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18-21.

Zhao Yannian (1924-2014)
Illustrations to the Short Story The True Story of Ah Q by Lu Xun (4 of 60 works)
1980
Woodblock prints
20 x 13 cm

The True Story of Ah Q is Lu Xun’s best-known work.  Written in the vernacular and published serially between 1921-22, it takes places during the Xinhai Revolution (1911), which ended the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).  Ah Q represented all that Lu Xun saw as backward, despicable and self-absorbed in traditional Chinese society. The foreign letter in Ah Q’s name may refer to the May Fourth Movement, advocating western ideas, or possibly the queue required for Chinese men under the Manchu rulers.

 

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhayn102, 108, 143, 160

22.

Gu Yuan (1919-96)
Xiang Lin’s Wife, an Illustration to the Short Story ‘New Year’s Sacrifice’ by Lu Xun 
1956
Woodblock print
39 x 26 cm

Many artists have portrayed the principal character of New Year’s Sacrifice, Lu Xun’s  scathing indictment of female subordination in traditional Chinese society.  She is not even referred to by name, only as Xiang Lin’s Wife. A young widow, she is kidnapped by her former in-laws and forced to re-marry for their financial benefit.  Her husband and son by the second marriage both die, leaving her traumatized and unwelcome as an unlucky widow, and she herself dies on New Year’s Eve.

 

Muban Educational Trust registration number guvyv008

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23.

Chen Zunsan (b. 1929)
Xiang Lin’s Wife, an Illustration to the Short Story ‘New Year’s Sacrifice’
by Lu Xun 
1981
Woodblock print
42 x 33 cm

Chen Zunsan studied in the Soviet Union during the 1950s, where he was known for illustrating the stories of Anton Chekhov. Back in China, he was an illustrator of lianhuanhua—serial picture books important in early literacy and propaganda campaigns, and still popular today. He made this grim portrayal of Xiang Lin’s wife in 1981, showing the continuing relevance of Lu Xun’s critique of women’s inequality, superstition and people’s callousness. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number chezs001

24.

Zhao Zongzao (b. 1931)
Xiang Lin’s Wife, an Illustration to the Short Story ‘New Year’s Sacrifice’ by Lu Xun 
1982
Woodblock print
32 x 23 cm

Zhao Zongzao’s portrait of Xiang Lin’s wife is a very sympathetic one.  The contrasting black and white areas effectively express the age and angst of his subject. Unlike the detailed view of the village in the previous print (no. 23), Zhao marks out the scene with just a few cuts.  Zhao Zongzao’s oeuvre displays a remarkable range of styles and subjects, from works like this to colourful propaganda scenes and evocative, spiritual landscapes (nos. 65-69).  

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhazz043

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25.

Yan Han (1916-2011)
An Illustration Lu Xun’s Short Story Kong Yiji
1973
Woodblock print
24 x 14 cm

In China’s traditional education system, advancement depended on passing official exams.  Kong Yiji is a failed scholar, but refuses to do menial work, stealing to avoid starvation.  Someone he stole from broke his legs, and here he walks on his hands to his regular tavern. Kong Yiji is mocked and scorned by the other customers.  The story expresses Lu Xun’s rejection of the imperial examinations, people’s time-wasting efforts to pass them, and people’s indifference to the sad plight of others.

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanhv015

26.

Zhao Yannian (1924-2014)
An Illustration Lu Xun’s Short Story Kong Yiji
1975
Woodblock print
17 x 13 cm

Kong Yiji drinks at the Xianheng wine tavern in the fictional town of Luzhen, where Lu Xun set many stories. The narrator describes the layout of the tavern, the available drinks and snacks, and several of the customers. Kong Yiji, with grizzly beard and in a worn out, dirty robe, is the only one who stands, while drinking his usual bowl or two of warm wine with anise beans—whatever he can afford or get on credit.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number zhayn007

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27.

Yang Keyang (1914-2010)
Journey to Lu Xun’s Hometown, no.2, the Xianheng Restaurant
1986
Woodblock print
16 x 21 cm

Luzhen, where several stories are set, is the fictionalized version of Lu Xun’s hometown of Shaoxing, a city in Zhejiang province. Yang Keyang made a series of prints about Shaoxing, including this image of the tavern in Kong Yiji (nos. 25,26).  The wineshop is said to have been established originally in the 1880s, but closed after a few years.  It is now a famous tourist spot, because of Lu Xun’s story. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanky022

28.

Yang Feng (b. 1960)
The Fable of a Shaoxing Wine Shop
1996
Woodblock print
56 x 85 cm

This print, too, shows the Xianheng Tavern, but conjures a different world from Yang Keyang’s nostalgic scene (no. 27).  Characteristically for Yang Feng (no. 13), the image is full of specific references, some being recognizable characters, others fantastic or obscure. Kong Yiji (nos. 25,26) stands beside Lu Xun, left of the central tavern sign. Xiang Lin’s wife (nos. 22-24) is on the right, holding the walking stick. The text panels are mostly from Lu Xun’s Dawn Blossoms Gathered at Dusk.

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanfv002

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29-30.

Wu Duanduan (b. 1955)
Illustrations to the Play Tea House by Lao She
1996
Woodblock prints
16 x 22 cm
40 x 21 cm

Lao She’s (1899-1966) play is set against the backdrop of a teahouse in old Beijing.  It takes place in three acts: 1898, a year of reform and subsequent crackdown, 20 years later in the warlord era of the early Republic, and 30 years after that, near the end of the Civil War. The many characters mirror social turmoil and people’s desperate struggle for survival. The play ends with the teahouse manager’s suicide. Lao She himself committed suicide in 1966.

Muban Educational Trust registration number wuvdd005, 006

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