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Lu Xun's 'Toward a Refutation of Malevolent Voices'


Translated and Annotated by Jon Eugene von Kowallis

 

boundary2, vol. 38, no. 2 (summer 2011) pp. 39-62

 

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Translator’s notes: I would like to express my gratitude to the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and the Australian Research Council for their support, as well as Yang Peihong for help with editing and reformatting the final version. This essay was written in Japan in 1908 and published in issue no. 8 of Henan 河南 (English title on masthead: “Honan Magazine”), a Chinese student-run journal in Tokyo (5 December 1908) under the pseudonym Xun Xing 迅行 (Swift Action).

Endnotes:
  1. Tianxia 天下 (lit. “all under heaven”) originally connoted the entire world known to the Chinese. Here it more probably refers to the author’s own nation, hence I have translated it as “empire.” Weiyan 违言 means “to speak against” in the sense of to directly challenge or admonish. The term originates in the Zuo zhuan 左传 [Zuo commentary], Duke Yin 隐公 section, Year Eleven. Jimo 寂寞 (silence/loneliness) would become a seminal term in Lu Xun’s writing, suggesting repression and alienation. Tian di bi 天地闭 means all channels (lit. “heaven and earth”) are closed and comes from a line in the Yi jing 易经 [Book of changes], Kun wen 坤文 commentary: Tian di bi, xianren yin 天地闭,贤人隐 (“Heaven and earth are closed, worthies [retreat into] seclusion”). Here it alludes to troubled times where the freedom of speech or active exchange of ideas is being curtailed.
  2. Lu Xun employs the term xinsheng 心声 (lit. “voices of the heart”) to mean sincere and deeply held sentiments. It originates in the Wen shen 问神 (Enquiring of the spirits) section of Yang Xiong’s 扬雄 Fayan 法言, where it suggests “voice” in the sense of spoken words (yan xin sheng ye, shu xin hua ye 言心声也,书心画也 “words are the voices of the heart, writing the pictures of the heart”). See Morohashi Tetsuji 诸桥辙次, Dai Kan-Wa Jiten 大汉和词典 (Tokyo: Taishukan, 1984) 4:4346. Xinsheng is an important term in Lu Xun’s early literary thought, occurring first in his 1907 essay, “Moluo shi li shuo” 摩罗诗力说 [On the power of Mara poetry].
  3. Neiyao 内曜 (lit. “inner brightness/inner light”) should be translated “inner-brilliance” according to Cheung Chiu-yee 张钊贻. Cheung suggests a link between this term and Nietzsche’s “roots of passion” and Freud’s “life instinct”—the libido, which he in turn tells us is related to Nietzsche’s “will to power.” See his monograph Lu Xun: The Chinese “Gentle” Nietzsche (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2001), 40. The term is also employed by Lu Xun in “Wenhua pianzhi lun” 文化偏至论 [On imbalanced cultural development] (1907).
  4. The Chinese name Xumi 须弥 transliterates the Sanskrit Sumeru (lit. “of wondrous height”), referring to a legendary mountain, sacred in both Buddhist and Hindu tradition.
  5. Mount Tai in west-central Shandong, one of the Five Sacred Peaks of China, is symbolic of strength and stability.
  6. Youqing 有情 (lit. “having feelings”) is a Buddhist term used to describe all sentient beings. Zhuangzi 庄子 uses it earlier in “Qi wu lun” 齐物论 with the connotation of “identity”: 可行已信;而不见其形,有情而无形。 See Chen Guying 陈鼓应, Zhuangzi jinzhu jinyi 庄子今注今译 [Zhuangzi with modern annotations and vernacular translation] (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1983), 1:46. A. C. Graham translates: “That as ‘Way’ it can be walked is true enough, but we do not see its shape; it has identity but no shape.” See A. C. Graham, Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2001), 51. Burton Watson renders it: “He can act—that is certain. Yet I cannot see his form. He has identity but no form.” See Burton Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 38. A number of early Buddhist terms were borrowed from Daoist vocabulary, and Lu Xun makes frequent use of expressions from Zhuangzi in this essay. These linguistic borrowings, however, do not necessarily connote a direct philosophical connection. See the views of Itoo Toramaru 伊藤虎丸 (1927–2003) as expressed in the afterword to his commentary in Rojin zenshuu 鲁迅全集 [Complete works of Lu Xun (in Japanese translation)] (Tokyo: Gakken, 1986), 10:77.
  7. 7. The term jigua 机栝, here rendered “meshing of gears in a machine,” originally referred to a crossbow mechanism. The “Qi wu lun” chapter of Zhuangzi employs it to question the ultimately subjective nature of human judgments: 小恐惴惴,大恐缦缦。其发若机栝,其司是非之谓也。See Chen Guying 陈鼓应, Zhuangzi jinzhu jinyi, 1:41. Watson translates “Their little fears are mean and trembly; their great fears are stunned and overwhelming. They bound off like an arrow or a crossbow pellet, certain that they are the arbiters of right and wrong” (Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 37). Compare Graham’s version: “‘Petty fears intimidate, / The supreme fear calms. / It shoots like the trigger releasing the string on the notch,’ referring to its manipulation of ‘That’s it, that’s not’” (Graham, Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters, 50).
  8. Meiren momian 美人墨面 (lit. “the faces of beauties were dark [and gaunt]”) occurs in the Lanming xun 览冥训 section of Huainanzi 淮南子 as an image (“beauties with disheveled hair and darkened faces”) employed to decry the cruel outrages of tyrant Jie 桀 at the end of the Xia 夏 dynasty. Itoo Toramaru, in his notes to the Japanese translation of this essay in Rojin zenshuu, 10:74n14, interprets it here as a reference to the way in which Qing 清 soldiery rode roughshod over the populace at the collapse of the Ming 明 dynasty.
  9. Literally, fu qingling zhi yuan 赴清泠之渊 means “they went into a clear, chilly abyss” and could suggest a watery grave, as in the case of poet- statesman Qu Yuan 屈原 from the Chu kingdom in ancient days, who committed suicide after being slandered at court. Again, Itoo Toramaru takes this as a reference to events surrounding the Manchu invasion when numerous Ming loyalists took their own lives rather than surrender to the alien victors. Qingleng 清冷 may also be understood as a place name in Henan 河南 Province in the vicinity of Nanyang 南阳, but such suicides occurred throughout the Jiangnan 江南 region, including Lu Xun’s own hometown of Shaoxing 绍兴. See Rojin zenshuu, 10:74n15.
  10. Jiu nian 旧念 (lit. “old ideas/concepts/ways of thinking”) might also be translated “nostalgia for the old [ways].”
  11. Yizhe 意者 might also be translated as “critics.” Again, it is possible that we have a veiled anti-Qing comment here.
  12. Here he is critical of the inland gentry who style themselves as reformers.
  13. Pingzhi wenming 评隲文明 (lit. “to criticize/critique civilization”) in this context means to act as a social and cultural critic. Itoo Toramaru draws a connection firstly with the role of the Mara poets, whose emergence Lu Xun hopes for in China, then with the individual-ist thinkers he hails in “Wenhua pianzhi lun” and the scientists he champions in “Kexueshi jiaopian” 科学史教篇 [Lessons from the history of science] (1907). Itoo makes the point that Lu Xun’s assigning primacy to cultural criticism differentiates him from other Chinese revolutionists and Enlightenment figures of this era, who stressed politics, patriotism, and science. For this he credits the influence of late-Meiji era (i.e., post- 1897) thought, such as the works of Takayama Chogyuu 高山樗牛 (1871–1902), whose Bunmei hihyooka toshite no bungakusha 文明批评家としての文学者 [The litterateur as cultural critic] (1901) contained a strong component of Nietzschean ideas. See Rojin zenshuu, 10:74–75n23.
  14. This probably refers to the ideology of patriotism and raising the national consciousness espoused by the constitutional monarchist faction led by Kang Youwei 康有为 (1858–1927) and Liang Qichao 梁启超 (1873–1929). See Itoo Toramaru’s 伊藤虎丸 commentary in Rojin zenshuu, 10:75n26.
  15. According to Itoo Teruo 伊东昭雄 (b. 1930), as cited in Itoo Toramaru’s commentary in Rojin zenshuu, 10:75n27, this refers to the position of Wu Zhihui’s 吴稚晖 (1865–1953) “anarchist” faction, as articulated in their journal Xin Shiji 新世纪 [New century], published (June 1907–) in Paris. Also see Itoo Teruo, in Rojin zenshuu, 1:90n7.
  16. Lu Xun heightens the irony of the contrast here by using the archaistic term dufu 独夫 (lit. “lone” or “isolated” man) for “autocrat” or “tyrant.”
  17. With the establishment of new-style schools offering Western subjects in the wake of the Yangwu Yundong 洋务运动 and the 1898 Reforms there arose a movement calling for the eradication of “superstition,” which was largely aimed at folk religions. Kang Youwei called for the establishing of Confucianism as China’s guojiao 国教 or “national teaching/religion.” From 1905–1907, the magazine Xiuxiang xiaoshuo 绣像小说 [Illustrated fiction] published by Li Boyuan 李伯元 (1867–1906) through the Commercial Press at Shanghai ran a series of antisuperstition works, such as Xiapian qiwen 瞎骗奇闻 [Strange tales of chicanery], by Wu Jianren 吴趼人 (1866–1910), to expose superstition. It was held this was a necessary step in spreading science in order to restore China to wealth and power. Lu Xun subscribed to that view in his 1903 essay “Zhongguo dizhi luelun” 中国地质略论 [Short treatise on China’s geology], in Lu Xun quanji [Complete works of Lu Xun], 16 vols. (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 1981), 8:3–21. But by the time he wrote this essay in 1907–1908, his position had changed, in part due to the influence of his mentor, Zhang Taiyan (Binglin 炳麟, 1868–1936). See Itoo Teruo’s 伊东昭雄 commentary to the Japanese translation of Lu Xun’s essay “Kexueshi jiaopian” 科学史教篇 [On the lessons of the history of science] in Rojin zenshuu, 1:65n5.
  18. The anarchist faction advocated the use of Esperanto as a world language in their journal Xin Shiji 新世纪, nos. 34–36 (February 15–29, 1908). This was opposed in an article Zhang Taiyan published in Minbao 民报 [The people’s journal], no. 21 (October 1908). See the commentary to the Japanese translation of Lu Xun’s essay “Wenhua pianzhi lun” by Itoo Teruo in Rojin zenshuu, 1:90n7.
  19. The word changyong 唱喁 , translated as “chime in,” is derived from a comic image comparing the words of conflicting pundits to winds in the “Qi wu lun” 齐物论 [On equalizing things] section of Zhuangzi 庄子: qianzhe chang yu er suizhe chang yong 前者唱于 而随者唱喁 “those in the lead calling out yeee!, those behind calling out yuuu!” (Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 36); compare Graham: “the winds ahead sing out AAAH!, the winds behind answer EEEH!” (Graham, Chuang- Tzu: The Inner Chapters, 49).
  20. Here the author says simply ren 人 (lit. “people”), i.e., genuine, sincere, dedicated people.
  21. Here Lu Xun uses the binom xingjie 性解 (lit. “basic nature liberated”), a term devised by Yan Fu 严复 (1854–1921), to translate the Western idea of “genius” in his influential translation of T. H. Huxley’s “Evolution and Ethics” under the title Tianyan lun 天演论 [On natural selection] (Tianjin: Guowen Huibian, 1897).
  22. Itoo Toramaru thinks this may refer to the criticism of Admiral Ding Ruchang 丁汝昌 (1836–1895) after the defeat of the Qing dynasty’s North Sea Fleet in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Rojin zenshuu, 10:76n33.
  23. Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), the author of Welträtsel [The riddle of the universe], was a proponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which he thought had been anticipated in Goethe’s work. Haeckel called for a synthesis of science and religion. He was influential in fin de siècle China, and his ideas sparked Mao’s theory of continuing revolution, according to a lecture given by Klaus Mehnert at the Universities Service Centre, Argyle Street, Hong Kong (1977).
  24. This is elaborated in Lu Xun’s early essay “Ren zhi lishi” 人之历史 [The history (of the evolution) of humankind] (1907), which he subtitles Deguo Heige’er shi zhongzu fasheng xue zhi yi yuan yanjiu quanjie 德国黑格尔氏种族发生学之一元研究诠解 [An exegesis of Haeckel’s work on monism and the origin of races]. See Lu Xun quanji, 1:8–24.
  25. Usually rendered “superman” or “over-man” in English, Lu Xun uses the translation chaoren 超人 (lit. “one who transcends, goes beyond, or surpasses others”).
  26. The idea of turning temples into schools was advocated by the reformist faction and can be traced back to Zhang Zhidong’s 张之洞 (1837–1909) Quan xue pian 劝学篇 [Exhortation to study] and to one of the martyrs of the 1898 Reforms, Tan Sitong 谭嗣同 (1865–1898).
  27. This is a reference to Chi You 蚩尤, rival of the legendary Yellow Emperor--something Lu Xun presumes should be taught on Day One of any course in ancient Chinese history. A number of ill-educated teachers were unable to read the character for “Chi” (i.e., the first part of his name), substituting it with mou (“a certain”), hence “Mou You” 某尤.
  28. So as to enter the officialdom—but the civil service exams were suspended by the Qing dynasty in 1905 and never reinstated.
  29. Saihui 赛会 were processions in which the images of gods were carried from their temples into town in a ritual of thanksgiving.
  30. Here Lu Xun uses the term pusu zhi min 朴素之民 to denote ordinary people or “commoners.” Itoo Toramaru suggests that this marks the emergence of a social consciousness at the opposite end of the spectrum from the elite “voices” and “inner light” at the outset of this essay, and the high sentiments of “warriors of the spirit” like the poets in “On the Power of Mara Poetry,” whom he sees as leaders beckoning to the masses. See Rojin zenshuu, 10:76n39.
  31. This construction is reminiscent of a line in Zhuangzi: Luan zhi shang ye, zhi zhi xia ye 乱之上也,治之下也 (“Those who throw it [the tianxia] into chaos are the better of the two [categories]; those who [seek to] govern it are the worst”). See the “Tianxia” 天下 [All under heaven] chapter in Zhuangzi jinzhu jinyi 庄子今注今译 [Zhuangzi: Contemporary annotations and commentaries], ed. Chen Guying 陈鼓应 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1994), 863.
  32. Itoo Toramaru takes the phrase 定宗教 ding zongjiao (lit. “to stipulate a religion”) as referring to Kang Youwei’s attempt to have the Guangxu Emperor establish Confucianism as a state religion. See Rojin zenshuu, 10:76–77n42.
  33. Either Lu Xun believed that human beings were descended from great cats, or hu 虎 and bao 豹 (lit. “tigers and leopards”) are a figurative stand-in for lower animals.
  34. In Itoo Toramaru’s reading, Lu Xun’s use of gu xing fu zhong 古性伏中 (lit. “[their] ancient nature lurks within”) indicates the influence of Yan Fu’s translation of Huxley’s “Evolution and Ethics.” See Rojin zenshuu, 10:77n43.
  35. Lit. “in view of the unevenness of humanity . . .” Again, Itoo Toramaru sees the influence of Zhang Taiyan’s thought on Lu Xun in the way he invokes Zhang’s critique of Kang Youwei as a leveler with his utopian doctrine of Datong 大同 (The Great Harmony), a call for a new world order as articulated in his lectures (circa 1884 and after). See Rojin zenshuu, 10:77n44.
  36. According to Itoo Toramaru, this would be the patriotism being trumpeted by the reformist faction of Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao. See Rojin zenshuu, 10:77n45 and 10:75–76n26.
  37. In 1903, in his Xinmin shuo 新民说 [Theory of the new people], no. 17, Liang Qichao had praised the Japanese samurai spirit, and in 1905, he published an article along similar lines titled “Zhongguo wushi dao” 中国武士道 [A warrior spirit for China]. See Rojin zenshuu, 10:77n46.
  38. This represents a critique of “social- Darwinism,” the notion that the doctrine of natural selection might apply to nations and cultures as well as species.
  39. Lu Xun’s term shouxing zhi aiguo 兽性之爱国 (lit. “bestial patriotism”) used above and referred to here seems to be a Chinese translation from the English translation of Danish critic Georg Brandes’s term “a brutal patriotism.” See Kitaoka Masako 北冈正子, “Mara shi riki setsu no koosei” 摩罗诗力说の构成 [The composition of “On the power of Mara poetry”], in Kindai bungaku ni okeru Chuugoku to Nihon 近代文学における中国と日本 [China and Japan in the literature of the recent historic period] (Kyuko Shoen, October 1986), 97. The Danish term in Brandes’s original is raat Fædrelanderi. See his Indtryk fra Rusland [Impressions of Russia], in Samlede Skrifter [Collected works of Georg Brandes] (Kjobenhavn: Gyldendal, 1899–1910), 10:465.
  40. In other words, the best weaponry available.
  41. Józef Bem (1794–1850) was an artillery officer of Galician birth who distinguished himself as a member of a Polish regiment during the Napoleonic campaign against Russia in 1812. He attempted to hold Vienna against troops loyal to the House of Hapsburg during the abortive Austrian Revolution of 1848, and then distinguished himself again against overwhelming odds in the defense of Transylvania (1848–1849). With the suppression of the revolt, he escaped to Turkey, adopted Islam, and was made governor of Aleppo, where he later intervened on behalf of the Christian population at great risk to his own personal safety, averting a massacre of Christians there.
  42. George Gordon (sixth Baron) Lord Byron (1788–1824) was perhaps the most celebrated and excoriated romantic poet, adventurer, and social rebel of his time. In 1824, he set sail with a private army, paid for by the sale of his ancestral estate in England, from Italy to Missolonghi in the Greek isles, where he attempted to rally the resistance against Ottoman Turkish rule and died of fever while in the service of that cause. He was much admired in late-Qing era China for this internationalist spirit and self-sacrificing dedication to the cause of liberty.
  43. This essay was to have had a sequel, which never appeared. Henan 河南, the periodical in which this part was published, was banned by the Japanese government at the request of Qing officials shortly afterward, and Lu Xun returned to China in 1909 to take up a teaching position in order to support his younger brother, Zhou Zuoren 周作人(1885–1967), who had married a Japanese wife and planned to continue his study of literature at a university in Japan.

 

 

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