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    Capturing Chinese — Yu Dafu

    Learn Chinese Through Stories: Yu Dafu's Sinking

    Yu Dafu is our author of the week. His Chinese name is 郁达夫 (Yù Dáfū). He was born December 7, 1896 near Hangzhou and died in Sumatra in 1945.  His father died when he was only three years old and hence his family struggled.  Early loss of a father seems to be common among Chinese writers at this time.  Other such authors are Lao She, Lu Xun, and Ding Ling. He was lucky to secure a scholarship so received a standard education. While Yu Dafu went to university in Hangzhou, he was quickly expelled for protests and then went to Tokyo continued his studies. In Tokyo, he met other Chinese intellectuals and together in 1921 they created the Creation Society (創造社) whose goals were to promote modern Chinese literature written in the vernacular Chinese. Yu Dafu became famous in 1921 (while still in Japan) after the publication of Chénlún 沉淪, known in English as Sinking. Sinking was published in the Creation Society's newsletter (创造季刊) and instantly pushed his society and him into fame. Sinking is also the a name of his collection of short stories which also includes Moving South and Silver-Grey Death. During the Sino-Japanese War, Yu Dafu worked in Hangzhou as an anti-Japanese propagandist.  In 1938 he went to work as a literary editor for a newspaper in Singapore.  When the Japanese invaded Singapore, he fled to Indonesia under a different identity.  However, once his identity was found to be Yu Dafu, the anti-Japanese propagandist, he was most likely killed by the Japanese army. Sinking is about a young Chinese man pursuing a college education in Japan at the behest of his parents.  In Japan he constantly feels uncomfortable and uneasy due to being alien, being Chinese.  The story frequently has long monologues highlighting the young man's aloneness.  With its frank descriptions of sex as well as an annoyance with the current Chinese government, Yu Dafu's Sinking became a hit. Similar to Lu Xun, Yu Dafu never could seem to break past the short story.  He only wrote short stories, novellas in addition to poetry, literary criticism, and essays. This week we introduce Yu Dafu's Sinking for the intermediate/advanced student of Chinese literature.  While modern Chinese literature can be difficult, we believe with confidence and determination breaking into Chinese literature can be done.  Our Learn Chinese Through Stories series features weekly/biweekly installments of famous Chinese authors of modern Chinese literature. Enjoy and until next week, 加油! Learn Chinese Through Stories: Yu Dafu's Sinking 郁达夫 《沉淪》