Lu Xun and Evolution

By James Reeve Pusey

Subjects: Chinese Studies
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology
Paperback : 9780791436486, 249 pages, January 1998
Hardcover : 9780791436479, 249 pages, January 1998

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Table of contents

A Necessary Preface


1. A Mentor Once Removed

2. The Pen, Not the Scalpel or the Sword

3. To Change Men's Minds

4. Deaf Ears

5. The Riddle of the Universe

6. The History of Mankind

7. On Human Nature

8. Evolution and Ethics Again

9. The Evolution of Lu Xun

Pseudoscience to the Rescue

Lu Xun in the People's Republic

The Myth of Lu Xun's Evolution

The Real Lu Xun

Abbreviations Used in Notes





Lu Xun (1881-1936), China's greatest modern writer, remains important today both as an official icon and a patron saint of dissent. This book deals with Lu Xun's struggle to make sense of the "Darwinian Revolution." It illuminates not only Lu Xun's thought, but also the current crisis in Chinese thought caused by the loss of faith in Marxism.


This book studies one of the most important figures in modern Chinese intellectual history, China's greatest modern writer, Lu Xun (1881-1936). His trenchant criticisms of the China of his day still speak directly to what can be called, without hyperbole, the current crisis in philosophical and political thought in the People's Republic. It is also a study of a non-Western intellectual's struggle--in a time of crisis--to make practical sense of the "Darwinian Revolution," a revolution not limited to the West.

Although Lu Xun died more than sixty years ago, his work is still alive in China (more so than any American writer of the 1920s and 1930s is in the United States). He is viewed paradoxically as both an official icon and as a patron saint of dissent. This book is, therefore, about Lu Xun both in his lifetime and in his second lifetime--and it looks to his third. But it is not just about Lu Xun. It is about Lu Xun and evolution. As a philosophical critique of Lu Xun's thought, it looks to Lu Xun's struggle to make practical sense of evolution, a contradiction that forces "either/or" questions on the Chinese, and on us all.

James Reeve Pusey is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Bucknell University. His previous work includes China and Charles Darwin and Wu Han: Attacking the Present Through the Past.


"This is a very courageous interpretation of Lu Xun, the most important and influential literary and social critic of modern China. Pusey takes the reader through a careful reading and discussion of Lu Xun's works and scholarship about him to establish 'the real Lu Xun' in contrast to the one enshrined in official Chinese ideology since the mid-1930s. To establish Lu Xun's relationship to Darwinian thought, Pusey also analyzes not only the writings of Darwin but also such thinkers as Ernst Haeckel, Konrad Lorenz, Stephen Jay Gould, and Edward O. Wilson who have constructed various 'ethics' upon Darwinian assumptions. No one knows as much about Darwinism in China as Pusey and he puts it to good use here. " -- Hoyt Cleveland Tillman, Arizona State University