Beijing Lu Xun Mu­seum

Trans­lated by Wang Wei Edited by David Ball Photo cour­tesy of Beijing Lu Xun Mu­seum

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Lu Xun lived in a court­yard at No. 19 Gong­menkou Er­tiao from 1924–1926, which is now home to the Beijing Lu Xun Mu­seum.

Aquiet court­yard can be found at the end of a hu­tong (alley) in Xicheng Dis­trict, Beijing. A strik­ing white mar­ble seated statue of the Chi­nese writer Lu Xun (1881–1936) can be seen in­side. His peace­ful ex­pres­sion de­picts his sagac­ity. Lu Xun lived in the court­yard at No. 19 Gong­menkou Er­tiao from 1924 to 1926. It is now the Beijing Lu Xun Mu­seum.

For­mer Res­i­dence of Lu Xun

Lu Xun was the pen name of Zhou Shuren, which he first adopted when he pub­lished Kuan­gren riji (“A Mad­man's Di­ary”) in 1918. Lu Xun was a renowned Chi­nese writer, thinker and rev­o­lu­tion­ist, as well as a key par­tic­i­pant in the New Cul­ture Move­ment (1915–1923) and a lead­ing fig­ure of mod­ern Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture. Chair­man Mao Ze­dong (1893– 1976) once said that “the di­rec­tion of Lu Xun was the new cul­tural di­rec­tion of the Chi­nese peo­ple.” There are 11 mu­se­ums ded­i­cated to Lu Xun in China, one of which is sit­u­ated at No. 19 Gong­menkou Er­tiao. This site is the best-pre­served for­mer res­i­dence of Lu Xun in Beijing.

In Oc­to­ber 1923, Lu Xun bor­rowed 400 sil­ver dol­lars from his friends Qi Shoushan (1881–1965) and Xu Shoushan (1883–1948) so he could buy the court­yard at No. 21 Xisan­tiao Hu­tong (present- day No. 19 Gong­menkou Er­tiao). The court­yard was in poor con­di­tion, how­ever, so he first needed to ren­o­vate its six rooms be­fore he could move in. To save money, he drew up the plans for the re­mod­el­ing him­self, thus form­ing its present- day lay­out. Lu Xun even­tu­ally paid back the money he had bor­rowed from his friends when he went to teach in Xi­a­men, Fu­jian Prov­ince in 1926. The court­yard to­day con­tains two parts—the for­mer res­i­dence of Lu Xun and an ex­hi­bi­tion hall about his life—and has been listed as a Ma­jor His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural Site Pro­tected at the Na­tional Level as well as a na­tional first- grade mu­seum.

Lu Xun's for­mer res­i­dence cov­ers an area of 400 square me­tres (sq.m), con­tains three south-fac­ing rooms and three north­fac­ing rooms, and two rooms on the east and west sides within the court­yard. Both the lay­out and in­te­rior fur­nish­ings re­main just as they were when Lu Xun lived there, and the two lilac bushes he planted are

still thriv­ing in the court­yard.

At that time, the home was lo­cated near the walls of Fucheng­men Gate in one of Beijing's less well-off ar­eas, whose res­i­dents in­cluded rick­shaw and mule­cart driv­ers. The alley would get ex­tremely muddy dur­ing the rainy sea­son and the nights were dark, save for a sin­gle small oil lamp at its end.

Af­ter leav­ing Beijing in 1926, Lu Xun re­turned to the cap­i­tal from Shang­hai twice to visit rel­a­tives, dur­ing which time he lived in the court­yard. In 1947, his exwife Zhu An passed away, mean­ing there was no one to look af­ter the court­yard. At that time, Beijing was con­trolled by the Kuom­intang Govern­ment and so mem­bers of the city's un­der­ground Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) took mea­sures to pro­tect the court­yard, en­abling the ma­jor­ity of Lu Xun's her­itage to sur­vive.

Lu Xun's for­mer res­i­dence opened to the pub­lic on Oc­to­ber 19, 1949, ex­actly 13 years to the day that the famed au­thor passed away. In March the fol­low­ing year, Lu Xun's widow Xu Guang­ping (1898– 1970) do­nated her hus­band's collection of books and cul­tural relics in the court­yard to the govern­ment. In 1954, the Min­istry of Cul­ture de­cided to es­tab­lish the Beijing Lu Xun Mu­seum and add an ex­hi­bi­tion hall next to his for­mer res­i­dence. The mu­seum opened to the pub­lic on the 20th an­niver­sary of Lu Xun's death on Oc­to­ber 19, 1956.

Lu Xun’s Life in Beijing

In 1912, Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Cai Yuan­pei (1868–1940) in­vited Lu Xun to come work in the min­istry in Nan­jing, Jiangsu Prov­ince. Later, Lu Xun moved with the min­istry to Beijing, where he lived at the Shaox­ing Guild Hall in Nan­ban­jie Hu­tong, Xuan­wu­men­wai from 1912 to 1919. Dur­ing this pe­riod, he be­gan his writ­ing ca­reer and cre­ated short sto­ries such as “A Mad­man's Di­ary,”“kong Yiji,”“Yao” (“Medicine”), “Ming­tian” (“To­mor­row”) and “Yi­jian xi­aoshi” (“An In­ci­dent”).

In 1919, Lu Xun sold his house in his home­town of Shaox­ing, Zhe­jiang Prov­ince and moved to Beijing where he pur­chased a spa­cious court­yard in Badaowan Hu­tong, Xin­jiekou. He cre­ated more than 100 works whilst liv­ing in the court­yard, in­clud­ing “Ah Q zhengzhuan” (“The True Story of Ah Q”), “Fengbo (“A Storm in a Teacup”), “Gux­i­ang” (“My Old Home”) and “Shexi” (“Vil­lage Opera”), and trans­lated fairy-tales writ­ten by Vasili Eroshenko (1890–1952) into Chi­nese.

In 1923, Lu Xun and his younger brother Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967) had a fall­ing-out and so Lu Xun had to move out of Badaowan Hu­tong and rent three rooms in a court­yard on Zhuanta Hu­tong. Dur­ing this pe­riod, he wrote such nov­els and ar­ti­cles as “Zhufu”

(“The New Year Sac­ri­fice”), “Zai­ji­u­lou shang” (“In the Wine Shop”), “Xingfu de ji­at­ing” (“Happy Fam­ily”), “Nala zouhou zengyang” (“What Hap­pens af­ter Nora Leaves Home”) and “Weiyou tian­cai zhiqian” (“Wait­ing for a Ge­nius”).

Af­ter mov­ing into No. 21 Xisan­tiao Hu­tong, Lu and other writ­ers edited weekly mag­a­zines such as Yusi and Mangyuan. He not only led young peo­ple in set­ting-up lit­er­a­ture or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Weim­ing So­ci­ety and Mangyuan So­ci­ety, but also edited and wrote pref­aces for young writ­ers and trans­la­tors. He also wrote many ar­ti­cles, nov­els and es­says that were later listed in his col­lected works such as Ye­cao (“Wild Grass”), Panghuang (“Wan­der­ing”), Hua­gaiji (“Bad Luck Collection”), Fen (“The Grave”) and Zhao­hua xishi (“Dawn Blos­soms Plucked at Dusk”).

En­ter­ing the ‘Tiger’s Tail’

One of the north-fac­ing rooms in the Lu Xun Mu­seum used to serve as the au­thor's liv­ing room and li­brary. The room is sim­ply fur­nished, with two wicker chairs by the win­dow and two large book­cases against the south wall, con­tain­ing Lu Xun's col­lected jour­nals. There are more than 30 ad­di­tional small book boxes in the room, which can be piled to­gether to cre­ate large book­cases. Lu Xun would take th­ese boxes on his trav­els around China. Some still have num­bers on them writ­ten by Lu.

One of the high­lights in the room is a char­coal por­trait of Lu Xun by Tao Yuan­qing (1893–1929), which hangs on the east wall and was much cher­ished by its owner. On May 3, 1926, af­ter re­ceiv­ing the pic­ture, Lu hung it on the wall and wrote a let­ter to Tao Yuan­qing, say­ing, “I think you did a great job, I'm very grate­ful.” Tao Yuan­qing was an ac­com­plished artist and de­signed the cov­ers for many of Lu Xun's books in­clud­ing Wan­der­ing, The Grave and Dawn Blos­soms Plucked at Dusk.

One of the south-fac­ing rooms was home to Lu Xun's for­mer wife, Zhu An. Lu once said she was a “gift from his mother.” There was no love be­tween the two, nor did they share any­thing in com­mon, since their ar­ranged mar­riage was the prod­uct of feu­dal times. The two of them re­spected each other and were a nom­i­nal cou­ple, although, the per­son who lived in the court­yard the long­est was in fact Zhu An.

A small room was con­structed be­hind the three south-fac­ing rooms which was called the “tiger's tail” due to its shape. The 8-sq.m room served as Lu Xun's study and bed­room, and still re­tains its orig­i­nal lay­out. On en­ter­ing the room, one can see two large win­dows in the north wall and a desk with three draw­ers placed against the east wall. The lay­out was de­signed by Lu to en­able plenty of light for when he worked in the morn­ings and af­ter­noons and to al­low him to see out into his gar­den. There is a teacup, ash­tray, pen holder, clock and kerosene lamp on the desk, all of which were used by Lu Xun, as was the wicker chair in front of it.

Vis­it­ing this small room al­lows one to see a mi­cro­cosm of Lu Xun's life in Beijing. By the win­dows, there is a bed sup­ported by two wooden boards, with rel­a­tively thin bed­ding. The room also did not have any heat­ing when Lu lived there, as the au­thor him­self once re­marked: “If your life is too com­fort­able, it will af­fect your work.”

In one of his poems, Lu wrote: “Fierce-browed, I coolly defy a thou­sand point­ing fin­gers; head bowed, like a will­ing ox I serve the chil­dren.” The ex­hi­bi­tion at the mu­seum about Lu Xun's life is ti­tled “Fierce-browed and Head Bowed—mo­ments in Lu Xun's Life,” which show­cases mile­stones in his life based on the his­tor­i­cal back­ground of the times and helps visi­tors learn more about the think­ing of this great writer.

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