Children's Literature in China: From Lu Xun to Mao Zedong

By Mary Ann Farquhar | Go to book overview

2 Lu Xun and the World of Children

Lu Xun, the pen-name of Zhou Shuren ( 1881-1936), is China's most famous modern writer. This often obscures the fact that, in China, he is also regarded as the most influential figure in the development of Chinese children's literature. This chapter, therefore, narrows the focus to a detailed study of Lu Xun's writings on children and their literature between 1903 and 1936. The purpose is to examine more closely Lu Xun's views on childhood and his contribution to the field of modern Chinese children's literature.

More than any other May Fourth writer, Lu Xun was responsible for establishing 'the child' as a political symbol of China's future. His first vernacular short story, 'A Madman's Diary', ended with the now famous cry: 'save the children'. Lu Xun's concept of children as the future is central to an understanding of both this story and his fiction in general. His conception of children was to become a keynote in the subsequent history of Chinese children's literature. Lu Xun, as we have said, saw himself standing between two worlds, pointing the way for children to move from the Old to the New, from a dark Past to a sunlit Future 'to lead happy lives as real human beings'.

But this brave new world, in the Shakespearean sense, belonged to more than children; it was the direction for the Chinese nation. For Lu Xun, to 'save the children' meant ultimately to 'save' China. The rationale is simple: children are the adults of tomorrow and their environment determines the future of the people. As Lu Xun said, the future belongs to them or, as Mao Zedong said three decades later, foreshortening the same idea, 'the world belongs to them' (shijie shi nimende). 1

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Children's Literature in China: From Lu Xun to Mao Zedong
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies on Modern China ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 10
  • 1 - The Historical Background 13
  • Conclusion 36
  • Notes 37
  • 2 - Lu Xun and the World of Children 41
  • Conclusion 84
  • Notes 86
  • 3 - A New Children's Literature 91
  • Conclusion 138
  • Notes 139
  • 4 - Revolutionary Children's Literature 143
  • Conclusion 185
  • Notes 187
  • 5 - Comic Books and Popularization 191
  • Conclusion 242
  • Notes 244
  • 6 - Children's Literature in the People's Republic of China 249
  • Conclusion 293
  • Notes 295
  • 7 - The Post-Mao Canon 299
  • Conclusion 305
  • Notes 306
  • Bibliography 307
  • Index 325
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