Dr. Fidel Fajardo-Acosta's

World Literature Website












Lu Xun (1881-1936)

Biographical Information

Main Works

Featured Works: "Diary of a Madman"


Selected Quotations


Biographical Information

  • Lu Xun (or Lu Hsün); real name, Zhou Shuren (or Chou Shu-jen). Chinese writer and intellectual; author of short stories, poems, essays, and literary criticism; considered the founder of Modern Chinese literature and the representative writer of Socialist Realism; favorite author of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung)

  • concerned with the modernization of China; liberation from foreign imperialism; the abandoning of oppressive and superstitious traditions; issues of social and economic justice; the plight of the poor and the peasants; the problems of war, violence and the exploitation of others

  • born in 1881, into an educated but impoverished Chinese family

  • attended Sendai Provincial Medical School in Japan (1904); eventually abandoned medicine to pursue writing

  • his decision to become a writer is said to have been motivated by his horror at seeing images of the execution of a Chinese prisoner during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and noticing the indifference of a crowd of Chinese onlookers

  • joined the New Culture Movement in 1918, when he had his famous story "Diary of a Madman" published in New Youth magazine

  • began to embrace Marxism in the early 1920s, but refused to join it formally

  • from 1912 to 1926, he held a post in the Ministry of Education in Beijing

  • wanted by the authorities, in 1926, because of his support for Beijing students' rebellion

  • founded the magazine The Torrent in 1928

  • one of the founders of the China League of Left-Wing Writers, which was established in Shanghai in March 1930; remained its chief leader until he died

  • Chinese literature instructor at National Beijing University (1920-26); also taught at Xiamen University (1927) and University of Canton (1927)

  • editor of the magazines Benliu in 1928 and Yiwen in 1934

  • died from tuberculosis on October 19, 1936 in Shanghai

Main Works

  • Call To Arms (Cheering from the Sidelines) (Na-Han) (1922), his first collection of stories, includes his most celebrated stories such as "Diary of a Madman" (1918) and "The True Story of Ah Q" which depicts an ignorant farm laborer who goes through a series of humiliations and finally is executed during the chaos of the revolution of 1911.

  • Wandering (Hesitation) (Pang Huang) (1925), his second collection of stories, includes his second best-known story, "The New-Year Sacrifice," in which Lu Xun sketches the life of an ordinary working woman. Through his exploration of her life and heart, Lu Xun makes a profound analysis of society -- displaying the social pressures she faces and hinting at the inhuman Confucian morality destroying her hopes and sense of dignity.

  • Wild Grass (Ye Cao) (1926), a collection of prose poems where Lu Xun describes his feelings in relation to the Chinese struggles against imperialism and the Northern warlords.

  • Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk (Chao-hua hsi-shih) (1926), a collection of essays dealing with Lu Xun's childhood and early youth.

  • Old Tales Retold (Gu Shi Xin Bian) (1935), his third collection of short stories, where Lu Xun retells old Chinese stories from his own perspective.


  • Confucianism A strict code of ethics based on the teachings of the ancient philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC); Confucianism emphasizes obedience to authority, submission of the individual to government, the family, and elders, and unquestioning acceptance of tradition; the Confucian idea of Ren can be translated as "benevolence," "love," "goodness," and "humanity." Lu Xun attacked Confucianism as an oppressive and hypocritical morality thinly concealing and encouraging exploitation, injustice, inequality, passivity, and conformity.

  • Ch'ing (Qing or Manchu) Dynasty (1644-1912). A deeply conservative, ineffective, and corrupt regime, especially during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; Ch'ing rule in that period was accompanied by widespread famine across China, high taxes, and bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency. The Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860), the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), and the Boxer Rebellion (1900) led to the steady deterioration of the Chinese situation and the subjection of China to Western powers. The abysmal conditions of life in China during the late Ch'ing dynasty paved the way to the nationalist and communist revolutions of the 20th century and to the formation of writers like Lu Xun.

  • Opium War (1839-1842), waged by Britain against China; it arose from China's attempts to suppress the opium trade conducted by British traders who had been illegally exporting opium to China, resulting in widespread addiction and causing serious social and economic problems in the country; the war forced China to open her gates to foreign imperialism and ever-increasing encroachment on her territory and sovereignty; a Second Opium War (1856-1860) was waged by France and Britain against China; these wars constitute examples of the exploitation of the Chinese by foreign imperialist powers and are an important part of the historical motivation for the nationalism of Lu Xun and other writers.

  • Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Conflict between China and Japan over control of Korea. Japan was victorious and China was forced to recognize Korean independence.

  • Boxer Rebellion (1900). A peasant revolt in China with the aim of expelling all foreigners. The Boxers (initially members of a secret sect) were specially hostile to Christian missionaries. The movement was supported by the Ch'ing government. After massacres of foreigners broke out, an international force occupied Peking (Beijing) and forced the Chinese government to end its support of the uprising.

  • Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Conflict between Russia and Japan over control of Korea and Manchuria. The Japanese were victorious and halted Russian expansion in the East. Images of a Chinese prisoner being executed by the Japanese during this conflict are said to have motivated Lu Xun to become a writer.

  • The Revolution of 1911, ended the Ch'ing Dynasty, led to the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 and the formation of SunYat-sen's Nationalist Party (Kuomintang). Lu Xun's "The True Story of Ah Q" gives a picture of the 1911 Revolution.

  • New Culture Movement, began in 1915, initiated by professors and students calling for liberal democracy and social equality; rejection of Confucianism and traditionalism; and embracing of popular forms of the Chinese language (baihua) for literary use.

  • May 4th Movement, 1919, intellectual revolution and sociopolitical reform movement directed toward national independence, emancipation of the individual, and rebuilding of society and culture. Lu Xun wrote most of his short stories in the years before and after (1918-1926) the May 4th Movement.

  • Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung, 1893-1976) Chinese Marxist theorist, soldier, and statesman who led his nation's communist revolution. Leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1931 until his death. Chairman of the People's Republic of China from 1949 to 1959. Mao greatly admired the writings of Lu Xun.

Selected Quotations

  • to come


  • to come


Dr. Fajardo-Acosta gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Jung-Joon Ihm in the creation of this page


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