Lu Xun’s Commentary On Traditional Chinese Social Hierarchies

799 words - 4 pages

When Lu Xun was born, Chinese society had been following the same traditions for generations. A pillar of these traditions, strict social hierarchies particularly oppressed women. Instead of having a say in their lives, they were subject to their father, their husbands, their husband’s family, and then even to their sons. Marriages were arranged, and in the event of the death of a husband, the woman would be expected to remain chaste even to the extent of choosing suicide over remarriage. Social hierarchies also restricted the intermingling of classes with strict social rituals separating the elite from the common. During Lu Xun’s early years, however, society had begun to get restless, and many pushed for change. At the forefront of the changing tides in Chinese society, Lu Xun advocated for change in the ancient social hierarchies that had directed Chinese society for generations in his stories “My Old Home” and “New Year’s Sacrifice” which specifically responded to the injustices of the traditional system against women and the arbitrariness of the separation between classes that the hierarchical system imposed.
Lu Xun lived during what came to be known in China as the Republican period. During this period, China underwent major social changes. An emerging iconoclastic intellectual class, one of the most important societal shifts, began to attack traditional Chinese institutions through literature. Lu Xun, a prime example of this intellectual class, targeted traditional social hierarchies and their effects on the lives of women and the separate classes. During the May Fourth Movement, part of the Republican Period, women’s rights advocates sprung up around China pushing for marriage rights for women to choose their husbands as opposed to being forced to follow the traditional system of arranged marriages. Additionally, a new Chinese middle class had begun to emerge, breaking up traditional class boundaries.
In Lu Xun’s story “New Year’s Sacrifice” he furthered the May Fourth Movement by retelling the tragic life of his family’s servant, Hsiang Lin’s wife. Each turning point of Hsiang Lin’s wife’s life toward her tragic end was instigated by Chinese tradition. Hsiang Lin’s wife had served in Lu Xun’s house, but Chinese tradition dictated that she was subject to her late husband’s family. Her mother-in-law did not allow her to pursue a...

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