Once during the years 1915-1923 in modern Chinese history, a grand revolution campaign named New Culture Movement was whipped up by some pioneer revolutionists. This group led by Lu Xun and Chen Duxiu considered the feudalism as the primary obstruction of China’s development and appealed to the disposal of feudal autocracy and the reformation of Chinese traditional thoughts, culture and ethic codes through the channel of literature.
Two articles among these literature written by Lu Xun, Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass, sharply revealed the essence and the root of feudalism and criticized the conservative and rigid traditional thoughts. This paper will talk about the critiques of Chinese society in these two works and relate them to the special historical background of culture revolution. The Diary of A Madman describes a madman’s psychological activities and conditions in the form of diary. In this way, the writer managed to metaphorize the seemingly virtuous but virtually persecutory feudalism.
As Lu Xun himself mentioned in the Preface of Selections of Novels in The Great Series of the New Literature 1917-1927, the Diary of a Madman is aimed to expose the feudal Chinese Family System and the persecutory traditional codes of ethics (Lu, 1935). To show the motif, he metaphorized four types of social citizens The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles:
Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass at that time by constructing four characters. To begin with, the character of the madman is sketched as an isolated enemy to other ordinary people. By mentioning that the madman was the first one to see “the whole book being filled with the two words: ’eat people’”(Lu, 1918), Lu Xun was actually referring to a minor pioneer group who was the first and the only to see the root sickness of Chinese society at that time.
However, their thoughts were so advanced and challenged the deep-rooted tradition such that they received no understanding and was even suppressed by the Chinese traditionalists. Secondly, the writer mentioned three types of these advocators of tradition. On the one hand, Mr. Chao and other trivial characters represent the Chinese citizens who were the most ignorant.
Educated under the feudal environment, this wide composition of Chinese society consciously developed into numb sacrifices of feudalism and blind followers of inveterate Confucian thoughts. Lu Xun revealed that it is because of the value of this authoritative Confucianism that they had no consciousness of being persecuted and silently obeyed the upper castes. On the other hand, people resisting the revolution are represented by the madman’s elder brother and the doctor. Obviously, the elder brother in the text refers to the advocator of traditional Chinese Family System.
As he had no intention of hurting his family, the only reason The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles: Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass that he is “the eater of human flesh”(Lu, 1918) is the obedience to traditional codes of ethics, which also originated from Confucianism. Lu Xun also portrayed another figure, the doctor, as a hypocritical vindicator of feudalism. Generally, people of this kind benefit from the conservation of feudalism; therefore, once the tradition is challenged and their social status is threatened, they strive to protect it in the name of tradition inheritance.
From above, we can see that Lu Xun reaches the deepest and the darkest essence of feudal Chinese society through the metaphoric literary device, which is simply “eating people”(Lu, 1918). It refers to the malformed twist of Chinese modes of thinking and the slaughter of the human nature by villainous feudal family system based on the deep-rooted Confucianism.
The other story, Leaving the Pass, narrates the two philosophical discussions between Laozi and Confucius, as well as Laozi’s leaving the Hangu Pass. Similarly, Lu Xun uses the figure of Laozi to satirize the ridiculous “do-nothing” attitude of the Daoist thinking system under the conflicted temporal society. In first part, after the second meeting, Laozi decided to leave out of fear that Confucius understood his Dao theory without receiving the respect as a teacher from Confucius. Instead of doing something to break his fear, Laozi avoided the head-on The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles:
Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass confrontation with Confucius and chose to leave. This is due to his unwillingness to act and his habit of maintaining the status quo. These thoughts are highly guided by Daoism “do-nothing” thoughts.
From here, we can see that Daoism’s way of getting rid of problems is not to solve them but merely to hide them from sight. Since problems are always avoided and intentionally ignored, Daoism actually does not provide any help in practice. Therefore, when confronting the difficulty of crossing the pass in the following plot, “his own philosophy, in sum, was unable to furnish him a solution (Lu, 1936). ” Lu Xun here sharply satires the futility and rigidity of Daoism methodology in a practical situation. Moreover, in the second story, Laozi was forced to give lectures by some commoners (Lu, 1936), however, he could do nothing under others’ random manipulation.
This part deeply criticized Daoism’s incompetence of settling a matter and its antipathy with the current society. The final part reaches the peak of this satire that Laozi’s lecture notes were worth only five rolls in the eyes of commoners (Lu, 1936). It implies that the old value carried in the Daoism thinking system is not at all valuable in reality. To wrap up the above ideas, Leaving the Pass satires the old rigid Daoism of its uselessness and weakness through tests and trials. By satirizing the incompatibility between the old Daoism.
The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles: Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass methodology and temporal situation of Chinese society, Lu Xun brought up the topic on the disposal of old traditional approaches and the need of another advanced cultural system. From a historical perspective, after the Self-Strengthening Movement and the Xinhai Revolution failed to save China technologically and sociopolitically, Lu Xun realized the revolution should be carried out in terms of thought and culture.
At that time, Chinese traditional thinking system basically consists of Confucianism and Daoism, which respectively advocate old manners and inaction. To some degree, these thoughts stood in the way of the modernization and hence impeded the development of China.
Therefore, pioneer revolutionists started the New Culture Movement to reveal its dreadful essence and to make patriotic citizens aware of this social tumor. Only when the twisted tradition is removed and new ideas are spread, can the country finally manage to step on the path of modernization. That is why Lu Xun, in the two articles, severely criticized two greatest and most authoritative thinking systems of all time in Chinese history, aiming to free human thinking and mental freedom through the New Culture Movement. Both works have a historically related motivation and practical significance.
When we look into the New Culture Movement, we can notice that the two articles have the same purpose of liberating The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles: Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass conservative thoughts, reforming traditional culture and radically changing the society. As a result, all the critiques included in Lu Xun’s two works serve as the pushing force behind the advancement of China’s modernization history.
The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles: Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass References Lu, X. (1935). The preface of selections of novels in the great series of the new literature 1917-1927. Shanghai, China: Shanghai Liang You Publication Company. Lu, X. (1918). The Diary of A Madman. New Youth, 4(5). Lu, X. (1936). Old tales retold: Leaving the pass. Shanghai: Life and Culture Publishing House. The Critiques of Feudal Chinese Society in Lu Xun’s Two Articles: Madman’s Diary and Leaving the Pass.