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Revolution in Chinese Literature: Modern Chinese Literary Thought

890 words 3 page(s)


Revolution is thought to be a major theme in must of Chinese literature. In fact, Lu Xun states that works are not considered to be literary if they do not contain a revolutionary them. However, he also points out that during revolutionary times, literature cannot not be a focus. He believes that literature is only a focus after the revolution ends. Throughout this paper, I will detain how the theme of revolution is included in Chinese literary work. I will first discuss Lu Xun’s opinion of revolution and literature. Next, I will discuss a literary work that discusses wartime to see if it coincides with Lu Xun’x opinion.

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The Role of Revolution
In the “The Divergence of Art and Politics” author Lu Xun compares art to revolution by stating that they are both uneasy with the status quo. Politics, on the other hand, maintains the status quo. Lu Xun believes that a writer is an artist who expresses himself through words. During his lifetime he may not be respected for his writing because as an artist he may be too progressive and not in line with the current status quo. This may change, however, as time passes and the writer/artist’s work becomes more and more respectable as society changes. “Time passes and society eventually changes; the public gradually recalls what the artist said before, and however much he suffered the taunts of society during his lifetime, everyone now approves of and compliments his foresight” (Xun, p. 332). The importance of revolution in literature is clearly stated by Lu Xun. He states that although he did not believe that revolution could be linked with literature, in Guangdong writings that do not contain a revolutionary theme do not count as literature.

In addition, for a literary work to have a revolutionary them, it must express sentiments such as strike, kill, and revolt (See Xun, p. 332). Yet, Lu Xun still questioned how people had time to consider literature in a time of actual revolution. In a time of revolution, people must consider survival, he attests. He feels that it is only after a revolution has succeeded that people have time for literature. And the fact that the revolution has already taken place would prevent the literature from being revolutionary. He does concede, however, that revolutionary writers help to paint a picture of what society will be like after the revolution has succeeded to help spur on the revolutionaries.

“When I was in Hsia Village” by Ting Ling is a literary work that details the aftermath a wartime. It seems to echo the sentiment by Lu Xun that literature written after ‘the revolution’ is not actually revolutionary literature. However, the fact that a wartime had occurred helped to add to the literary work. It gives a vivid description of what the two travelers discovered when they ventured to the village. The first thing that the travelers notice is that the village is for all intents and purposes abandoned. In addition, an image of an elementary school that existed before the Japs destroyed it is imprinted into the readers’ minds. The work goes on to describe a recount of when the village was attacked by the ‘Jap devils.’

The main expression of revolutionary times comes in “When I Was in Hsia Village” as the work details how a young beautiful girl became the wife of a Japanese officer; it is a story of abuse, capture, enduring, and escape during wartime. Chen-chen ran off in the midst of a negotiation of marriage to a church during which she was captured by the Japanese. It is a sad story because it helps the reader to understand the political and cultural feelings that the people of that Chinese village had for the Japanese at that time. Chen-chen then recounts her story of going around Japan for a year. She states that people thought she had a life of luxury because she was married to a Japanese officer. In fact, another woman pointed out, that Chen-chen endured unspeakable suffering. Chen-chen, however, states that it is in the past. After being abused by many men, Chen-chen had contracted a stigmatizing disease.

The, at times gut wrenching tale told in “When I Was in Hsia Village”, discusses incidents that took place during a wartime of war and revolution, however, the literary piece is set after this time has ended. The vivid imagery of the ‘Jap devils’ is present in this story and the violence that they inflicted on the people of Hsia Village can be inferred by the reader through the tale of Chen-chen. Lu Xun’s opinion, however, that literature is not the focus during the revolution but after it takes place is not contradicted by this piece as it is set after the wartime has ended. One can gain a sense of the history of the interaction of the villagers with the Japanese for the tale as well as the spirit of the people during a troubling time. Chen-chen’s story also gives people a sense of the political and cultural feelings this Chinese village would have for the Japanese. Although, this story can inspire those in the village to hold resentment for the Japanese, it did not, however, inspire a revolution, leaving Lu Xun’s opinion that literature occurs after the revolution intact.