AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 246

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Session 246: The Reincarnation of Lu Xun in East Asia

Organizer: Wei-hsin Lin, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Chair: Gang Yue, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

This panel aims to investigate the transformation and reincarnation of Lu Xun’s concepts in different East Asian territories: China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Papers presented will address the following issues: how the image of a cannibalistic society created in Lu Xun’s “A Madman’s Diary” can find its representation in the films of a contemporary Chinese director; how the discourses on tuberculosis can forge a link between Lu Xun’s “Medicine” and the stories by Japanese and Korean writers through the depiction of blood drinking; how Lu Xun’s political ideologies can lead to Taiwanese writers’ appropriation of his works. With these surveys of the exploitation of Lu Xun’s thoughts, this panel attempts to illuminate how Lu Xun’s mind can be transmuted through the creative imaginations of writers and directors in different East Asian communities. More importantly, how each of the reincarnation of Lu Xun reflects the unique social, political and cultural milieu of these individual East Asian territories. The fluidity and flexibility of Lu Xun’s ideas thus demonstrate not only the conceptual similarities between artists in East Asia because of their close communions but also the distinctions between them which defy their geographical proximity. By way of the exploration of the extension and malleability of Lu Xun’s thoughts, we are given a window into the volatility and vibrancy of the interactions between different regions in East Asia in different historical periods.

The Appropriations of Lu Xun in Taiwan in Colonial and Early Post-war Periods
Pei-Yin Lin, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Lu Xun’s works and thoughts have played a significant role in the making of Taiwanese culture before 1949. This paper explores the various rather selective appropriations of Lu Xun in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period and in the early post-war years (1945-49), aiming to demonstrate the complex cultural exchanges and knowledge transmission between China and Taiwan in the first half of the twentieth century. Based on detailed textual analysis and empirical research, this paper first explores how the Taiwanese writer Lai He (1894-1943) reworked Lu Xun’s “My Hometown” (Guxiang) to convey the distress felt by local intellectuals in colonial Taiwan. It also discusses the two types of reception of Lu Xun’s works among Taiwanese intellectuals, mainly Wang Shilang’s praise of Lu Xun’s emphasis on the autonomy of literature and arts, and Huang Deshi’s penchant for realist literature exemplified by Lu Xun. Secondly, it examines the translation of Lu Xun’s short stories (into Japanese) and dissemination of Lu Xun’s thoughts in post-war Taiwan. Using Lan Minggu’s rendering of “My Hometown” as an example, this paper argues that at this time, it is more Lu Xun’s consistent anti-imperial and anti-feudalistic stance than his literary merits to which Taiwanese intellectuals were attracted. It also looks at how Lu Xun’s works were used by the local authorities as a means to advocate Mandarin Chinese, and how this early post-war Lu Xun wave subsided partly because of Xu Shoushang’s death, and partly because of the Nationalist government’s promulgation of the martial law in 1949.

Tuberculosis and East Asian Modernism: Blood drinking and Inter-subjectivity in Lu Xun’s “Medicine”, Yokomitsu Riichi’s “Climax”, and Yi Taejun’s “Crows”
Jeesoon Hong, University of Manchester, USA

This paper approaches East Asian modernism from the perspectives of biopolitics and intellectual history. Viewing popular discourses on Tuberculosis in China, Korea and Japan as an important site where the modern subject was (de)constructed, this paper surveys popular articles written by medical doctors and TB medicine commercials and discusses the differences and similarities. Although the knowledge about the tubercle bacillus was wide spread by 1900s, many literary texts and popular discourses kept reproducing narratives of inheritance in early twentieth century’s Japan. In Korea, popular discourses of TB were mainly used to criticize the liberal culture of urban intellectuals, very often from a Christian viewpoint. In China, TB did not receive moralistic prejudice as much as in the other countries and was related to hyper-sensibility for literary creation. This paper discusses how the stories of Lu Xun, Yokomitsu Riichi and Yi Taewon associated TB with the imagery of blood drinking under such discursive backgrounds. Talking about horizontal and vertical social relationships, this paper illuminates how these East Asian modernist writers explored the theme of inter-subjectivity through depicting blood drinking. In this context, the ritualistic practice of blood drinking is distinguished from bloodsucking or bloodletting. In the west, TB was commonly affiliated with the image of Dracula. If the questions of self-expression are highlighted in the literary metaphor of bloodletting, those of communication may have become central in the narratives of blood drinking. The modern subject’s fascination with isolation and subjectivity may have shifted to the issues of society and inter-subjectivity.

Representing Contemporary China as a Cannibalistic Society --Interpreting Li Yang’s Blind Mountain and Blind Shaft in the Light of Cannibalism Portrayed in Lu Xun’s “A Madman’s Diary”
Wei-hsin Lin, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

This paper aims to draw a comparison between two cinematic works by contemporary Chinese director, Li Yang, and Lu Xun’s trailblazing story, “A Madman’s Dairy”, to demonstrate how Li Yang’s portrayal of contemporary Chinese society ties in with the cannibalistic society portrayed in Lu Xun’s work. While identifying the main characters in these films, Bai Xiaomei and Yuan Fengming, as the ‘madman’ persecuted in a cannibalistic society, I also want to spell out the reasons which help to explain why in Li Yang’s films, contemporary China turns into a cannibalistic inferno. Moreover, if the cannibalism of modern China Lu Xun denounces can be a parallel to the cannibalism of contemporary China Li Yang implicates, it tells us that inhumanity which gives rise to a cannibalistic society has never been rooted out from China, and China’s turnabout from Communism to Capitalism only aggravates the whole situation. Therefore, the comparability between Lu Xun and Li Yang not only enables us to discover the link between a Chinese writer living and producing in the early 20th century China and a Chinese director living and producing in the early 21st century China but also allows us to see through the ever-changing political power and policies in China throughout the 20th century to discern what has remained unchanged in the minds of Chinese people for the past one hundred years.