in her younger days her main theme was revolt, but in her later years it was motherly love, the protective maternal instinct, succour and death. All her works are pervaded by the idea of suffering, of tragedy, and a passionate longing to protect the oppressed.

Once I asked her: "Why is it that instead of your former theme of revolt you now seem unable to shake off the idea of death?" She answered in tones of anguish: "It may be because I am growing older every day...."

At that point I stopped to think. I estimated that it must have been in about 1910 that she first took death as her theme, when she was no more than forty-three or four. I stop to think about it now because of my own age, of course. But a dozen or so years ago, as I recall, I did not have such a feeling about death. No doubt our lives have long been treated so casually as trifles of no consequence that we treat them lightly ourselves, not seriously as Europeans do. Some foreigners say that the Chinese are most afraid of death. But this is not true -- actually, most of us die with no clear understanding of the meaning of death.

The general belief in a posthumous existence further strengthens this casual attitude towards death. As everyone knows, we Chinese believe in ghosts (more recently called "souls" or "spirits"); and since there are ghosts, after death we can at least exist as ghosts if not as men, which is better than nothing. But the imagined duration of this ghostly existence seems to vary according to a man's property. The poor appear to fancy that when they die their souls will pass into another body, according to Duddhist teaching. Of course the transmigration taught in Buddhism is a complicated process, by no means so simple; but the poor are usually ignorant people who do not know this. That is why criminals condemned to death often show no fear when taken to the execution ground, but shout: "Twenty years from now I shall be a stout fellow again!" Moreover, according to popular belief a ghost wears the clothes he had on at the time of death; and since the poor have no good clothes and cannot therefore cut a fine figure as ghosts, it is far better for them to be reborn at once as naked babies. Did you ever see a new-born infant wearing a beggar's rags or a swimming-suit? No, never. Very well, then, that is a fresh start. Someone may object: If you believe in transmigration, in the next existence you may be even worse off or actually become a beast -- what a fearful thought! But the poor don't seem to think that way. They firmly believe that they have not committed sins frightful enough to condemn them to becoming beasts: they have not had the position, power or money to commit such sins.

But neither do those men with position, power and money believe that they should become beasts. They either turn Buddhist in order to become saints, or advocate the study of the Confucian classics and a return to ancient ways in order to become Confucian sages. Just as in life they expect to be a privileged class, after death they expect to be exempt from transmigration. As for those who have a little money, though they also believe they should be exempt from transmigration, since they have no high ambitions or lofty plans they just wait placidly. Round about the age of fifty, they look for a burial place, buy a coffin and burn paper money to open a bank account in the nether regions, expecting their sons and grandsons to offer sacrifices to them every year. This is surely much pleasanter than life on earth. If I were a ghost now, with filial descendants in the world of men, I should not have to sell my articles one by one, or ask the Peihsin Publishing House* for payment. I could simply lie at ease in my nanmu** or fir coffin, while at every festival and at New Year a fine feast and a pile of banknotes would be placed before me. That would be the life!

* This publishing house printed most of Lu Hsun's works in the early thirties.
** A hard wood with a fine grain.

Generally speaking, apart from the very rich and great, who are not bound by the laws of the nether regions, the poor would like to be reborn at once, while those comfortably-off would like to remain as ghosts for as long as possible. The comfortably-off are willing to remain ghosts because their life as ghosts (this sounds paradoxical but I can think of no better way of expressing it) is the continuation of their life on earth and they are not yet tired of it. Of course there are rulers in the nether regions who are extremely strict and just; but they will make allowances for these ghosts and accept presents from them too, just like good officials on earth.

Then there are others who are rather casual, who do not think much about death even when they are dying, and I belong to this casual category. Thirty years ago as a medical student I considered the problem of the existence of the soul, but did not know what to conclude. Later I considered whether death was painful or not, and concluded that it varied in different cases. And later still I stopped thinking about the matter and forgot it. During the last ten years I have sometimes written a little about the death of friends, but apparently I never thought of my own. In the last two years I have been ill a great deal and usually for a considerable length of time, which has often reminded me that I am growing older. Of course, I have been constantly reminded of this fact by other writers owing to their friendly or unfriendly concern.

Since last year, whenever I lay on my wicker chair recovering from illness, I would consider what to do when I was well, what articles to write, what books to translate or publish. My plans made, I would conclude: "All right -- but I must hurry." This sense of urgency, which I never had before, was due to the fact that unconsciously I had remembered my age. But still I never thought directly of "death."

Not till my serious illness this year did I start thinking distinctly about death. At first I treated my illness as in the past, relying on my Japanese doctor, S --. Though not a specialist in tuberculosis, he is an elderly man with rich experience who studied medicine before me, is my senior and knows me very well -- hence he talks frankly. Of course, however well a doctor knows his patient, he still speaks with a certain reserve; but at least he warned me two or three times, though I never paid any attention and did not tell anyone. Perhaps because things had dragged on so long and my last attack was so serious, some friends arranged behind my back to invite an American doctor, D --, to see me. He is the only Western specialist on tuberculosis in Shanghai. After his examination, though he complimented me on my typically Chinese powers of resistance, he also announced that my end was near, adding that had I been a European I would already have been in my grave for five years. This verdict moved my soft-hearted friends to tears. I did not ask him to prescribe for me, feeling that since he had studied in the West he could hardly have learned how to prescribe for a patient five years dead. But Dr. D's diagnosis was in fact extremely accurate. I later had an X-ray photograph made of my chest which very largely bore out his diagnosis.

Though I paid not too much attention to his announcement, it has influenced me a little: I spend all the time on my back, with no energy to talk or read and not enough strength to hold a newspaper. Since my heart is not yet "as tranquil as an old well," I am forced to think, and sometimes I think of death too. But instead of thinking that "twenty years from now I shall be a stout fellow again," or wondering how to prolong my stay in a nanmu coffin, my mind dwells on certain trifles before death. It is only now that I am finally sure that I do not believe that men turn into ghosts. It occurred to me to write a will, and I thought: If I were a great nobleman with a huge fortune, my sons, sons-in-law and others would have forced me to write a will long ago; whereas nobody has mentioned it to me. Still, I may as well leave one. I seem to have thought out quite a few items for my family, among which were:

1. Don't accept a cent from anyone for the funeral. This does not apply to old friends.

2. Get the whole thing over quickly, have me buried and be done with it.

3. Do nothing in the way of commemoration.

4. Forget me and look after your own affairs -- if you don't, you are just too silly.

5. When the child grows up, if he has no gifts let him take some small job to make a living. On no account let him become a writer or artist in name alone.

6. Don't take other people's promises seriously.

7. Never mix with people who injure others but who oppose revenge and advocate tolerance.

There were other items, too, but I have forgotten them. I remember also that during a fever I recalled that when a European is dying there is usually some sort of ceremony in which he asks pardon of others and pardons them. Now I have a great many enemies, and what should my answer be if some modernized person asked me my views on this? After some thought I decided: Let them go on hating me. I shall not forgive a single one of them either.

No such ceremony took place, however, and I did not draw up a will. I simply lay there in silence, struck sometimes by a more pressing thought: If this is dying, it isn't really painful. It may not be quite like this at the end, of course; but still, since this happens only once in a lifetime, I can take it.... Later, however, there came a change for the better. And now I am wondering whether this was really the state just before dying: a man really dying may not have such ideas. What it will be like, though, I still don't know.

September 5
Translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 1, 1967)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:33
Autumn Night
By Lu Xun

Over the wall from my back garden you can see two trees. One is a date tree; so is the other.

The night sky above them is strange and high. I have never seen such a strange, high sky. It seems to want to leave this world of men, so that when folk look up they won't be able to see it. For the moment, though, it is singularly blue; and its scores of starry eyes are blinking coldly. A faint smile plays round its lips, a smile which it seems to think highly significant; and it dusts the wild flowers in my garden with heavy frost.

I don't know what these plants are called, what names they are commonly known by. I know one of them had minute pink flowers. That is the one whose flowers linger still, although more minute than ever. Shivering in the cold night air they dream of the coming of spring, of the coming of autumn, of the lean poet wiping his tears upon their last petals, who tells them autumn will come and winter will come, yet spring will follow when butterflies flit to and fro, and all the bees start humming songs of spring. Then the little pink flowers smile, though they have turned a mournful crimson with cold and are shivering still.

As for the date trees, they have lost absolutely all their leaves. Before, one or two boys still came to beat down the dates other people had missed. But now not one date is left, and the trees have lost all their leaves as well. They know the little pink flowers' dream of spring after autumn; and they know the dream of the fallen leaves of autumn after spring. They may have lost all their leaves and have only their branches left; but these, no longer weighed down with fruit and foliage, are stretching themselves luxuriously. A few boughs, though, are still drooping, nursing the wounds made in their bark by the sticks which beat down the dates; while, rigid as iron, the straightest and longest boughs silently pierce the strange, high sky, making it blink in dismay. They pierce even the full moon in the sky, making it pale and ill at ease.

Blinking in dismay, the sky becomes bluer and bluer, more and more uneasy, as if eager to escape from the world of men and avoid the date trees, leaving the moon behind. But the moon, too, is hiding herself in the east; while, silent still and as rigid as iron, the bare boughs pierce the strange, high sky, resolved to inflict on it a mortal wound, no matter how bewitchingly it flutters its eyelids.

With a shriek, a fierce night-bird passes.

All of a sudden, I hear midnight laughter. The sound is muffled, as if not to wake those who sleep; yet all around the air resounds to this laughter. Midnight, and no one else is by. At once I realize it is =I= who am laughing, and at once I am driven by this laughter back to my room. At once I turn up the wick of my kerosene lamp.

A pit-a-pat sounds from the glass of the back window, where insects are dashing themselves against the pane. Presently some get in, no doubt through a hole in the paper. Once in, they set up another pit-a-pat by dashing themselves against the chimney of the lamp. One hurls itself into the chimney from above, to fall into the flame, and I fancy the flame is real. On the paper shade two or three others rest, panting. The shade is a new one since last night. Its snow-white paper is pleated in wave-like folds, and painted in one corner is a spray of blood-red gardenias.

When the blood-red gardenias blossom, the date trees, weighed down with bright foliage, will dream once more the dream of the little pink flowers.... I hear the midnight laughter again, and hastily break off this train of thought to look at the small green insects still on the paper. Like sunflower seeds with their large heads and small tails, they are only half the size of a grain of wheat, the whole of them an adorable, heart-rending green.

I yawn, light a cigarette, and puff out the smoke, paying silent homage before the lamp to these green and exquisite heroes.

September 15, 1924
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 2, 1956)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:33
By Lu Xun

The rain of warm countries has never congealed into icy, glittering snow-flakes. Learned men consider this humdrum; does the rain, too, think it unfortunate? The snow south of the Yangtse is extremely moist and pretty, like the first indefinable intimation of spring, or the bloom of a young girl radiant with health. In that snowy solitude are blood-red camellias, pale, white plum blossom tinged with green, and the golden, bell-shaped flowers of the winter plum; while beneath the snow lurk cold green weeds. Butterflies there are certainly none, and whether or no bees come to gather honey from the camellias and plum blossom I cannot clearly remember. But before my eyes I can see the wintry flowers in their snowy solitude, with bees flying busily to and fro -- I can hear their humming and droning.

Seven or eight children, who have gathered to build a snow Buddha, are breathing on their little red fingers, frozen like crimson shoots of ginger. When they are not successful, somebody's father comes to help. The Buddha is higher than the children; and though it is only a pear-shaped mass which might be a gourd or might be a Buddha, it is beautifully white and dazzling. Held together by its own moisture, the whole thing glitters and sparkles. The children use fruit stones for its eyes, and steal rouge from some mother's vanity-case for its lips. So now it is really a respectable Buddha. With gleaming eyes and scarlet lips, it sits on the snowy ground.

Some children come to visit it the next day. Clapping their hands before it, they nod their heads and laugh. The Buddha just sits there alone. A fine day melts its skin, but a cold night gives it another coat of ice, till it looks like opaque crystal. Then a series of fine days makes it unrecognizable, and the rouge on its lips disappears....

But the snow-flakes that fall in the North remain to the last like powder or sand and never intermingle, whether scattered on roofs, the ground or the withered grass. The warmth from the stoves inside has melted some of the snow on the roofs. As for the rest, when a whirlwind springs up under a clear sky, it flies up wildly, glittering in the sunlight like thick mist around a flame, revolving and rising till it fills the sky, and the whole sky glitters as it whirls and rises.

On this boundless plain, under heaven's chilly vault, this glittering, spiralling wraith is the ghost of rain....

Yes, it is lonely snow, dead rain, the ghost of rain.

January 18, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 2, 1956)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:33
The Kite
By Lu Xun
A Peking winter dismays and depresses me: the thick snow on the ground and the bare trees' ashen branches thrusting up towards the clear blue sky, while in the distance one or two kites are floating.

At home, the time for kites is the second month of spring. When you hear the whirr of a wind-wheel, you raise your head to see a grey crab-kite or a soft blue centipede-kite. Or there may be a solitary tile-kite, without a wind-wheel and flown too low, looking pathetically lonely and forlorn. By this time, though, the willows on the ground are putting out shoots, and the early mountain peaches have budded. Set off by the children's fancy-work in the sky, together they make up the warmth of spring. Where am I now? All round me dread winter reigns, while the long-departed spring of my long-forgotten home is floating in this northern sky.

Yet I never liked flying kites. Far from liking kites, in fact, I detested them as playthings of good-for-nothing children. My young brother was just the reverse. He must then have been about ten, often fell ill and was fearfully thin, but his greatest delight was kites. Unable to buy one and forbidden by me to fly one, he would stand for half a day at a time, his small lips parted in longing, gazing raptly at the sky. If a distant crab-kite suddenly came down, he would utter a cry of dismay; if the strings of two tile-kites became disentangled, he would jump and skip for joy. This struck me as absurd and contemptible.

One day it occurred to me I had not seen much of him lately, but I had noticed him picking up bamboo sticks in the courtyard at the back. The truth dawned on me in a flash. I ran to a small deserted storeroom and, sure enough, as I pushed open the door, I discovered him there in the midst of the dusty debris. He had been sitting on a footstool in front of a big square stool; but now, standing up in confusion, he changed colour and shrank back. Propped up against the big stool was the bamboo framework of a butterfly-kite, not pasted yet with paper; while on the stool lay two small wind-wheels for the butterfly's eyes, which he had just been beautifying with red paper. His work was nearly done. I was pleased to have found out his secret; but furious that he could deceive me so long, while he toiled so single-heartedly to make the toy of a good-for-nothing child. I reached out at once and snapped the frame of one wing, then swept the wheels to the ground and trampled on them. In size and strength he was no match for me; so of course I came off completely victorious. Then I stalked out proudly, leaving him in despair in that little room. What he did after that I neither knew nor cared.

But retribution came to me at last, long after we had gone our different ways, when I was already middle-aged. I was unlucky enough to read a foreign book on children, from which I learned for the first time that play is a child's best occupation, and playthings his good angels. At once this childhood tyranny over the spirit, forgotten for more than twenty years, came to my mind; and that instant my heart seemed to turn to lead and sink heavily down and down.

My heart did not break; it simply sank down and down.

I knew how I could make it up to him: give him a kite, approve of his flying it, urge him to fly it, and fly it with him. We could shout, run, laugh!... But by this time he, like me, had long had a moustache.

I knew another way I could make it up to him: go to ask for his forgiveness, and wait for him to say: "But I didn't blame you at all." Then, surely, my heart would grow lighter. Yes, this way was feasible. There came a day when we met. The hardships of life had left their marks on our faces, and my heart was very heavy. We fell to talking of childhood happenings, and I referred to this episode, admitting that I had been a thoughtless boy. "But I didn't blame you at all," I thought he would say. Then I should have felt forgiven, and my heart would henceforth have been lighter.

"Did that really happen?" He smiled incredulously, as if he were hearing a tale about someone else. It had slipped his mind completely.

The thing was completely forgotten, with no hard feelings. In that case, what forgiveness could there be? Without hard feelings, forgiveness is a lie.

What hope is there for me now? My heart will always be heavy.

Now the spring of my home is in the air of these strange parts again. It carries me back to my long-departed childhood, and bring with it an indefinable sadness. I had better hide in dread winter. But clearly all about me winter reigns, and is even now offering me its utmost rigour and coldness.

January 24, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 2, 1956)


weihong2 2009-02-11 16:34
The Good Story
By Lu Xun
The lamp flame slowly dwindled, a sign that there was not much kerosene left; and the kerosene, which was not of the best brand, had already blackened the chimney with its smoke. Crackers exploded on all sides, and cigarette smoke hung round me. It was a dull, dark night.

I closed my eyes and leaned against the back of my chair, resting the hand holding A Scribbler's Notebook* on my knee.

* A Tang-dynasty work by Hsu Chien (A.D. 659-729).

And in this drowsy state I saw a good story.

It was a lovely, charming, enthralling story. Many beautiful people and beautiful things mingled like the cloud tapestry in the sky, flying past like a myriad shooting stars, yet stretching out into infinity.

I seem to remember rowing a small boat past an ancient highway. On both banks, reflected in the azure stream, were tallow trees and young corn, wild flowers, fowl, dogs, bushes and withered trees, thatched cottages, pagodas, monasteries, farmers and country women, country girls, clothes hanging out to dry, monks, fibre raincoats, hats of bamboo splints, sky, clouds and bamboos. Following each stroke of the oar they caught the flickering sunlight and mingled with the fish and weeds in the water, till all were swaying together. Then shadows and objects shivered and scattered, expanded and merged; but as soon as they merged they contracted once more, and approached their original form. The whole outline was blurred as a summer cloud fringed with sunlight, darting out quicksilver flames. All the river I passed was like this.

And the story I now saw was like this too. With the blue sky in the water as a background, everything was intermingled, interwoven, ever moving, ever extending, so that I could not see any end to it.

The few sparse hollyhocks beneath the withered willows by the stream must have been planted by the country girls. Great crimson flowers and variegated red flowers, floating in the water, suddenly scattered and stretched out into streamers of crimson water, but with no aura. The thatched cottages, dogs, pagodas, country girls, clouds ... were floating too. Each of the great crimson flowers stretched out now into rippling red silk belts. The belts interwove with the dogs, the dogs with the clouds, and the white clouds with the country girls.... In a twinkling they would contract again. But the reflection of the variegated red flowers was already broken and stretching out to interweave with the pagodas, country girls, dogs, thatched cottages and clouds.

Now the story that I saw became clearer, more lovely, charming, enthralling and distinct. Above the clear sky were countless beautiful people and beautiful things. I saw them all, and I recognized them all.

I was about to look more closely at them....

But as I was about to look more closely at them, I opened my eyes with a start to see the cloud tapestry wrinkle and tangle as if someone had thrown a big stone into the water, so that waves leapt up and tore the whole image to shreds. I snatched without thinking at my book, which had nearly slipped to the floor. Before my eyes still hovered a few rainbow-hued, shattered reflections.

I really loved this good story. While some shattered reflections still remained I wanted to catch them, perfect and perpetuate them. I tossed aside my book, leaned forward and reached for my pen. But now there was not the least reflection left. All I could see was dim lamplight. I was no longer in the little boat.

But I still remember seeing this good story that dull, dark night....

February 24, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 2, 1956)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:34
The Passer-by
By Lu Xun

Time: some evening.
Place: somewhere.

The old man -- aged seventy, he has a white beard and hair and wears a black gown.
The girl -- about ten, she has dark hair and black eyes, and is wearing a gown with black squares on a white background.
The passer-by -- aged between thirty and forty, he looks tired and crabbed, with a smouldering gaze. He has a black moustache and tousled hair. Dressed in a short black jacket and trousers which are tattered and torn, he has shabby shoes on his stockingless feet. A sack is hanging from his arm, and he leans on a bamboo pole as tall as he is.

To the east are a few trees and ruins, to the west a forlorn-looking graveyard, and a faint track can be made out. A little mud hut has its door open facing this track. Beside the door is a dead tree stump.

(The girl is about to help the old man up from the stump on which he is sitting.)

Old Man: Hey, child! Why have you stopped?

Girl (looking eastward): There is someone coming. Look!

Old Man: Never mind him. Help me inside. The sun is setting.

Girl: Oh, let me have a look.

Old Man: What a child you are! You can see heaven, earth and the wind every day; isn't that enough for you? There is nothing else so worth looking at. Yet you still want to look at some person. Creatures which appear at sunset can't do you any good.... We'd better go in.

Girl: But he's already quite close. Ah, it's a beggar.

Old Man: A beggar? That isn't likely.

(The passer-by limps out from the bushes on the east, and after a moment's hesitation walks slowly up to the old man.)

Passer-by: Good evening, sir.

Old Man: Thank you. Good evening.

Passer-by: Sir, may I make so bold as to ask for a cup of water? I am parched after walking, and there's not a pool or waterhole to be found.

Old Man: Yes, that's all right. Please sit down. (To the girl.) Child, fetch some water. See that the cup is clean.

(The girl walks silently into the hut.)

Old Man: Please sit down, stranger. What is your name?

Passer-by: My name? That I don't know. Ever since I can remember, I've been on my own; so I don't know what my name was. As I go on my way, people call me by this name or that as the fancy takes them. But I can't remember them, and I have never been called by the same name twice.

Old Man: I see. Well, where are you from?

Passer-by (hesitating): I don't know. Ever since I can remember, I have been walking like this.

Old Man: All right. Then may I ask you where you are going?

Passer-by: Of course you may. The thing is, I don't know. Ever since I can remember, I have been walking like this, on my way to some place ahead. All I can remember is that I have walked a long way, and now I have arrived here. I shall push on that way (he points to the west) ahead!

(The girl carefully carries out a wooden cup of water and gives it to him.)

Passer-by (taking the cup): Thank you very much, lass. (He drinks the water in two gulps, and returns the cup.) Thank you very much, lass. This was very kind indeed. I really don't know how to thank you.

Old Man: There is no need to be so grateful. It won't do you any good.

Passer-by: No, it won't do me any good. But I feel much better now. I shall push on. You must have been here for quite a long time, sir. Do you know what kind of place that is ahead?

Old Man: Ahead? Ahead are graves.

Passer-by (startled): Graves?

Girl: No, no no! There are ever so many wild roses and lilies there. I often go there to play, to look at them.

Passer-by (looking west, and appearing to smile): Yes, there are many wild roses and lilies there. I have often enjoyed myself there too watching them. But those are graves. (To the old man.) Sir, what comes after the graveyard?

Old Man: After the graveyard? That I don't know. I have never been beyond.

Passer-by: You don't know!

Girl: I don't know either.

Old Man: All I know is the south, the north and the east where you come from. Those are the places I am most familiar with, and they may be the best places for such as you. Don't take offence at what I say, but you are already so tired I think you would do better to go back; for if you keep on going you may not come to an end.

Passer-by: I may not come to an end?... (He thinks this over, then starts up.) No, that won't do! I must go on. If I go back, there's not a place without troubles, not a place without landlords, not a place without expulsion and cages, not a place without artificial smiles on the face, not a place without tears outside the eyes. I hate them. I am not going back.

Old Man: It may not be like that. You may come across some tears that spring from the heart, some sorrow for your sake.

Passer-by: No, I don't want to see the tears that spring from their hearts. I don't want them to sorrow for my sake.

Old Man: In that case, you, (he shakes his head) you will just have to go on.

Passer-by: Yes, I'll just have to go on. Besides, there is a voice ahead urging me on and calling me so that I cannot rest. The trouble is my feet are bruised through walking, I have cut them so many times and lost so much blood. (He raises one foot to show the old man.) I haven't got enough blood; I need to drink some blood. But where can I get it? Besides, I don't want to drink just anyone's blood. So I have to drink water instead to make up for it. There is always water on the way; I have never found any lack of it. But my strength is failing fast; no doubt because there is too much water in my blood. Today not even one small waterhole did I find. That must be why I did not walk so far.

Old Man: That may not be why. The sun has set; I think you had better rest for a time, like me.

Passer-by: But the voice ahead is telling me to push on.

Old Man: I know.

Passer-by: You know? You know that voice?

Old Man: Yes. It seems to have called to me before as well.

Passer-by: Is that the same voice that is calling me now?

Old Man: That I can't say. It called me several times, but I ignored it; so then it stopped, and I can't remember it clearly.

Passer-by: Ah, you ignored it.... (He thinks this over, gives a start and listens.) No! I must still go on. I cannot rest. What a nuisance that my feet are torn and bleeding. (He prepares to leave.)

Girl: Here! (She gives him a length of cloth.) Bandage your feet.

Passer-by: Thank you very much, lass. (He takes the cloth.) This is really.... This is really very, very kind of you. With this I can walk much further. (He sits down on some rubble to bind the cloth round his ankle.) No, this won't do. (He tries to stand up.) I had better give it back to you, lass. It is not enough for a bandage. Besides, this is too kind of you, and I have no way of showing my gratitude.

Old Man: There's no need to be so grateful; it won't do you any good.

Passer-by: No, it won't do me any good. But to me this is the finest gift of all. Look, can you see anything so fine on me?

Old Man: You need not take it so seriously.

Passer-by: I know. But I can't help it. I'm afraid that I may behave like this: if I receive a gift, I am like a vulture catching sight of a corpse; I hover around longing for her death, hoping to see it myself. Or I curse all other people but her and pray that they may perish, including myself, for I deserve to be cursed. But I'm not yet strong enough for that. Even if I were, I wouldn't want her to come to such an end, because usually they don't like to come to such ends. So I think this way is best. (To the girl.) This cloth is very good, but a little too small. So I'll give it back to you.

Girl (falling back, frightened): I don't want it! Take it with you.

Passer-by (with something like a smile): Ah.... Because I have held it?

Girl (nods and points at his sack): Put it in there, and keep it for fun.

Passer-by (stepping back despondently): But how am I to walk with this on my back?

Old Man: Because you won't rest you have no strength to carry it. After a rest you will be all right.

Passer-by: That's right, a rest.... (He reflects, but suddenly gives a start and listens.) No, I cannot! I must go.

Old Man: Don't you even want to rest?

Passer-by: I do.

Old Man: Well then, rest here for a while.

Passer-by: But I cannot....

Old Man: You still think you had better go on?

Passer-by: Yes, I had better go on.

Old Man: Very well, you must go then.

Passer-by (stretching himself): Good, I'll say goodbye then. I am very grateful to you. (To the girl.) I'll give this back to you, lass. Please take it back.

(Frightened, the girl draws back her band and hides herself in the hut.)

Old Man: Take it along. If it is too heavy, you can throw it in the graveyard any time.

Girl (coming forward): Oh no, that won't do!

Passer-by: No, that won't do.

Old Man: Well then, you can hang it on the wild roses and lilies.

Girl (clapping her hands and laughing): Good!

Passer-by: Ah....

(For a second there is silence.)

Old Man: Goodbye then. I wish you luck. (He stands up and turns to the girl.) Child, help me inside. Look, the sun has already set. (He turns to the door.)

Passer-by: Thank you both. I wish you luck. (He hesitates thoughtfully, then starts.) But I cannot! I have to go on. I had better go.... (Raising his head, he walks resolutely towards the west.)

(The girl helps the old man into the hut, then shuts the door. The passer-by limps on towards the wilderness, and night falls behind him.)

March 2, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:35
Dead Fire
By Lu Xun

I dreamed that I was running along the mountain of ice.

It was a huge, towering mountain, reaching to the icy sky above; and the sky was flooded with frozen clouds, each fragment like a fish scale. At the foot of the mountain was the forest of ice, with leaves and branches like the pine and cypress. And all was icy cold, pale as ashes.

But suddenly I fell into the valley of ice.

All around, above and below, was icy cold, pale as ashes. Yet over the pallid ice lay countless red shadows, interlacing like a web of coral. Looking beneath my feet, I saw a flame.

This was dead fire. It had a fiery form, but was absolutely still, completely congealed, like branches of coral with frozen black smoke at their tips which looked scorched as if fresh from a burning house. And so, casting reflections upon the ice all around and being reflected back, it had been turned into countless shadows, making the valley of ice as red as coral.


As a child, I always liked to watch the foam ploughed up by swift ships or the fiery flames belched out from a blazing furnace. Not only did I like to watch them, I longed to see them clearly. The pity was they kept changing all the time, and never retained a fixed form. However hard I gazed, I was never left with a clear-cut impression.

Dead flame, now at last I had you!

As I picked up the dead fire to examine it closely, its iciness seared my fingers; but enduring the pain I thrust it into my pocket. The whole valley instantly turned as pale as ashes. At the same time I wondered how to leave this place.

From my body wreathed a coil of black smoke, which reared up like a wire snake. Instantly crimson flames began flowing everywhere, hemming me in like a great conflagration. Looking down, I discovered the dead fire was burning again, had burnt through my clothes and was flowing on the icy ground.

"Ah, friend!" it said. "You awoke me with your warmth!"

I immediately hailed it, and asked its name.

"I was abandoned by men in the valley of ice," it said, ignoring my question. "Those who abandoned me have already perished and vanished. And I was nearly frozen to death by that ice. If you had not warmed me and made me burn again, before long I should have perished."

"I am glad you have awaked. I was just wondering how to leave this valley of ice, and I would like to take you with me so that you may never be frozen but go on burning for ever."

"Ah, no! Then I should burn out."

"I should be sorry if you were to burn out. I had better leave you here."

"Ah, no! I should freeze to death."

"What is to be done then?"

"What will you do yourself?" it countered.

"As I told you, I mean to leave this valley of ice."

"Then I had better burn out!"

It leapt up like a red comet, and together we left the valley. Suddenly a large stone cart drove up, and I was crushed to death beneath its wheels, but not before I saw the cart fall into the valley of ice.

"Aha! You will never meet the dead fire again."

I laughed with pleasure as I spoke, as if pleased that this should be so.

April 23, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:35
Such a Fighter
By Lu Xun

There will be such a fighter!

No longer ignorant as the African natives shouldering well-polished Mausers, nor listless as the Chinese green-banner troops* carrying light machine-guns. He does not rely on armour made of ox-hide or of scrap-iron. He has nothing but himself, and for weapon nothing but the javelin hurled by barbarians.

* During the Ching dynasty Han troops carried green banners to distinguish them from the Manchu troops who carried banners of other colours.

He walks into the lines of nothingness, where all that meet him nod to him in the same manner. He knows that this nod is a weapon used by the enemy to kill without bloodshed, by which many fighters have perished. Like a cannon-ball, it renders ineffective the strength of the brave.

Above their heads hang all sorts of flags and banners, embroidered with all manner of titles: philanthropist, scholar, writer, elder, youth, dilettante, gentleman.... Beneath are all sorts of surcoats, embroidered with all manner of fine names: scholarship, morality, national culture, public opinion, logic, justice, Eastern civilization....

But he raises his javelin.

Together they give their solemn oath that their hearts are in the centre of their chests, unlike the case of other prejudiced people. They hope to prove by their breastplates that they themselves believe their hearts are in the centre of their chests.

But he raises his javelin.

He smiles and hurls his javelin to the side, and it pierces them through the heart.

All crumble and fall to the ground, leaving only a surcoat in which there is nothing. The nothingness has escaped and won the victory, because now he has become the criminal who killed the philanthropist and the rest.

But he raises his javelin.

He walks with great strides through the ranks of nothingness, and sees again the same nods, the same banners and surcoats....

But he raises his javelin.

At last he grows old and dies of old age in the lines of nothingness. He is not a fighter after all, and the nothingness is the victor.

In such a place no tumult of fighting is heard, but there is peace.


But he raises his javelin!

December 14, 1925

Translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1961)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:35
The Wise Man, the Fool and the Slave
By Lu Xun

A slave did nothing but look for people to whom to pour out his woes. This was all he would and all he could do. One day he met a wise man.

"Sir!" he cried sadly, tears pouring down his cheeks. "You know, I lead a dog's life. I may not have a single meal all day, and if I do it is only husks of kaoliang which not even a pig would eat. Not to say there is only one small bowl of it...."

"That's really too bad," the wise man commiserated.

"Isn't it?" His spirits rose. "Then I work all day and all night. At dawn I carry water, at dusk I cook the dinner; in the morning I run errands, in the evening I grind wheat; when it's fine I wash the clothes, when it's wet I hold the umbrella; in winter I mind the furnace, in summer I wave the fan. At midnight I boil mushrooms, and wait on our master at his gambling parties; but never a tip do I get, only sometimes the strap...."

"Dear me...." The wise man sighed, and the rims of his eyes looked a little red as if he were going to shed tears.

"I can't go on like this, sir. I must find some way out. But what can I do?"

"I am sure things will improve...."

"Do you think so? I certainly hope so. But now that I've told you my troubles and you've been so sympathetic and encouraging, I already feel much better. It shows there is still some justice in the world."

A few days later, though, he was in the dumps again and found someone else to whom to pour out his woes.

"Sir!" he exclaimed, shedding tears. "You know, where I live is even worse than a pigsty. My master doesn't treat me like a human being; he treats his dog ten thousand times better...."

"Confound him!" The other swore so loudly that he startled the slave. This other man was a fool.

"All I have to live in, sir, is a tumble-down, one-roomed hut, damp, cold and swarming with bedbugs. They bite me like anything when I lie down to sleep. The place is stinking and hasn't a single window...."

"Can't you ask your master to have a window made?"

"How can I do that?"

"Well, show me what it's like."

The fool followed the slave to his hut, and began to pound the mud wall.

"What are you doing, sir?" The slave was horrified.

"I am opening a window for you."

"This won't do! The master will curse me."

"Let him!" The fool continued to pound away.

"Help! A bandit is breaking down the house! Come quickly or he will knock down the wall!..." Shouting and sobbing, the slave rolled frantically on the ground. A whole troop of slaves came out and drove away the fool. Roused by the outcry, the last one to come slowly out was the master.

"A bandit tried to break down our house. I gave the alarm, and together we drove him away!" The slave spoke respectfully and triumphantly.

"Good for you!" The master praised him.

Many callers came that day to express concern, among them the wise man.

"Sir, because I made myself useful, the master praised me. When you said the other day that things would improve, you were really showing foresight." He spoke very hopefully and happily.

"That's right..." replied the wise man, and seemed happy for his sake.

December 26, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 5, 1959)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:36
Amid Pale Bloodstains
By Lu Xun

In memory of some who are dead, some who live, and some yet unborn.

At present the creator is still a weakling.

In secret, he causes heaven and earth to change, but dares not destroy this world. In secret, he causes living creatures to die, but dares not preserve their dead bodies. In secret, he causes mankind to shed blood, but dares not keep the bloodstains fresh for ever. In secret, he causes mankind to suffer pain, but dares not let them remember it for ever.

He provides for his kind only, the weaklings among men; using deserted ruins and lonely tombs to set off rich mansions; using time to dilute pain and bloodstains; each day pouring out one cup of slightly sweetened bitter wine -- not too little nor too much -- to cause slight intoxication. This he gives to mankind so that those who drink it weep and sing, are both sober and drunk, conscious and unconscious, eager to live and eager to die. He must make all creatures wish to live on. He has not the courage yet to destroy mankind.

A few deserted ruins and a few lonely tombs are scattered over the earth, reflected by pale bloodstains; and there men taste their own vague pain and sorrow, as well as that of others. They will not spurn it, however, thinking it better than nothing; and they call themselves "victims of heaven" to justify their tasting this pain and sorrow. In apprehensive silence they await the coming of new pain and sorrow, new suffering which appals them, which they none the less thirst to meet.

All these are the loyal subjects of the creator. This is what he wants them to be.

A rebellious fighter has arisen from mankind, who, standing erect, sees through all the deserted ruins and lonely tombs of the past and the present. He remembers all the intense and unending agony; he gazes at the whole welter of clotted blood; he understands all that is dead and all that is living, as well as all yet unborn. He sees through the creator's game. And he will arise to save or destroy mankind, these loyal subjects of the creator.

The creator, the weakling, hides himself in shame. Then heaven and earth change colour in the eyes of the fighter.

April 8, 1926
Translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 2, 1956)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:36
The Blighted Leaf
By Lu Xun

Reading Satula's* poems by lamplight, I have come across a dry, pressed maple leaf.

* Satula (1308-?), a Mongolian poet.

This carries me back to late autumn of last year. There was heavy frost one night and most of the trees shed their leaves, while one small maple in my courtyard turned crimson. I paced round the tree to take a good look at the leaves, which I had never examined so closely when they were green. Not all of them had turned red; indeed, most were a pale puce, and some still had dark green spots on a crimson background. There was one in which an insect had made a hole, which, fringed with black, stared at you like some bright eye from the chequered red, yellow and green.

"This leaf has been blighted!" I thought.

So I plucked it and slipped it inside the book I had just bought. I suppose I hoped to preserve for a little time this blighted motley of colours so soon to fall, to prevent its drifting away with the other leaves.

But tonight it lies yellow and waxen before my gaze, its eye less bright than last year. In a few more years, when its former hues have faded from memory, I may even forget why I put it in the book. It seems the chequered tints of blighted leaves soon to fall can remain for the shortest time only -- to say nothing of those lush and green. Through my window I see that the trees which can best withstand cold are already denuded of leaves, much more so the maple. In late autumn there may have been blighted leaves like last year's; but, unhappily, this year I had no time to appreciate autumn tints.

December 26, 1925
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 2, 1956)

weihong2 2009-02-11 16:36
On Using Old Forms
By Lu Xun

To my mind, provided we can discuss it dispassionately, this question of "using old forms" is well worth studying today; yet right at the outset Mr. Erh-ya has attacked it.* According to him, the results of the last ten years' "experiments in new forms" constitute "virtual surrender" and "opportunism" -- this is chanting an incantation to overcome your enemy, or at the very least bespattering him with mud. But Mr. Erh-ya is an honest man for at the same time he is translating The Form and Content of Art,** and once that is published it will refute all his heated accusations. Besides, some of his statements are correct, as when he says that we should not mechanically separate experiments in new forms from the adaptation of old forms.

* Referring to an article by Nieh Kan-nu published on April 24, 1934 in a newspaper supplement, Trends.
** A monograph by the Japanese writer Koreto Kurahara.

Of course this remark is no more than common sense, as it is to state that content and form cannot be mechanically separated, and as it should be to state that writing cannot be mechanically separated from the people. We "adapt" old forms -- though Mr. Erh-ya calls this "applauding the whole of past art" -- merely because we must experiment with new forms. The adoption of certain features is not the same as applauding the whole, for no progressive artist could use the same concepts (contents). He might consider adopting certain features, however, because he knows that writing cannot be mechanically separated from the public. The time has passed when art was considered a sudden eruption of the artist's "inspiration," like a sneeze which relieves a man whose nose has been itching. Artists today keep the general public in mind and feel concern for it. This is a new concept (content). From this they go on to experiment with new forms, the first step being to adapt some old form as a base for the new. And this transformation of the old, to my mind, does not involve a mechanical separation of form and content, nor can it be condemned as opportunistic, on a par with imitating the form of The Two Sisters* because that has good box-office value.

* A film produced in Shanghai.

Of course, the adaptation of old forms, or rather the experiments with new, demand hard work on the part of the practitioners of art, but theoreticians and critics are responsible too for guiding and commenting on their work as well as discussing it with them. And one cannot discharge this responsibility merely by criticizing others for failing to give clear expositions. Since we have our cultural tradition and we live in China, we should look through the history of Chinese art. What can we adapt? It seems to me that although we cannot see genuine pre-Tang paintings, we know that most of these illustrated stories, and there is a lesson for us here. We can take from Tang paintings the magnificence of Buddhist frescos, the simplicity and clarity of line drawings; we should reject the languor and effeminacy of the Song paintings of the Imperial Academy, but adopt their precision and remarkable finish; while as for Mi Fei's* school of landscape painting, that is utterly useless. Whether the later ink sketches (the scholars' paintings) are of any use or not I cannot yet tell: no doubt some useful features may be found in them too. It goes without saying that adaptations must not be like a display of miscellaneous fragments of antiques, but the old must be absorbed by the new. It is like eating beef or mutton: we set aside hooves and hide, keeping only the best to nourish and develop new organisms. Eating beef or mutton does not make us "virtually" oxen or sheep.

* A Song dynasty landscape painter (1051-1107).

The examples just mentioned and all still to be seen today are consumers' art which, favoured by those in power, has survived in considerable bulk. Where there are consumers there must be producers, and therefore there must be producers' art alongside consumers' art. But because nobody cared for this ancient art practically none of it is left apart from the illustrations in old romances. In the modern age we still have coloured New-Year pictures in the markets and the picture-books mentioned by Mr. Meng-keh.* Though these may not be genuine producers' art, undoubtedly they were opposed to the art of the leisured class. Even so, however, they were much influenced by consumers' art. Thus in literature the folk songs still kept to the traditional seven-word line; in art the themes illustrated were generally stories about the gentry, but processed into something more concise and clear. This transformation is usually known as "vulgarization." It could do no harm, I think, for artists who are concerned with the general public to pay attention to these things; but of course it goes without saying that they should be improved upon also.

* In an article "Adaptation and Imitation" published on April 19, 1934, in Trends.

These two kinds of art in China sometimes look alike when in fact they are different. For instance, the clouds and mist filling an entire Buddhist painting are nothing but a magnificent decoration, whereas when every inch of a New-Year picture is utilized that is to economize on paper. The beauties with slender waists and tapering fingers painted by Tang Ying* were desired by men of his sort; but though New-Year pictures also have girls like this, they are drawn merely as one social type, for the record or to satisfy curiosity. Those artists who paint for the people need not avoid such subjects either.

* A Ming dynasty artist famous for his paintings of beautiful women.

As for the statement that picture-books are simply one form of pictorial art, just as literature includes poetry, drama, stories and other different forms, this is of course correct. The rise of different forms is none the less connected with social conditions, however, as is clear if we consider the fact that at one time poetry flourishes, at another many novels appear, while at others only short stories are written. Thus we know that the rise of these forms is connected with their content. In present-day society picture-books are popular because the conditions for their popularity and the need for them exist. The true task of a progressive artist is to pay due heed to this trend and guide its direction, as well as try to make art intelligible to ordinary people. When old forms are adapted, certain things must be removed while others must be added, resulting in a new form, a change. And this work is by no means as easy as bystanders think.

But even after the establishment of new forms, these will not constitute art of the highest level. The progress of art requires the help of other fields of culture, other branches of art. To call on some single expert to raise the standard alone is unrealistic, and therefore to put the blame on a few individuals is just as biased as to attribute everything to circumstances.

May 2, 1934
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 9, 1959)

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