Lu Xun's The White Light
The White Light describes the life of a failed scholar. The story is similar to Kong Yiji. The main character is basically a nuisance to the family and continually searches for lost family gold. For an introduction to Lu Xun, then follow this link to An Introduction to Lu Xun. Otherwise keep reading for a longer introduction to The White Light.
The White Light
Bái Guāng白光 was published in July of 1922 in Shanghai's Eastern Magazine (东方杂志, Dōngfāng Zázhì). 白光 begins with Chén Shìchéng (陈士成) staring at a list of names of candidates who successfully passed the district examination. After his sixteenth failure, Chén Shìchéng is understandably distraught. He drifts back home and sulks in disbelief. The other families in the same compound return to their rooms early recognizing the look on Chén Shìchéng's face. Chén Shìchéng turns his disappointment into a search for a mythical buried treasure. Previous excavation attempts illustrate the frequent disappointments he has had over the years. A white light from the moon begins to shine onto his desk which he takes as a sign of the buried treasure's location. He begins digging and digging only to unveil an old jaw bone. A voice in his head tells him the treasure is not in this room, but is actually in the distant mountains. He rushes out through the city gates into the night only to wash up dead in a lake the next morning. This story is based on one of Lǔ Xùn's uncles, Zhōu Zǐjīng (周子京) who lived in the family compound in Shàoxīng (绍兴城) and helped teach Lǔ Xùn the classics in Lǔ Xùn's younger years. He spent years studying for the civil service exam, yet repeatedly failed to pass. He was something of a nuisance in the family compound and did not contribute much except to teach the children the classics. Lǔ Xùn's uncle and Chén Shìchéng highlight one of the flaws in the civil service exam in feudal China. While the system prepared people very well in the classics of China, it also produced many people who never passed the exams, but yet had spent years and years in preparation. After their failure they lacked any other skills to support themselves and their families. Lǔ Xùn's uncle eventually committed suicide by lighting himself on fire and jumping off a bridge into the water below. He died a few days later. The White Light 白光
|Would you like to read this Chinese short story with pinyin, footnotes with definitions, historical summaries, and cultural references, as well as Chinese audio files of two native speakers, one male and one female, reading the story? Get your copy of Capturing Chinese today! See the Capturing Chinese Catalog|