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“Gathering Vetch” by Lu Xun

Renarrating History, Between Orality and Writing

Gaia Perini    Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna; Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italia    



The present article focuses on a short story written by Lu Xun in 1935, «Gathering Vetch», later included in Gushi Xinbian (Old Tales Retold). In this text the author has been faithful to the official biography of the two legendary hermits Boyi and Shuqi, as it was recorded by Sima Qian and commented by Confucius, while on the other hand he could not fail to contaminate it with his irreverent wit, as well as with a variety of unmistakably modern narrative devices. Through a close reading of this single work, the article aims at analyzing Lu Xun’s ambivalent yet vital relationship with the Chinese tradition and folklore; it shows how the writer mingled the most authoritative historical texts (zhengshi) with the unofficial history (yeshi) and oral culture. This mixture between orality and the sacred written word of the Classics was not intended to demystify the canon for the sheer pleasure of it; rather, as this article tries to prove, Lu Xun engaged in a profound and radical rethinking of the Chinese past by retelling it in a new way.

Aug. 29, 2023
May 2, 2023
Dec. 23, 2022

Keywords: Gushi XinbianRewriting historyCai WeiLu XunSima Qian

Copyright: © 2023 Gaia Perini. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.