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Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung By Carolyn Brown

Chapter :  Introduction
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Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung

Increasingly his works are known abroad. They have been translated into the major languages of the world, reviews of major studies of his life and work appear from time to time in major US and other Western cultural outlets, and he occupies a prominent place in the canon of modern Chinese literature. In some respects, the historical Lu Xun is not hard to find because he himself wrote a great deal and innumerable others have written about him.

However, as is the case with any complex figure, the act of interpreting his life and work also raises complex issues. That he was a major intellectual, gifted writer, and unflinching moral voice is not in dispute. His work is permeated by his unclouded moral vision and ferocious honesty, his capacity to see below the surfaces of societal thought and behavioral norms, his penetrating insight into the human heart, his insistence on unmasking cruelty and refusing to turn away from suffering, and his skill in communicating all of this by wielding an acerbic pen as well as exhibiting a poet’s sensibility for the telling image. He was caught in the historical moment of early twentieth century China’s political and cultural collapse—when a tradition of several thousand years seemed to be dying but a new one was barely born. He faced the calamity and named the dark currents alive during China’s wrenching transition from an aged empire into a modern state.

Lu Xun belonged to a unique generation of Chinese intellectuals—both as a member and as one who shaped it—who grew up with one foot in each of these worlds. His generation came of age at a pivotal point in history when a combination of internal factors that had greatly weakened China’s central government converged with intense external pressure from a technologically more advanced West. Beginning in the 1840s China had been wrestling with the growing challenge of European imperialist military, commercial, economic, missionary, and diplomatic interventions that were forcibly “opening” China to unwelcome intrusions on terms dictated by foreign nations. This coincided with massive internal upheavals caused by the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864) and other internal