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    Capturing Chinese — Lu Xun

    Learn Chinese Through Chinese Stories - Lu Xun's Kong Yiji

    Kong Yiji was my first short story to read in Chinese and gave me the passion to pursue the Capturing Chinese series.  After reading Kong Yiji, I wanted to dive into more of Lu Xun's literature.  The story ranks as one of my all time favorites.  If you missed the introduction to Lu Xun, then follow this link to An Introduction to Lu Xun.

    Kong Yiji


    Kǒng Yǐjǐ

      孔乙己 was first published in April 1919 in New Youth (新青年 Xīn Qīnnián). Kong Yiji is about a Chinese intellectual, named Kǒng Yǐjǐ, who never passed the civil service examinations and as a result struggles to make a living.  While Kǒng Yǐjǐ can recite obscure texts and can write a character in its many alternate forms, he doesn't have any concrete skills that he can use to support himself.  Since he never passed the exams, all his studying becomes irrelevant and his pride keeps him from doing tasks deemed unfit for a gentlemen. He copies old texts to get by but usually resorts to stealing.  People treat him like dirt and laugh at him every time he visits his favorite local bar, the Xián Hēng Jiǔdiàn (咸亨酒店).   Due to this disrespect, Kǒng Yǐjǐ enjoys talking to children by either teaching them the characters, reciting old phrases for them, or just sharing his bar treats with them. Kǒng Yǐjǐ doesn't have much money, but he always pays off his tab at the local bar. After not seeing him for a few days, the bartender and his assistant wonder what has happened to Kǒng Yǐjǐ.  They find out he was caught stealing from a Selectman (举人 jǔrén – someone who did pass the exams).  The Selectman had tied him up and had given him an all night beating, leaving both his legs broken.  Surely, a beating such as this would keep him from stealing, but it also robbed him of his only livelihood.  Justice is achieved by reducing Kǒng Yǐjǐ to dragging himself around by his two hands. Kǒng Yǐjǐ drags himself into the local bar for one last bowl of wine.  While the people at the bar still laugh and make fun of him, he enjoys his wine and leaves, never to come back.  Kǒng Yǐjǐ surely died shortly after. This story is based on one of Lǔ Xùn's uncles, Zhōu Zǐjīng (周子京) who lived in the family compound in Shàoxīng 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 Kǒng Yǐjǐ 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. Kong Yiji 孔已己  
    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

    Sample the book before you buy! Get Your FREE Sample Chapter

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    Enjoy and 加油!

    Learn Chinese Through Chinese Stories - Lu Xun's A Diary of a Madman

    A Madman's Diary is definitely one of the best short stories in Chinese history and one of my personal favorites.  If you missed the introduction to Lu Xun, then follow this link to An Introduction to Lu Xun.

    A Madman's Diary


    Kuáng Rén Rìjì

      狂人日记 was first published in New Youth (新青年 Xīn Qīngnián) in May of 1918.  The author, Zhōu Shùrén (周树人) is using his penname, Lǔ Xùn (鲁迅), for the first time and A Madman's Diary is considered the first modern short story in Chinese literature and also one of the best. A Madman's Diary begins with an introduction in classical Chinese, which  was typical in Chinese literature at the time.  The story begins innocently relating the experiences of a friend who had recently gone insane.  (Due to the difficulty of the classical Chinese text, extra footnotes have been provided.)  In stark contrast to the introduction, the rest of the story uses colloquial Chinese. Classical Chinese had been in use for the past 2000 years for any serious literary work.  Using the vernacular Chinese was a bold statement. The story was inspired by Nikolai Gogol, a Russian author whom Lǔ Xùn greatly admired, and who wrote a short story with a similar title, Diary of a Madman. The character in the story was inspired by a cousin of his who came to visit Beijing in 1916 and averred that he was being pursued by deadly enemies.  As his paranoia worsened Lǔ Xùn was forced to send his cousin back to their hometown, Shàoxīng (绍兴城). In A Madman's Diary, Lǔ Xùn is attacking traditional Chinese society implying it is a society of cannibals where the strong devour the weak.  The ironic effect achieved in this story is a highlight of Lǔ Xùn's style and what makes his work so effective.  While the madman often quotes old Chinese texts to confirm his paranoia, the reader begins to question whether or not this paranoia is in fact justified.  In addition, recent events lent credence to his madness.  During pre-revolutionary times, anti-Qing revolutionaries had been executed and had their body parts dug out and eaten by soldiers.  One example is of Xú Xílín (徐锡林), a native of Shàoxīng who appears in this story. In the end, one can question whether the madman is still insane as he takes up a post within the local bureaucracy. Kuang Ren Riji 狂人日记  
    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

    Sample the book before you buy! Get Your FREE Sample Chapter

    Don't take our word for it.  Take yours.  Download a FREE sample of "A Small Incident." [wp_eStore_free_download_ajax_fancy id=22]

    Enjoy and 加油!


    Learn Chinese Through Chinese Stories - An Introduction to Lu Xun The Father of Modern Chinese Literature

    As part of our Learn Chinese Through Chinese Stories campaign, we would like to introduce one of the most pivotal writers in modern Chinese history.  His name is Lu Xun and his stories have been included in four of our Capturing Chinese series books.  We begin by introducing Lu Xun and next week we will move into some of his short stories. Introduction to Lǔ Xùn Lǔ Xùn (鲁迅) was born in Shàoxīng (绍兴城) in 1881. Shàoxīng is a part of Jiāngsū (江苏省) province and has been home to many of China's literary giants throughout history.  During Lǔ Xùn's time it was also a hotbed for anti-Qing revolutionaries who frequently appear in his stories.  Lǔ Xùn was born with the name Zhōu Zhāngshòu (周樟寿).  He later changed his name to Zhōu Yùshān (周豫山) and took the courtesy name of Zhōu Shùrén (周树人).  Men primarily used a courtesy name after reaching 20 years of age as a symbol of adulthood and respect.  He chose the pen name Lǔ Xùn when writing his first short story, A Madman's Diary, in May of 1918.  He chose Lǔ (鲁) in commemoration of his mother, whose maiden surname was also Lǔ (鲁). Chinese Literature, read Chinese, Lu Xun, learn chinese, chinese fiction, write chinese Lǔ Xùn had two younger brothers: Zhōu Zuòrén (周做人) who was four years younger and Zhōu Jiànrén (周建人) who was five years younger.  While Lǔ Xùn did have a third younger brother, this brother died very young. The Zhou family was well-educated and Lǔ Xùn's paternal grandfather, Zhōu Fúqīng (周福清), had held a post at the prestigious Hanlin Academy (翰林院 Hànlín Yuàn).  However, after his grandfather tried to procure an official post for Lǔ Xùn's father, the family's fortunes began to decline.  His grandfather was arrested for bribery and almost beheaded.  Such crimes in ancient China threatened all the family members since the authorities would commonly punish the whole family for one member's transgressions.  Lǔ Xùn's father had his xiucai (秀才) degree stripped and was banned from taking further exams. Lǔ Xùn was brought up by a servant called Ā Cháng (阿长) whom Lǔ Xùn called Cháng Mā (长妈). Ā Cháng was a very superstitious woman and shared many stories with Lǔ Xùn including those about the Long Hairs (长毛 Cháng Máo).  The Long Hairs were also known as the Taipings and were the rebels of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).  She also gave him a copy of the Classics of Mountains and Seas (山海经 Shān Hǎi Jīng), which included many mythical tales about the world and became his favorite book during childhood. After Zhōu Fúqīng's imprisonment, Lǔ Xùn's father began drinking and became addicted to opium.  He contracted a chronic illness and had traditional Chinese doctors care for him for the last four years of his life.  One of these doctors was called Dr. He Jianchen whose surname appears in two short stories from Nahan (呐喊): The Madman's Diary (狂人日记) and Tomorrow (明天).  From this experience, Lǔ Xùn learned to distrust and even despise traditional Chinese medicine and other superstitions.  In the preface to Nàhǎn he recalls having to pawn the family's valuables in order to buy esoteric medicine prescribed by his father's doctors.  His father eventually died from tuberculosis during Lǔ Xùn's adolescence.  The poor standard of care for his father's chronic illness inspired Lǔ Xùn to study western medicine and eventually led him to Sendai in Japan. Before heading to Japan, Lǔ Xùn studied at Jiangnan Naval Academy (江南水师学堂 Jiāngnán Shuǐshī Xuétáng).  He left after his first year and continued his studies at Jiangnan Army Academy's School of Mining and Railroads (江南陆师学堂附设的矿务铁路学堂 Jiāngnán Lùshī Xuétáng Fùshè de Kuàng Wù Tiělù Xuétáng) for the next three.  He graduated in 1902. After the first opium wars in 1839, China was forcefully opened up to the outside world and the Chinese began to grasp their dire need to modernize.  Not only were the Western powers infringing on Chinese sovereignty, but their neighbor, Japan, also came to exploit China.  As a response, China sent large numbers of students abroad to learn the West's "secrets."  Due to their similar language structure, Japan was an easier place than either America or Europe to study.  In 1902, having successfully obtained a government scholarship, Lǔ Xùn went to Japan to study medicine as a part of a government effort to modernize China.  Lǔ Xùn saw modern medicine as an essential key to modernization. In order to get away from his fellow Chinese students, Lǔ Xùn went to Sendai in the northern part of the main island of Japan where he was the first and only Chinese student.  He enrolled at the Sendai Specialized School of Medical Studies (仙台的医学专门学校 Xiāntái de Yīxué Zhuānmén Xuéxiào).  He stayed there and struggled with his studies for one and a half years before suddenly and angrily walking out of the lecture room, quitting his studies in medicine, and devoting himself to literature instead.  After seeing a public execution of a Chinese spy, he realized from the looks of the surrounding spectators that the Chinese soul needed more healing than their physical body.  He wrote literature to heal the spirit of the Chinese people.  (See 呐喊-自序 for the complete story on why he quit his medical studies.) Lǔ Xùn stayed in Tokyo for three more years while pursuing his interests in literature. In 1909 he returned home to Shàoxīng and found a job teaching.  He stayed in southern China doing various jobs until 1912 when he moved to Běijīng, having found a job with the newly formed government in the Ministry of Education.  The Republic of China had just replaced the Qing Dynasty late in the prior year.  From 1912-1917, Lǔ Xùn found himself quite disillusioned with the Revolution.  While Sun Yat-sen (孙中山 Sūn Zhōngshān) had founded the Republic of China, the military man Yuán Shìkǎi (袁世凯) shortly thereafter usurped power and continued the corrupt ways of the Qing Dynasty before him.  He even declared himself emperor of a new dynasty in 1916 before dying later that same year. Slightly before and then after the death of Yuán Shìkǎi, political activities and movements began to flourish.  These movements are commonly known as The New Culture Movement or The May Fourth Movement.  In August 1917, Qián Xuántóng (钱玄同), a close friend of Lǔ Xùn, urged Lǔ Xùn to write and contribute to their newly formed magazine, The New Youth (新青年 Xīn Qīngnián).  For this magazine Lǔ Xùn wrote some of his most famous short stories such as A Madman's Diary (狂人日记), Kong Yiji (孔已己) , and Medicine ().  In 1922 he collected his short stories into a collection called Nàhǎn (呐喊), known in English by various names.  A Call to Arms, Cheering From the Sidelines, Outcry are a few examples. In 1925, he published his second collection of short stories called Pánghuáng (彷徨), known in English as Wondering or Wondering Where to Turn.  Between 1924 and 1926, Lǔ Xùn published a series of prose poems that were later collected into Wild GrassWild Grass was published in 1927. During the writing of Wondering and Wild Grass, Lǔ Xùn was especially troubled by the current political situation in China.  In addition, he was finding himself increasingly estranged from his younger brother Zhou Zuoren.  While Lǔ Xùn was already married, he had only married out of traditional obligation.  However, during this time he found love in his student, Xu Guangping.  Xu Guangping and Lǔ Xùn met for the first time in 1925 and started living together in 1927. Lǔ Xùn spent most of the rest of his life in the liberal city of Shanghai.  During this time he wrote essays and his famous A Concise History of Chinese Fiction (中國小說史略). Lǔ Xùn died on October 18th, 1936 due to tuberculosis. His remains are interred in Lǔ Xùn Park (鲁迅公园) in Shanghai. Lǔ Xùn and Xu Guangping had one son. Lǔ Xùn gives a great introduction to his stories in his own words in his preface to Nahan, which we provide and introduce below:




    自序 means a preface to one's book.  Here Lǔ Xùn gives us a look into his past and how events in his life have influenced these short stories. For instance, he mentions having to pawn the family's goods in order to buy esoteric prescriptions for his sick father.  Watching his father's illness progressively get worse until his death, led Lǔ Xùn to question Chinese folk medicine throughout his life.  He went to Japan to study Western medicine in order to help change China's reliance on superstition for medicinal cures before ultimately turning to literature instead.  His feelings towards Chinese medicine find their way into two of his stories, Medicine (药) and Tomorrow (明天). He also discusses his inspiration for giving up medicine for literature. Watching a slide show of a captured Chinese man about to be executed for spying incensed him.  It wasn't that Japanese troops were about to execute one of his countrymen, but rather the Chinese surrounding the spy all had blank, wooden looks on their faces.  He felt the dire need to reinvigorate the Chinese population. Lǔ Xùn saw writing as the best means for helping to change the thinking of the Chinese people.  Given China's literary past in which Confucian scholars influenced Chinese thinking immensely, one can understand his motivation for becoming an author. He also discusses why he decided to help China through a new cultural movement.  He asks himself, if a bunch of people were locked in a sealed metal room, in which people were sleeping, had no means of escape, and were doomed to suffocate, would it make any sense to try to wake them.  He could arouse the light sleepers and tell them of their impending doom hoping that they might find a way to save themselves, but this would only cause them to consciously meet their death.  Lǔ Xùn says it is hope, the possibility that someone might find a way out of the sealed room,  that has led him to write these short stories.  While he might think doom is inevitable, he can't say others shouldn't have hope. Nahan - Zixu - Preface 呐 喊-自序
    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!   Visit the Capturing Chinese Catalog

    Sample the book before you buy! Get Your FREE Sample Chapter

    Don't take our word for it.  Take yours.  Download a FREE sample of "A Small Incident." [wp_eStore_free_download_ajax_fancy id=22]

    Enjoy and 加油!


    Almost Out! Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors

    The next book in the Capturing Chinese series is almost out!  We are reading over the final draft of the book before shipping it off for publication.  This book takes a departure from the previous books in our series in that we have used five different Chinese authors.  They are: Lu Xun, Zhu Ziqing, Hu Shi, Zhou Zuoren, and Lin Yutang. We have picked some of the most influential pieces of literature from these five authors and formed a collection of Chinese stories called "Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors". Each one of these authors has played an instrumental role in China and having a grasp of them and their work will lead insight into China's past and present.  Learning Chinese through literature is the backbone of the Capturing Chinese philosophy.  As always, each story includes a short summary, footnotes for difficult vocabulary, pinyin located at the end of each story, as well as an author introduction.  Audio files will also be included free of charge with each purchase of the book.  The audio files will include a male and female native speaker and will be available later this year. Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors has been requested by several Chinese professors to be used in their Chinese literature course.  Each new book in our series quickly becomes our favorite.  Some of the stories are absolute must reads for Chinese students.  The stories are famous throughout China and many make up the course syllabus of young Chinese students in Mainland China. Capturing Chinese Stories: Prose and Poems by Revolutionary Chinese Authors includes the following prose and poems: Zhu Ziqing Haste, Spring, The Silhouette of His Back, The Moonlit Lotus Pond, The White Man — God’s Proud Son, Thinking of Wei Woqing Lu Xun Excerpts from Wild Grass: Epigraph, Autumn Night, Hope, and The Evolution of the Male Sex Hu Shi Mr. Almost Man, My Mother, and In Memory of Zhimo Lin Yutang My Turn at Quitting Smoking Zhou Zuoren The Aging of Ghosts ISBN: 978-0-9842762-3-3 If you would like an email update when the book is available then make sure to join our mailing list by adding your email at the top right corner of this page. Cheers, Kevin and the Capturing Chinese team

    The New Year's Sacrifice Audio Now Available

    We are happy to announce that the accompany audio files for Capturing Chinese: The New Year's Sacrifice are now available for download.  If you have purchased a copy of the book go to the Chinese audio section of our website: Chinese Audio. The instructions are listed on the webpage.  You will need your copy of the book handy.  Use the last (English) word on page 38 (footnote 686) to access the password protected download page.  You will need access to an email account and the ability to download 108.7 MB.  The total run time of the Chinese audio is one and a half hours.  The Chinese MP3s utilize a native female and a native male speaker.  Each speaks a little differently so you can listen to both for extra practice. If you don't yet have a copy of the book, then you can always purchase a copy on Amazon (Capturing Chinese The New Year's Sacrifice: A Chinese Reader with Pinyin, Footnotes, and an English Translation to Help Break into Chinese Literature) or your favorite bookstore.  While your bookstore might not have our books in stock they can special order through Ingram. Enjoy!