This book opens up three new topics in modern Chinese literary history: the intimate lives of Lu Xun and Xu Guangping as a couple; real and imagined love-letters in modern Chinese literature; and concepts of privacy in China. The scandalous affair between modern China's greatest writer and his former student is revealed in their letters to each other between 1925 and 1929. Publication of the letters in a heavily edited version in 1933 was intended partly to profit from a current trend for literary couples to publish their private letters, but another reason was to assert control over their love story, taking it away from the gossip-mongers. The biographies in Part I, based on the unedited letters, reveal such hitherto neglected information as Xu Guangping's early tendencies towards lesbianism; her gender reversal games and Lu Xun's willing participation in them; Xu Guangping's two early attempts at suicide; and Lu Xun's attempts to play down Xu Guangping's political activism and to impress readers with his own militancy. Part II shows how Lu Xun chose to publish their edited letters in the context of current Chinese epistolary fiction and love-letters published by their authors.
Part III provides unique evidence on the nature of privacy in modern China through a comparison between the unedited and edited correspondence. Textual evidence shows their intimate secrets about their affairs, their bodies, and their domestic lives; their fear of gossip; their longing for a secluded life together; and their ambivalent attitudes towards the traditional conflict between public service and private or selfish interests. Although it has sometimes been claimed that Chinese culture lacks a sense of privacy, this study reveals the contents, functions, and values of privacy in the early twentieth century.
Publisher: Oxford University Press