Village Opera is my favorite story in Lu Xun's Nahan. The story recreates scenes from a China that seems from a bygone era. Lu Xun talks fondly of his mother's village and describes his days when they took a boat to watch an opera from the river. For an introduction to Lu Xun, then follow this link to An Introduction to Lu Xun. Otherwise keep reading for a longer introduction to Village Opera.
Shè Xì社戏 was first published in November 1922 in Shanghai's Fiction Monthly (小说月报 Xiǎoshuō Yuèbào). The story is an autobiographical story about Lǔ Xùn's different experiences with Chinese opera. The story begins while Lǔ Xùn is living in Běijīng. His friend insists that Běijīng opera is the best and he must experience one. The cling and clang of the opera deafens Lǔ Xùn causing him to run out of opera house shortly afterward. He sees one more in Běijīng before bidding farewell to Chinese opera forever. He insists he is ill-suited for opera. However, he remembers seeing a truly great opera when he was younger in his mother's hometown, a small village near Shàoxīng (绍兴城). In the summers Lǔ Xùn spent time with his mother visiting her hometown. In this village all the people were related and surnamed, 鲁. Lǔ Xùn chose his pen name of 鲁迅 in honor of his mother whose maiden name was also 鲁. In this village, Lǔ Xùn plays with the peasant children and catches shrimp with them. Every year the neighboring village held a village opera, a 社戏. Since this area around Shàoxīng is full of canals, much of the transportation was and still is done by boat. The children rent a boat for the evening and row 5 li (2.5 kilometers) to the neighboring town and watch the opera from their boat. After watching for a while, they get bored and begin rowing back home. Taking a break halfway from home, they steal some Arhat beans from one of the kid's father's fields and enjoy the snack on the boat in the middle of the river. They arrive back to their village past midnight, where Lǔ Xùn's mother is anxiously waiting for them. Looking back at this day, Lǔ Xùn can't remember tasting better Arhat beans or experiencing a better opera. Village Opera 社戏
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