Lu Xun's real story gets wrecking ball: Badaowan Hutong

17:05, January 28, 2010      

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Lu Xun once lived here. Photo: Yin Yeping

It might not be Bloomsbury, but the some¬what ramshackle Badaowan was one of the capital's few literature salons from the early 20th century. On the corner of Zhao Dengyu Lu, and surrounded by half-broken hutong nearby, Badaowan is in sad danger of losing what remains of its historical and cultural identity.

The few remaining residents are still waiting to reach an agreement with authori¬ties on financial compensation. It's hard to tell that this used to be the previous home of Lu Xun and his family – and it may soon be impossible to ever know. The hutong is scheduled for demolition in May.

No. 11: the family Lu

Lu Xun is one of the most famous Chi¬nese writers of the 20th century, described by his UK publisher Penguin as "the bench¬mark for all contemporary Chinese writers."Born in Shaoxing in 1881, Lu Xun was the pen name of Zhou Shuren, who moved to the siheyuan at No. 11 a year after publishing his classic Diary of a Madman.

Here he lived in classic three-generations-under-one roof style with his mother, broth¬ers and brother-in-law as well as his nephew, staying in rooms in the front, where he ac¬complished many great pieces including The True Story of Ah Q, and Call of Arms, satirical fiction that was highly critical of various cor¬rupt customs and feudal codes of ethics that once permeated China. During this time, Lu and his brother Zhou Zuoren also worked together to consolidate the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal 1919 May Fourth Movement.

Badaowan was much visited by influ¬ential scholars such as Cai Yuanpei, Yu Dafu, and Hu Shi. "From research into women and children to sexual psychology, Eastern culture and Ancient Greece, it was the birthplace of much of the academic thought of that time,"Sun Yu, director of the Lu Xun Museum, told Lifestyle. In Sun's opinion, the hutong was one of the most important salons in Beijing: "Its historical and cultural value is no less than any other local salon in the city,"he believes.

Lu and his brother fell out over Zhou's wife which ended with Lu moving; the two brothers seldom spoke again. Because of his revolutionary stance against corruption and feudalism, Lu went on to become a glori¬fied figure under Mao and after his death in 1936, become a national icon during the Cultural Revolution (1966- 76). Only now has his work and legacy been re-assessed from the distortions of that time and an acclaimed new translation of his works was recently published by Penguin.

The ups and down of Zhou Zuoren

Zhou Zuoren continued to occupy his courtyard home until his death 48 years later. Zhou enjoyed a similar status as Lu, until his name was blemished during the Japanese occupation of Beijing. In 1941, he was appointed Commissioner of Educa¬tion by the Wang Jingwei government and during his time in power set about making changes to the house, including the west-wing room where Lu wrote Ah Q and his former dwellings in the back ,which he con¬verted into a Japanese-style bedroom. Zhou also purchased No.30 opposite and built a private garage there.

But his choice to collaborate with the Japanese brought him short-lived success. He was imprisoned in Nanjing by the Kuomintang after the Japanese withdrew, in 1945. His property, including the siheyuan, was confiscated but in 1949, Zhou returned to Beijing where he had to share his beloved property with families who'd moved in dur¬ing the interim. Zhou continued to work on his literary legacy, translating Japanese and Greek literature from 1950 to 1966; many of these, such as the Dialogues of Lucian, con¬tinue to be the standard translations today. Sadly, a peaceful end was to elude Zhou as he was one of the many tortured and killed in the tumult of the Cultural Revolution.

There goes the neighborhood

Nowadays, No. 11 looks like it has been ransacked but Li, an old woman who has lived here 40 years, speaks passionately about its history. She described Zhou was still there when she moved in, and the lilac trees planted by Lu Xun were part of the front yard. So, too, was Zhang Shuzhen, the family servant. "She was the last of the Zhou household and every time someone came here in search of the Zhou name, she was their guide. She died in 2009,"Li said.

At present, "Nothing has been confirmed by the authority of Xicheng district conern¬ing demolition,"said one resident. A 50-year old lady who lives in No. 30, pointed at Zhou's former garage and said, "The groove was still there when I was young and I often fell into it… there have been so many people moving in and out that almost 80 percent of them I've never known."

While Badaowan has long been on the demolition list to be integrated into the No.35 middle school campus, one ray of hope remains. "There is a possibility that No.11 will be kept for the future school li-brary,"said Sun Yu, "We hoped that it could be a part of the Lu Xun Museum but due to financial matters, it might not become true."

Source: Global Times
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