Lu Xun's 'Toward A Refutation of the Voices of Evil'
Lu Xun's 'Toward A Refutation of the Voices of Evil'
Lu Xun's 'Toward A Refutation of the Voices of Evil'
Lu Xun's 'Toward A Refutation of the Voices of Evil'
Translated by Jon Eugene von Kowallis
Renditions, no. 26 (Autumn, 1986) pp. 108-119
Corroded at the core and wavering spiritually, China seems destined to wither away amid the throes of internecine quarrelling among the heirs to her civilization. Yet throughout the empire not a word is spoken against this [state of affairs] , silence reigns, and all channels are blocked. Rash doctrines have deluded the minds of the people, while scoundrels and demagogues heighten the pitch of their rhetoric daily. Poisonous words and violent deeds have become the order of the day, as if nothing short of the immediate collapse of the entire nation could sate them. Yet throughout the empire not a word is spoken against this, silence reigns, and all channels are blocked.
As I have not yet abandoned hope for the promise of the future, I remain eager to hear the true feelings of all thinking men and earnestly entreat them to share with me their illuminating thoughts. For such illuminating thoughts can provide the wherewithal to smash through darkness and silence, while the act of giving voice to [sincere] and deep-felt sentiments may well prove our deliverance from falsehood and chicanery. Such voices function in society like the roar of spring thunder stining the plants into bud, like the first light of dawn heralding the passing of the night. While I do not expect such an achievement from the populace at large, I do cherish the hope that one or two men of foresight will take a stand, thus setting an example for the rest of us and affording our people a chance to escape their fate of degeneracy and subjugation. My hope, humble though it may seem, may be compared to a single string on a broken lyre or a lonely star in the late autumn sky. How much the worse off would we all be if even such small glimmers of hope were denied us.
Only a peak as lofty as Mount Sumeru or Mount Tai can withstand the buffeting of extrinsic forces. In ordinary cases, any action will produce a reaction. Changes are bound to occur whenever violent gales roar through a valley or the strong rays of the sun beat down upon a shallow river. This is due to the nature of matter. Such changes are more noticeable in the case of living creatures. As spring draws near, ants begin crawling about on the ground. In late autumn, the chirping insects fall silent. All ?ying and crawling creatures alter their activities in response to external factors, as dictated by biological law.
Though human beings are superior to other living things, they inevitably have their own particular emotional and physical reactions to the impact of external forces, like all other living things. People generally experience a sense of elation in spring;they become absorbed in thoughts in sununer; with the desolation of fall, their spirits sink; and as with the hibemation of creatures, in winter men's thoughts grow solemn. [Human] sentiments are thus affected by seasonal change, sometimes resulting in grievances and con?icts. Yet no events, be they natural or human, can alter a man's true feelings so long as he speaks from the heart. If something runs counter to his beliefs, though the entire world might sing it with one voice, he cannot chime in. I-lis speech must give substance to his own views, not circumscribe or contain them, because of the sheer forcefulness of the thoughts and ideas which illuminate his heart and stir his mind. Consequently, once his words are uttered, their power could conceivably be greater than any other natural force. People in the empire will be awakened, and this awakening will usher in the urge to rise out of the present situation. Only when one speaks from the heart, manifesting one's status as master of one's own soul, can one become conscious of an individual identity. Only when each person possesses an individual identity will the public approach a complete awakening. However, if everyone leans in the same direction and sings the same tune, this singing cannot come from the heart, it is mere chiming in with others, like the meshing of gears in a machine. Such a chorus is more disturbing to the ear than the rustling of leaves in a forest or the pathetic cry of birds because it emphasizes the profound silence in the background. Yet China at present is an all-too perfect example of such a silence.
The chaotic situation in China has given ample opportunity to foreign marauders [to further their ignoble designs through military might]. Amid the ravages of war people could scarcely survive. Men of integrity grew haggard and wan, while learned scholars were forced into silent seclusion. it is, in fact, difficult to determine whether traditional concepts are still cherished by the people today, but appearances suggest that weariness, inertia and passivity have prevailed among them for a long time.
Now the situation is changing again. Different ideas and strange new things are gradually being introduced to China. Out of concern for the fate of their endangered nation, men of ideas and integrity travel to Europe and America in the hope of borrowing elements of Western culture that can be adapted to their native land. Though they breathe fresh air and are exposed to new ideas abroad, the blood that ?ows within them remains that of descendants of the Yellow Emperor. Luxuriant plants may wither in con?nement, yet ?ourish again through nourishment from without. Consequently a liberal and enlightened spirit prevails due to the revitalization of the old and the selective introduction of the new. On the one hand,we are broadening our own horizons; on the other, we are considering the possibilities traditional things hold for our native land. Once such ideas are transformed into voices, they may well gain force until, like a thunderbolt, they shake everything before them. Dreamers will continue to sleep, but those who have awakened will agree that this is the correct path to follow. The people of China may perhaps be spared the terrible fate of national extinction through reliance on this company of learned men. If even one of them remains alive, we still have some measure of hope. Be that as it may, as time goes on, our state of passive silence continues as before. And a thorough search fails to turn up any men of the sort needed. There are none who can speak what is in their hearts; none who can respond to foreign stimuli. This benighted silence turns us all into the living dead. The brutal suppression of those who had dared to speak their mind has ?nally taken its toll and the resultant process of decay will continue, obliterating all hope of regeneration. This is a matter of truly lamentable and grievous proportions.
I, for my own part, am convinced that those opposed to my views will have much to say against this. They will point out that for more than a decade China has been humiliated by foreign powers, but that because of this the people are gradually awakening from their delusions, realizing the meaning of a modern state and the signi?cance of a [responsible] populace. According to them, the sense of public-spiritedness and concern for the welfare of others has been aroused and the will for independence and self-preservation has been strengthened. The tide of public opinion surges higher by the day--people are expressing views and speaking out more and more. Foreign visitors to China are all amazed at how quick and adept we have shown ourselves to be at reform. Even members of our inland gentry are coming into contact with the trappings of foreign civilization, learning the customs and languages of the West. They strut down the street in Western suits and top hats, shake hands and smile at foreigners, all quite convincingly. Those among the inland gentry who are versed in the new ideas and trends are quick to inform the people of their duties as citizens of a twentieth-century nation. Their listeners all nod in approval and spare no effort in striving toward a timely completion of the goals set out for them. ln addition, the gentry produce newspaper articles designed to inspire the people. On occasion, they also try to impart enlightenment through books. lt is held that these publications, although employing phraseology that tends to be awkward and obscurantist-so much so that readers cannot fully understand what is being said--will still serve as effective tools for the introduction of modern civilization to China. If they can revamp and retrain our armed forces, and successfully develop industry and commerce, before long the nation will once more prosper and her position of power be restored. We are still in a preparatory stage at present, yet everything is changing. Were our long-dead ancestors to view the present situation from their graves, they would be astounded at how much better the ideas and developments of today seem compared with those of the past, and they would regret that they had died too early. What do yoti mean, those opposed to my view would ask, by stating that silence still reigns in China?
If all the arguments to the contrary are correct, then China is indeed a nation of tumult and clamour. Let us enquire into the nature of the opinions being expressed and the measures actually being taken in China. Neither sincere voices from the heart nor illuminating thoughts are anywhere to be found. Because the times and circumstances are changing, the means of survival have come to differ [from those in traditional society]. Some people, fearful of suffering hunger and cold, take up dishonest ways while donning the cloak of reform in order to conceal their naked self- interest. The situation may be compared to a carpenter boasting of his axe, while ascribing the country's weakness to the farmers' possession of plowshares; or hunters praising their shotguns, while alleging that the people's poverty is caused by ?shermen jealously guarding their nets. Then there are those who have studied in Europe. If they happen to have learned to make devices to narrow women's waists, such as corsets and girdles, then they will encourage the cult of chastity by asserting that such fashions are "civilized" and maintain that refusing to adopt them is but ignorance and barbarism. If they were really carpenters, hunters or corset-makers, that would be one thing; but actually they are charlatans who have not even mastered their own trade. Their souls are foul and barren and they parade about spreading wild hearsay in order to hoodwink the rest of society. Despite the growing number of people who boast familiarity with the principles of reform and the even greater increase in the ranks of their laughable hangers-on, these people do nothing to alleviate our desolation. In fact, the daily quantity of poison they produce is by itself sufficient to accelerate the decline and fall of China. One can but conclude that the misery they are bringing about is actually much worse than silence.
Thus what is of primary value and offers us the greatest hope at present is that men of learning might appear with novel and unique convictions and the subtlety, insight, and critical distance necessary to insulate themselves from the presumptuous claims and rash deceptions that presently abound. These men would have to possess unwavering faith in their own principles and not let themselves be swayed either by the praise or the condemnation of society. If the world lauds them, they must not be taken in by its flattery; if society reviles them, they should not feel downhearted. People who wish to follow them will be allowed to do so, but if instead laughter and mockery are flung at them in the hope of isolating them, they should not take that to heart either. The possibility of bringing light to our gloom and darkness and striking the spark that can illuminate our compatriots all hangs on this. When each person realizes his own identity and no longer drifts blindly with the tide, China will be able to stand on her own feet.
As the situation exists today, the citizens of old and vanquished nations that were formerly ignored or held in contempt by men of ideals and aspirations in our society have all entered a state of self-awareness. They can speak from their hearts in clear and vibrant tones with their spirits running high. They are gradually freeing themselves from the subjugation of terror, violence, and deception. Why should China alone persist in her solitary silence? ls it because our men of learning, hindered as they are by the obstacles before them, cannot make their presence felt? Or is it that the leamed prefer to keep their mouths shut since their sincere and heart-felt senti- ments are drowned by the din created by so many half-baked authorities? Judging from history, we can see that there has always been the need for bold pioneers to open the way, but the deluge of filthy water that has ?ooded the land carries even our bravest heroes down to the muddy depths. The once-fertile land of China has become a dismal stretch of barren wildemess. The soul of the Yellow Emperor groans forth in lamentation, and our race has abandoned its spirit. Not even the promise of sincere voices not illuminating thoughts is evident. Despite all this, most of our failures have come about by our own hand. It is preferable for us to attempt to launch our single narrow skiff than to expect others to build a giant raft to save us. I have not yet abandoned hope for the promise of the future. That is my impetus in writing this.
After some inspection, the propositions being advanced at present may be divided into two major categories. The first suggests that a man should think of himself as a citizen of a particular nation, while the second conceives of the individual as a member of the world community. Ad- vocates of the first position may attempt to intimidate us with the prospect that China may well perish if their ideas are not implemented forthwith, while proponents of the second camp may similarly insinuate that failure to conform to their principles would be tantamount to a betrayal of civilization. But the common goal of both camps, albeit inconsistently emphasized, is the elimination of all individuality in man, so that none dare differ from the next, and all dissolve into one great mass, as if all colours were overlaid with a film of murky black. Should any make bold and not obey, the lash of mass censure will be applied to attack and restrict them.
In the past, when a man fell victim to his enemies or to some heinous treachery, he might appeal to the public to redress his grievances. If he were suffering under a tyrant, he might cry out to the crowd for deliverance from the yoke. But now that the masses themselves shall rule by fiat, to whom can anyone turn for sympathy? The appearance of tyrants among the common people must also be dated from the present era. In olden days, autocrats ruled over the masses, but the masses sometimes had opportunities to rebel against them or ?ee. Today, those who stand alone are made to suffer at the hands of the crowd and are denied the option of resistance. The public are quick to cry out in favour of freedom, but "freedom" itself has never rung more hollow nor the concept appeared more haggard and worn. Since the people have long been denied their individuality, who can be expected to take the initiative to rouse them? Yet the clamouring of the various factions has assumed an even more dramatic pitch and shows no sign of abating.
Although the two aforementioned propositions may appear contradictory, they are almost identical in their determination to obliterate individuality. The proposals advocated by these two groups may be reduced to several essential points. The first group simply stands for the eradication of superstition, for the promotion of a cult of jingoism, and for carrying out duties and obligations. The other clamours for the unification of all writing systems in the world, the abolition of national boundaries, and seeks to promote an identity of interests among foreign countries. Both groups assert that unless these goals are institutionalized, China will find it impossible to survive in the twentieth century. They have seized upon science, utilitarianism, evolution and civilization as shields to defend themselves, believing all that they champion to be of the first order of correctness and thus beyond refutation. Yet what is science and where can utilitarianism be applied? What is the process of evolution, or the true significance of civilization? Explanations are either muddled, lacking in clarity, or actually refutable by the sharply contradictory assumptions they themselves maintain. Alas, when the trunk itself is shaking, what will become of the branches and leaves? Does this mean that the proponents of these positions are actually only drifting with the tide and are themselves out of control? Or that they are merely chiming in with others so as to deceive people? Or that while knowing they possess only the meagrest capabilities themselves, in order to earn a living they are forced to resort to donning masks in a quest for fame? If they manage to acquire recognition and solve the problem of subsistence, then they disregard the hann and injury inflicted upon others along the way!
Those who grieve at the chaotic state of China today worry that while our "men of aspiration" and noble heroes are all too numerous, a real person is hard to find! It is certainly fortuitous to have heroes and men of aspiration, but it is deplorable indeed that they must veil their true countenance and never speak their mind. The evil presence this lends them infects whomever they come into contact with. The confessions of Augustine, Tolstoy and Rousseau embody true greatness; here are voices which well up and surge forth from the deepest recesses of the heart. If, having no ideals of their own, our men of aspiration and heroes were at least to follow the example of others, present themselves as men of principle and hold forth with lofty airs on how to manage the country and the world, I would be willing to hear them out. But if they are reluctant to express their true views in public, it is advisable for them to keep their propositions to themselves and purge themselves of such pollution. This will have a cleansing effect on the populace, allowing men of genius and talent to emerge and the radiance of the human intellect to shine forth. As a result, the meaning of human existence will become clearer, and individuality will no longer be lost beneath muddy waters. But our men of aspiration and noble heroes will never agree, so our only other option is to analyse their opinions and bring to light the falsehoods in their varied propositions.
The eradication of superstition is a theme that has been pursued most vigorously. This subject has been lavishly discoursed upon by our leamed gentry and has also been dealt with in a vast quantity of books. But all these fail to provide us with any definition of a "true" system of belief at the outset; unless such a definition is established, how can we make comparisons which will reveal the evils of superstition? In this world, with the exception of the ignorant and simpleminded, men who are not satisfied with material life will inevitably have spiritual needs. In ancient times people in India thought that flashes of lightning amidst the dark clouds of a storm were a sign that the god of thunder was battling his enemies, hence, in this case, reverence was bom of fear. The ancient Hebrews, awed as they observed the vastness and inexplicable ways of nature, developed teachings such as the divine origin of things and various methods of invoking divine powers; these were the beginnings of their later religion. ln spite of the fact that "men of aspiration" in China regard all this as superstition, l for one am of the opinion that such things are indicative of the desires of a people who sought to improve themselves by means of transcending a wholly relative and limited reality in order to enter the lofty realm of unlimited absolutes. The human heart requires something to fall back upon; without some form of faith, man cannot endure, hence the emergence of religion was inevitable.
In the case of China, a universal reverence for natural phenomena has always been regarded as the basis of culture. Worship of heaven and earth was the foundation for the systematic development of rituals and ceremonies. The reverence for heaven and earth, extended to the countless host of material things, provided a basis for all wisdom and moral principles, as well as our state and clan systems. In fact, the extent of its in?uence carmot be measured. Because of this, Chinese people have always cherished their native place, no social classes ever formed, and people in the old days invested plants and rocks with mysterious properties and profound significance. The wide range of material objects revered in China in this manner was unparalleled in the world. This distinguishing trait has, however, been lost in the course of the countless deprivations the people have suffered. Today, it is found only in ancient written records and among some peasants who preserve the ways of their ancestors. lt is next to impossible to find it among the literati.
If some claim that the objects of the Chinese people's veneration are confined to the corporeal and extend neither to the intangible, nor to a single almighty being, but rather to numerous images, and that their beliefs are all superstition and delusion, I wish to ask: why must a single god without form be regarded as the true god? Religions were created by people out of a desire to improve themselves; no matter if they worship many gods or one god, tangible or intangible deities, the intention of fulfilling man's spiritual need to lift himself up is still the same. People, in their observation of phenomena and in their investigation of the material world, felt as if everything embodied some mysterious inspiration from which came poetry and song and all that is beautiful or ingenious. Those with an understanding of the ineffable today still make recourse to this point, yet China had already arrived at such an understanding some four thousand years ago. If these things are denounced as superstition, then what constitutes "true" faith? The gentry, at a time when the country is on the decline, has become spiritually constipated and interested only in petty gains. Though they are alive physically, they are spiritually dead. Accordingly, they are ignorant of the mysteries of life, as well as of the appeal of all natural phenomena. They bow and scrape before the emoluments of office. They appraise other people according to a set of subjective criteria and then are greatly shocked to find that others have something to believe in. They therefore seek to blame everything from military reversals to national humiliation on these believers and find satisfaction only in destroying others' sources of inner strength through slander and calumniations. They fail to realize that on the basis of historical testimony, it is apparent that most damage to the fabric of society, to the nation and to the altars of our ancestors was, in fact, caused not by the rural peasantry and common folk, but by our faithless gentry. Thus the urgent task before us today is to rid ourselves of the hypocritical gentry; "superstition" itself may remain!
There are others who claim to have found the definitive arguments, trumpeting science as the absolute criterion for everything. Having heard a little about chemistry they proclaim: "Phosphorous is an element, not a will-o'-the-wisp." After glancing at a book or two on physiology, they announce: "The human body is composed of cells, how can there be a soul?" Though their own knowledge is far from complete, these people insist upon interpreting all phenomena on the basis of a smattering of chemistry and a dash of physics, the elementary principles of which they misconstrue. They fail to understand that all the principles governing the unfathomable changes in matter simply cannot be found in a primer on the natural sciences. ls it not sheer fantasy to attack religion simply on the basis of so meagre a knowledge of science?
There are, in fact, people in Europe who propose the creation of a religion based on science. The German scholar Ernst Haeckel, through his studies in biology, established monism--the theory that all phenomena in the universe arise from a single underlying principle. He proposed the dedication of a shrine to rationality, the true Trinity of the nineteenth century. What were its three components? Truth, goodness, and beauty. He believed that rites and ceremonies continued to have a function, that is, to enable people to cope with present-day realities and encourage them to make further advances. Nietzsche, on the other hand, adopted Darwin's theories of evolution to attack Christianity and created an entirely different philosophy, that of the Uebermensch or superman. The proposals of Haeckel and Nietzsche, albeit based on science, were still tainted by distinctly religious and fantastic elements, and thus implied an alteration in, not the elimination of faith.
However, up to now, these doctrines have failed to have a major impact, simply because science provides no profound answers and fails to satisfy the needs of its intended public. Nevertheless, those who first advocated these ideas openly were determined men of profound learning and moral character who had the conviction and the courage to stand by what they believed without fearing the consequences of offending their contemporaries. They were indeed men of talent. It can thus be seen that those who have nothing save wine and food to sustain them are completely illogical and out of line in their efforts to deprive others of their faith, though they may arm themselves with scientific jargon about elements and cells. This should be clear to all by now and require no further elucidation. Yet I fail to understand why people who have heard their views still revere and extol them.
Nevertheless, this group is actually not the worst of the lot, for there are also groups who entrust themselves with the specific mission of destroying Buddhist temples. Since our people are awakening, education should be promoted. But our "men of aspiration" are almost always poor, while the rich are as a rule rather miserly. As the work of national salvation must be accomplished without delay, certain people have decided that temples and ancestral shrines must be pressed into service as schools. Thereupon, they advocate the eradication of superstition, follow this up with the destruction of the idols in the temples, and make themselves head of the school. That done, a teacher is engaged and put in charge and their school is established. Buddhism is an estimable religion. All learned persons would concede that, so why depict it as the bane of China, and wherefore the urgency to eradicate its doctrines from our soil? Before we deny Buddhism's contributions to the Chinese people, we should first reflect upon the decline of our own moral character, and realize that instead of trying to destroy Buddhism, we should actually make haste to spread it as a means to alleviate the moral decline.
Moreover, what is the present state of schools in China? The teachers are themselves often lacking in knowledge, and understand very little of the West. They are in fact merely hoodwinking people by putting on the appearance of being modern and progressive. Teachers of ancient history now lecture to their students about how the Yellow Emperor fought against "that chieftain what's-his-name 'You' ", evidence of their decidedly limited knowledge of the Chinese written language. Those teaching geography allege that the earth often suffers damage but that repair work is possible. They do not even know that there is a difference between the actual shape of the earth and that of a classroom globe. Once they acquire all this "modern knowledge", the students' egos become in?ated and they style themselves as pillars of the Chinese state. Though they have no experience of govemment, their pride in themselves exceeds that of the founding fathers of entire nations. Their aspirations are exceedingly base; their only goal to pass the civil service examinations [and enter the official bureaucracy]. A China which will have to depend on these men to safeguard her future is a nation in grave peril. Although the Buddhist monastic orders have been in a state of decline for some time already, monks still maintain a much more pristine and scholarly way of life than today's students.
In southern China, there are other groups of "men of aspiration" who are even more extreme in their opposition to the religious festivals of the peasantry. The farmers toil year in and year out almost without rest and when there is a break finally, they hold gatherings of thanksgiving to indulge the gods and themselves as well. Animals are slaughtered as part of sacri?cial rites and celebrations through which the farmers replenish themselves spiritually and physically. But our so-called men of aspiration have now raised the charge that such gatherings are a waste of money and energy, and actively call for the abolition of such gatherings and the expropriation of their funds for the public treasury. Alas, no more expedient means of getting rich has been found since the movement to smash superstition was begun! It would be one thing if people were sinking into hopeless indulgence and addictions that sapped their vital energies, marred their dispositions and dulled their perceptions. But it is something else entirely if good, honest people who have laboured throughout the entire year seek a form of spiritual pick-me-up. That is why our farmers hold lavish feasts at year's end as a gesture of thanksgiving to heaven--to drink their fill in celebration of the bounties that they have received, and obtain a respite for mind and body, in anticipation of beginning work anew. Yet now even this is to be halted, and the farmers shall be reduced to performing like plough animals under the yoke. Human beings cannot tolerate such restrictions, and are bound to find some other means of giving vent to their emotions.
This is, moreover, a matter of self-consolation, in which no one is entitled to interfere. Even tyrants refrain from interfering with poets chanting lyrical verses, nor do they prevent dancers from bending and stretching their limbs in order to better their physique. Yet when farmers seek a nonnal outlet, our "men of aspiration" jump to intervene. Acting in this manner, such principled men are a far worse scourge than tyrants. Among the perpetrators of these indiscrirninate actions, those who try to destroy religious beliefs through slander and calumniations are the least revolting, and those who ban religious practices the basest. As to the numerous manifestations which come in between, the following are a few examples.
First, there are those who ridicule mythology. They slander the myths of Greece, Egypt and India alike, asserting that myths were invented merely as devices to dispel boredom and to amuse. Myths were originated by ancient peoples who, observing the wonders of nature, gave rein to their imagination and gave human form to their inventions. Their minds were filled with the mysteries of antiquity, bizarrely impressive. Though it is inappropriate to treat such tales as genuine, it is even more mistaken to ridicule them. The fact that ancient peoples had such rich imaginations should be a source of awe and inspiration to later ages. The arts and humanities of western Europe have been greatly enriched by myth and legend. Philosophy and literature have been strengthened and beautifred in innumerable instances by the presence of these elements. If one desires to do an in-depth study of the Western humanities, mythology should be given priority, for if their myths are not understood, it will be impossible to appreciate their arts. If someone remains ignorant of their arts, how can he come to terms with the rest of their civilization? To claim that Egypt perished because of superstition and to couple this with a denunciation of its entire ancient civilization would be infantile. Those who fail to understand the difference between antiquity and the present are truly beneath contempt.
Secondly, certain persons, claiming to be carrying out scientific inquiry, question the existence of dragons in ancient China. This is simply a case of licking the spittle of the foreigners. In the eyes of those who understand nothing but money and power, China's decline transforms even her rocks and flowers into objects of contempt. Finding fault with anything Chinese, they attempt, on the authority of zoological tenets, to disprove the existence of dragons. The dragon was a creature of the imagination of our forebears and any attempt to subject it to zoological scrutiny only exposes the ignorance of those who would propose such an endeavour. What is more, since the peddlers of such theories are our own countrymen, why should they do this? That the people of our country have dragons should not be a source of shame or embarrassment; on the contrary, our ancestors' rich imagination should be a source of pride. Ancient India and Greece, and more recently the nations of eastern and northern Europe, abound in a wealth of myth and fable that few other countries can match. The national character of their peoples are profound and refined, ranking among the best in the world and I have never noticed the rest of the world criticizing them. The only source of shame is that, unable to create myths and supernatural beings ourselves, we now import them from abroad and conclude that our own ancients' imaginations were poor by comparison. lf the dragon, the Chinese national emblem, is reviled in such a manner, then any other part of our history shall surely be denied a place in the world. The double-headed eagle of Russia and the lion rampant of England have been spared such vililication only because these two countries are more powerful than ours. Should people who harbour desires for profit and power beneath a cloak of science be included in serious discussion? They deserve only to be spat upon outright. And now there are yet another lot of people who want to create something entirely unprecedented: they want to create their own religion to strengthen the faith of the Chinese, yet they themselves are the spiritual captives of others, and their faith lies not in their own hands. While such "men of aspiration" are smashing superstition they also serve as henchmen for the establishment of a new orthodoxy.
People who follow the cult of aggression are like animals; they pay the highest respect to bestial nature, and they also possess a high quotient of natural servility. Where shall China's "men of aspiration" rank on this scale? The ancients lived together in groups; later, states were fonned and borders delineated, within which people lived out the allotted span of their lives. Had they made the best possible use of natural conditions, devoted their efforts to the improvement of their livelihood and lived in harmony without warring with one another, they would have done well for themselves. Nor would this have been beyond their means to achieve. Human life originated in protozoa and may be traced through various insect, feline, and simian stages before achieving its present form. Thus the instincts of man's antecedents are still nascent within him. At times, these instincts come forth, and that accounts for man's predisposition to wreak mayhem and murder, corrunit acts of aggression, seize territory, women and children, gems and valuables in order to sate his beastly cravings. Yet at other times men fear the words of others, and thus create a host of high-sounding names to camouflage what they have done to escape censure. With the passage of time, these high-sounding names permeate human consciousness and their origins are forgotten; they become habit and character is altered thereby. Such vile and evil distortions affect even the wise and men of great learning.
One example of this is the "pan-Slavism" which has long infected Russia, Bohemia and a number of other states, where men in high positions use this doctrine to justify their every action. Although it has not filtered down through society as far as the peasantry, the poison has such a frrm grip on the hearts of the intelligentsia and the poets of those lands that even the most rarefied ideals and noble thoughts can scarcely purge them of it. What they term patriotism has very little to do with developing culture and art and contributing to the greater glory of mankind. Rather, it means incessant boasting of the military prowess of one's country, how much land it has seized, and how many people have been killed in the process.
Recently the adherents of "pan-Slavism" have come to realize that man has other more lofty missions to fulfill. Carnivorous behaviour, such as that of tigers and wolves, is no longer the first priority, and so such practices have been somewhat curtailed. But men of lowly character have not yet abandoned evil ways, and this has become a source of apprehension among men of learning and insight, who have come to dread war as they might a deadly snake or a scorpion, and this has led to widespread appeals for peace. Their voices have struck a responsive chord in many hearts. Tolstoy was one of their prophets. He argued that nothing in human life is more precious than self-sufficiency: each living on his own means. Rapine and aggression would have to be strictly forbidden. The common people are content to live in peace, he contends, and it is only the rulers who are fond of blood-letting, driving forth their subjects as they do to war, with the result that families are scattered and homes destroyed. The destitute and unwanted inundate the country, stranded without homes or a means of livelihood, thanks to the crimes of the politicians. How does he propose this situation be remedied? The best way is to disobey orders. Men should refuse to be mobilized as soldiers and devote themselves to tilling their fields instead. When orders are issued to arrest the protesters, the law-enforcement officers themselves should take up ploughs and harrows and go into the fields. If autocrats can be isolated by their subordinates' refusal to follow orders, peace will reign.
However, appraising the situation objectively, there are fallacies in this theory. If it were actually put into effect throughout the Russian empire one morning, enemy troops would be arriving in invasion force that very night. If the people were to lay down their arms at dawn, they would be likely to lose their land by eventide. The extent of displacement and suffering would exceed anything that took place before. Hence, Tolstoy's proposals, though fine as ideals, would in practice bring about results far different from their original intent. This [conclusion] has been fonnulated solely on the basis of what is in the common interest. When the differences between people are taken into account, then the ineffectuality of Tolstoy's views should also be apparent.
During the course of evolution, disparities in the level of development emerged among men, such that some may be said to have retained certain traits identifiable with insects, others with apes, etc. Even after ten millenniums of evolution, all may not have reached the same stage. Should this eventually take place, it would still take only one lone deviant to bring about the ruination of the entire social order. Since people of a gentle, accommodating nature are like newbom lambs, should a wolf suddenly enter their pasture, it would have the potential to slaughter every last one. To seek protection in the eleventh hour would surely be to no avail. lt is obvious that the drive to slaughter and commit aggression and to aggrandize one's own nation at the expense of others, are anirnalistic forms of patriotism. If mankind wishes to rise above the birds and insects, we should no longer cherish such concepts as ideals.
But, as a corollary to this, the total elimination of war and the realization of permanent peace would seem possible only with the extinction of the human race and the destruction of the earth. Such being the case, weaponry will exist as long as man does. Weapons were invented for self-defense, to deliver us from the jaws of tigers and wolves; they were not intended to be used as claws and teeth with which to maim and devour the weak and vulnerable. Weapons should be used for man's welfare; not as a means to enslave him. Only when people understand this should they be considered responsible enough to discourse upon military affairs and to refrain from unleashing new horrors upon the world.
Nevertheless, I find the opinions of social commentators regarding the situation in China to be completely wrong. Some are quick to hold forth on patriotism, while others follow the cult of the warrior; their motivations are equally barbarous. In the name of culture, they roar like carnivores about to sweep down upon their prey. Equipped with talons and fangs, they would lay waste to vast tracts of land. With such dispositions, they are hideousness and violence incarnate, yet the description "animalistic" still seems inappropriate. On what do I base this opinion? I would venture to say that they display two deeply-rooted characteristics that ordinary animalistic jingoists lack. One is the way they worship powerful countries, and the other is the contempt in which they hold subjugated peoples. Ordinary jingoists must hail from large nations brimming with strength, countries awesome and powerful enough to gain predominance in the world. For this reason, jingoists display respect for their own countries alone and look disdainfully upon others. Seizing upon the theory of "natural selection" [to justify their deeds], they attack the weak and small in order to realize their aims or desires. They will know no satisfaction until the globe comes under their domination and all other peoples are made their subjects.
Now, what about China? Traditionally, the Chinese people were content with fanning and unwilling to stray from their native places. Those in high official posts strove to attain fame through meritorious service, while those out of office were always resentful and bemoaning the state of things. China took the greatest pride in the splendour and beauty of her achievements as a civilization; she never sought domination over neighbouring tribes by dint of force, and her record of peace has been almost unparalleled in the world. But after so long a period of peace, her defenses slackened and suddenly tigers and wolves were upon her, dragging her people through ?ood and fire. That such things came to pass is no fault of our people. They have always ab- horred bloodshed and slaughter, displayed reluctance when taking leave of relatives or friends, and are content in their daily tasks. If the rest of the world were to adopt the norms of China, confming themselves as Tolstoy stipulated to the defense of their own frontiers and refraining from aggression, war would never break out again despite the existence of many diverse ethnic groups and different sovereign states. The phenomenon of animalistic jingoism has been traumatic for all peace-loving peoples. The constant threat of war makes it impossible for people to carry on ordinary lives until these tigers and wolves can be driven off. ln so doing, the people's only motive would be to drive the enemy back within his old borders and certainly not to revive animalistic proclivities in themselves, much less employ arms to slaughter and pillage the weak, the powerless, or the vulnerable.
Our "men of aspiration", however, do not think deeply about such matters. They compete in their praise of aggression and yearn to emulate the brute force of Russia and the might of Germany, as if these states were an Eden! For the fate of oppressed peoples with no one to turn to, such as the populations of India and Poland, they have nothing but the sort of cold contempt and sneering ridicule reserved for "fallen" races. China, too, has had a long history of suffering and oppression at the hands of stronger nations. Carrion kites are still circling overhead, even though we are not yet dead. As if our loss of territory were not enough of a blow, it is also accompanied by indemnities. Consequently, the people suffer from all fomrs of privation and the countryside is littered with the corpses of starvation victims. Hereafter we should amass the finest and most powerful weaponry to defend ourselves, in order to prevent serpents and wild beasts from devouring us. But this prescription applies only to self-defense. We should not imitate the behaviour of aggressors by committing anned aggression against others. Why do we disapprove of aggression'? Because we have put ourselves in the place of victims of aggression, and are enemies of animalistic jingoism.
Poland and India are countries suffering the same lot as China. Although Poland has never had any intercourse with China, it is known that her people are sincere and freedom-loving. All sincere, freedom-loving people love Poland as a country symbolic of these two ideals. Can those who are unwilling to be conquered afford not to mourn Poland? India has been in communication with us since ancient times and has rendered us great favours and services. Our philosophies, religions, codes of morality, literature and art have, without exception, gained richly from contact with India in a way that defies comparison. We are even closer than brothers. So if danger has befallen either of these two countries, we Chinese ought at least to feel a tinge of melancholy about their fates. lf these nations should collapse, we ought to weep for them. Similarly, if they are spared calamities, we should thank heaven for its blessings and pray for divine protection in the future to ensure that they, as well as ourselves, may survive into the limitless future.
But our "men of aspiration" today overlook this notion. They simply assert that all such countries have fallen into their present state through their own weakness, and toss in various other defamatlons to boot. That so blind and absurd an attitude can exist in China is probably due to the fact that we have repeatedly been made to taste fire and the blade, and have cowered beneath the heel of power and despotism for so long. As a result, we have lost our original character and our ability to feel sympathy for others has been worn away; all that remains in our hearts is the urge to fawn on the powerful and show contempt for the weak! Thus, generally speaking, those who sing the praises of militarism have, through their prolonged submission to power and despotism, gradually nurtured a sense of servility in themselves. They have forgotten their origins, joined the cult of aggression, and are truly the lowest of the low. Those who merely echo others and have no ideas of their own may be considered somewhat better.
There are also people who fall into neither of these categories, who occasionally exhibit the characteristics of our pre-human ancestors. I have seen several instances of this sort of thinking re?ected in the poetry of this group, where they take especial pride in the fact that Kaiser Wilhelm ll referred to China as the "Yellow Peril". They growl hideous clamourings for the destruction of London and the levelling of Rome. Paris alone, they announce, may stand to serve as a setting for their libertine indulgence. Although the original proponents of the "Yellow Peril" notion compared the yellow race to beasts, not even they could have endowed the notion with such fierceness.
Through the present writing l beg to submit to the able-bodied men of China that though bravery, strength and resolve in struggle are certainly attributes most appropriate to human life, they are best applied to self-improvement and should not be employed to attack and swallow up innocent countries. If our own foundation is stable and we have surplus strength, let us then act as the Polish general Bem did in supporting Hungary, or as the English poet Byron in aiding Greece, that is, to promote the vital cause of freedom and to topple oppression, so that the world will finally be rid of tyranny. We should offer aid and support to all nations in peril or distress, starting with those which have been our friends and extending our aid throughout the world. By spreading freedom everywhere, we can deprive the ever-vigilant white race of its vassals and servants; this will mark the beginning of a real "Yellow Peril". As the situation stands today, we must curtail our desire for and emulation of power and domination, and place a greater emphasis on self-defense. What a pity it is that China, herself a victim of aggression, has thus far failed to reflect upon her own priorities!
This essay was written in I908 in Japan and published in Henan magazine in Tokyo 1908.12 under the psuedonym Xun Xing.
1. This is a reference to Chi You, rival of the legendary Yellow Emperor--[something Lu Xun presumes should be taught on day one of any course in ancient Chinese history].
2. Jozef Bem (1794-1 850] was an artillery of?cer of Galician birth who distinguished himself as a member of a Polish regiment during the French campaign against Russia in 1812. He attempted to hold Vienna against troops loyal to the Hapsburg house during the abortive Austrian revolution of 1848, and then distinguished himself again against overwhelming odds in the defense of Transylvania (1848-9). 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 person, averting a general massacre of Christians there.
3. Byron, George Gordon, 6th Baron (l788-1824). The most celebrated and excoriated romantic poet, adventurer and social rebel of his time, Lord Byron set sail with a private army in 1824 from Italy to Missolonghi in the Greek isles where he attempted to organize a native resistance movement to overthrow Turkish rule and died in the service of that cause.
4. This essay was to have had a sequel, which never appeared.
Posted: 2012-07-06 10:31 |
some lu xun books for downloading:
Against race imagining political culture beyond the ...18695KB 2012-06-22 09:36:23
AN AGE gone by lu xun's clan in decline.pdf101339KB 2012-02-24 22:43:12
Chosen pages from Lu Hsun. Lu, Xun, 1881-1936.pdf20877KB 2012-06-22 11:13:20
History of Modern Chinese Literature 1998.pdf23119KB 2012-06-09 00:02:24
lu xun a chinese writer for all times.pdf35160KB 2012-06-08 23:22:47
lu xun as a translator.pdf9342KB 2012-02-24 20:14:32
LU XUN SELECTED ESSAYS .tif111942KB 2012-06-09 10:11:27
Lu Xun Selected Works Vol.1.pdf42089KB 2012-06-08 23:16:52
Lu Xun Selected Works Vol.2.pdf32008KB 2012-06-08 21:16:48
Lu Xun Selected Works Vol.3.pdf25967KB 2012-06-08 20:50:54
Lu Xun Selected Works Vol.4.pdf27596KB 2012-06-08 21:03:28
Lu_Xun_and_evolution.epub678KB 2012-06-08 21:02:25
Lu_Xun_and_His_Legacy.pdf19779KB 2012-06-08 22:35:08
Madmen_and_Other_Survivors__Reading_Lu_Xun's_Fiction....567KB 2012-06-08 23:37:38
May 68 in French Fiction and Film.pdf8620KB 2012-06-22 09:33:13
May 68 rethinking France's last revolution edited by...16945KB 2012-06-22 09:36:41
Selected Stories of Lu Hsun.pdf929KB 2012-06-08 21:00:08
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung Volume 4, french versi...42313KB 2012-06-22 11:19:24
The_Intimate_Lives_of_Lu_Xun_and_Xu_Guangping.pdf1744KB 2012-06-08 23:42:15
The_Real_Story_of_Ah_Q_and_Other_Tales_of_China__The_...498KB 2012-06-08 23:38:55
Wild Grass Lu Hsun's Collection of 20 Prose Poems.pdf...2687KB 2012-06-08 23:46:21
Worker-student action committees France, May 1968 Gr...21760KB 2012-06-22 11:13:54
XUN, LU - La veridica historia de A Q.pdf237KB 2012
Posted: 2012-07-06 11:01 |
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