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Lu Xun the painter
17/8/2006 9:30

Shanghai Daily

Everyone identifies him as a great writer, thinker, critic and revolutionary. Few, however, might know that Lu Xun was actually also expert at painting, calligraphy and even seal-cutting.

Lu (1881-1936), whose real name was Zhou Shuren, has influenced generations of Chinese people with his meaningful and inspiring stories, poetry and essays. His stories have been widely published, translated into dozens of foreign languages, and are textbook must-haves for high school students.

Lu's first story, "A Madman's Diary," is considered the first article written in modern Chinese. He played a seminal role in the world of Chinese literature in the 20th century, which earned him the title of "father of modern Chinese literature."

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his death, Shanghai Culture Publishing House has recently released a book of Lu's artwork, in memory of the great man's contribution and achievements in the field of fine arts.

The book, "Painter Lu Xun," features about 154 pieces of his artworks, collected and compiled by Wang Xirong, vice director of the Shanghai Lu Xun Museum.

"The idea, in fact, has haunted me for a long time, especially when I talked with some foreign scholars. They would always ask me 'Lu Xun often supported the fine arts, so did he have any art pieces of his own'?" Wang says. "Their words reminded me that I have seen a lot of Lu's scripts. And I think some of them are really nice, so I decide to publish a book about his paintings and other works.

"I think, through all these art pieces, people can know about Lu more thoroughly," he adds.

Thanks to his professionalism and his great sensitivity towards Lu - both his life and literature - it was not difficult for Wang to compile the book.

"I have been engaged in all kinds of studies into Lu since 1976," he explains. "The material for the book was collected by me through all those years, and many friends helped me, too.

"For example, Qiu Shixiong, curator of the Lu Xun Memorial in Shaoxing (Lu's hometown), provided a model for an old house which was designed by Lu. What a pity that there is no manuscript for it, so I couldn't put it in the book," Wang says regretfully. "The house was devised for Lu's cousin, Li Xinnong, and his offspring have preserved it to this day."

Zhou Yingyan, editor of the book at the Shanghai Culture Publishing House, couldn't agree more.

"During the process of revising the content, luckily, we also obtained some new things, such as a seal with the word 'xun' (Lu's first name), cut in ancient writing," Zhou reveals. "On the whole, Lu's art includes cover designs, seal-cutting, line drawing and traditional Chinese painting."

Although Lu didn't work much on traditional paintings, his works are certainly not overshadowed by those masterpieces, especially "Flourish Like Pine."

A pine is usually thin, with sparse leaves, so naming it "flourish" may sound a bit ridiculous, but together with the background viewers might discover the real meaning behind it.

"What surprises me are Lu's art skills, especially his charcoal painting," says Wang. "I like the owl he painted most and the small picture called 'Wild Grass'."

"Lu's delicate and lifelike design with concise lines amaze me most," Zhou says. "Even some simple sketches still have their spice. Take 'A Neonatal Jujube' for instance. Only several strokes show a vivid Chinese date tree, with branches and leaves shaking, clean and natural. You can feel a sort of tranquility in it."

According to Zhou, "Painter Lu Xun" finished binding on Monday, and 5,000 copies of the first set will be published. It will be available on the shelves of many bookstores, such as Shanghai Book City.

To mark the anniversary, Wang says that the Shanghai Lu Xun Museum will hold a series of commemorative events, including an international academic seminar, an exhibition, a writing competition as well as the publication of several other books.

Shanghai Lu Xun Museum

Opening hours: 9am-5pm

Address: 200 Tian'ai Rd (inside Lu Xun Park)

Admission: 8 yuan for adults, 4 yuan for students

The former residence of Lu Xun in Shanghai

Opening hours: 9am-4pm

Address: Bldg 9, 132 Shanyin Rd

Admission: 8 yuan


Shanghai Daily