Lu Xun(鲁迅), formerly also romanized Lu Hsün, was the pen name of Zhou Shuren (25 September 1881 – 19 October 1936), a leading figure of modern Chinese literature. Writing in Vernacular Chinese as well as Classical Chinese, Lu Xun was a short story writer, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, and poet. In the 1930s he became the titular head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai.

Lu Xun was a versatile writer. He wrote using both traditional Chinese conventions and 19th century European literary forms. His style has been described in equally broad terms, conveying both “sympathetic engagement” and “ironic detachment” at different moments. His essays are often very incisive in his societal commentary, and in his stories his mastery of the vernacular language and tone make some of his literary works (like “The True Story of Ah Q”) hard to convey through translation. In them, he frequently treads a fine line between criticizing the follies of his characters and sympathizing with those very follies. Lu Xun was a master of irony and satire (as can been seen in “The True Story of Ah Q”) and yet can write impressively direct with simple engagement (“My Old Home”, “A Little Incident”).

Lu Xun has been described by Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe as “The greatest writer Asia produced in the twentieth century.” Lu Xun’s importance to modern Chinese literature lies in the fact that he contributed significantly to nearly every modern literary medium during his lifetime. He wrote in a clear lucid style which was to influence many generations, in stories, prose poems and essays.

In 1927 Lu was considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature, for the short story The True Story of Ah Q, despite a poor English translation and annotations that were nearly double the size of the text. Lu rejected the possibility of accepting the nomination. Later, he renounced writing fiction or poetry in response to China’s deteriorating political situation and his own poor emotional state, and restricted himself to writing argumentative essays.

Lu Xun was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang. By the time Lu Xun was born, the Zhou family had been prosperous for centuries, and had become wealthy through landowning, pawnbroking, and by having several family members promoted to government positions. His paternal grandfather, Zhou Fuqing, was appointed to the Imperial Hanlin Academy in Beijing: the highest position possible for aspiring civil servants at that time.

In 1902, Lu Xun left for Japan on a Qing government scholarship to pursue an education in Western medicine. After returning to China, Lu worked for several years teaching at local secondary schools and colleges before finally finding a job at the national Ministry of Education.

After the 1919 May Fourth Movement, Lu Xun’s writing began to exert a substantial influence on Chinese literature and popular culture. Like many leaders of the May Fourth Movement, he was primarily a leftist and liberal. He was highly acclaimed by the Chinese government after 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, and Mao Zedong himself was a lifelong admirer of Lu Xun’s writing. Though sympathetic to socialist ideas, Lu Xun never joined the Communist Party of China.

Edited from Wikipedia


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