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Castro, Angela Shek-hing (1968) Four early essays of Lu Hsun. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029715

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Abstract

Foreign aggression in the middle of the nineteenth century forced the door of China open, but it was the attraction of Western science and knowledge of Western civilisation which really succeeded in conquering and transforming the Chinese mind. The process is best illustrated and discussed in these four early essays written by Lu Hsun, acclaimed as one of the most outstanding and patriotic Chinese writers of the twentieth century: "The History of Han", "The Lesson of the History of Science", "On the Perverted Development of Culture" and "On the Power of Mara Poetry", Lu Hsun saw Western science as a promoter of the physical well-being of man, but he was more anxious that his countrymen should hare the correct perspective towards Western civilisation as a whole in order to be truly benefitted by it. He therefore spoke out against the two extreme and antithetical tendencies of his age, that of complete obsession with materialism and utilitarianism, and of complacency about the illusionary Chinese superiority in spiritual civilisation. He recommended a critical attitude towards both Western and Chinese civilisations, but advocated idealism in place of materialism and individualism in place of democracy, which, he was convinced, were more urgently needed in the revitalisation of China. He cited Haeckel, Stirner, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Byron, Shelley and the Slav romantics like Pushkin, Lermontov, Mickiewicz, Slowacki and Petofi as exponents of true subjective idealism. Literature he viewed as the best means to instil great thought and noble emotion into man to emancipate him from the pettiness of life and outdated conventions. The optimism and confidence of his beliefs were sustained by a faith in the evolutionary process which was interpreted as the inevitable progress of man. Lu Hsun later modified and discarded some of these beliefs, but on the whole, he never swerved from the most fundamental ones. These essays, the translation of which are incorporated in the second half of this study following their order in the writer's anthology, were executed in a style very different from his later one. Archaic in places and difficult on the whole, they nevertheless hare a richness and a classical charm absent in his later essays.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029715
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:27
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/29715

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