“Po e'sheng lun” (Toward a refutation of malevolent voices) is an essay from the formative period of the famous Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881-1936), penned in Tokyo in the classical Chinese language, and first published in December of 1908 (issue no. 8 of Henan, a soon-to-be-banned journal run by Chinese students in Japan). In many ways it is the most extraordinary of the essays of his Japan period, in that it defends a number of markedly unpopular positions. Lu Xun begins by painting a dark vision of the intellectual and political climes in China at the time of this writing, depicting China as “corroded at the core and wavering spiritually” with all channels for discussion blocked (by the control of the Qing dynasty at home) and the people's minds deluded by the rash doctrines of demagogues and opportunists (active abroad). The author then states his belief that the nation's hope lies in the sincerity and dedication of her intellectuals, especially those who have had experience abroad. By giving voice to their heartfelt sentiments (xinsheng), they may still be able to break through the walls of darkness and silence, and deliver the nation from falsehood and chicanery. But he qualifies this by stressing the limited number of persons with unmitigatedly sincere intention. He ultimately takes China's scholar-gentry to task for having a far greater degree of moral culpability in the present situation than they are willing to admit, rather than blaming it all on the corruption of the dynasty or the avarice of foreign aggressors. In the course of the same argument, he springs to the defense of Buddhism, myth, and religious observances, arguing that those members of the gentry who, presenting themselves as enlightened members of a modern intelligentsia, attack Buddhism as superstition, and superstition as the root of China's backwardness, are merely attempting to foist the blame they ought rightly take themselves onto someone else's shoulders. He further excoriates the simplistic popular trends toward nationalism as bestial jingoism and chauvinism. He ends by exhorting the Chinese to promote the cause of freedom in other countries, as did Byron in aiding the Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Skip Nav Destination
Lu Xun; Toward a Refutation of Malevolent Voices. boundary 2 1 May 2011; 38 (2): 39–62. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-1301257
Download citation file: