Week 6: Packet 2

One part of the reading that really stood out to me this week was the struggle between the collective vs the individual. For thousands of years, China had mainly been influenced by the Confucian model of the collective or the idea that every person was connected by varying degrees. However, Marxist scholars like Mao Zedong and Chen Duxiu stressed the importance of the individual, especially in the western dominated international scene. In their eyes, the only way that China could possibly move forward was by rejecting the old, traditional ways of thinking and embracing more new, modern viewpoints. From what I have learned about Chinese history so far, I can understand why these young revolutionaries would want to reform the old system. After all, the old system, for all that it preached of togetherness, had only ever served to create division in China, as Dr. D’Haeseleer included in her “why does this matter” section. Why not reform this broken way of living and create a new way one, where only modern ideals of individualism and modernity are upheld? However, I struggled to connect these ideas with the reading I did in The Communist Manifesto. From what I read in the marked sections, it seemed like the manifesto was advocating for a more community-oriented environment, rather than the other way around. For instance, on page 53, Marx complains that “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” This sentiment appears to favor the collectivist spirit of Confucianism and reject the individualism that Mao and Chen valued so highly. However, I could have misunderstood the text, as I was only able to read the marked sections.

Another point of interest for me was the short story Diary of a Madman, which follows the tale of a man who is convinced that his village (and society) is made up entirely of cannibals. I found this story interesting and enjoyable, but I was unable to understand its connection to what was happening in China at that time. My best interpretation of it was that Lu Xun was using this story to make a point about the backwards nature of Chinese society at the time. However, this is assuming that the story should be taken at face value and that the muses of the paranoid narrator are reliable. Lu Xun never confirms that the narrator is not actually a madman. Although this does make the story even harder to analyze, I personally quite enjoyed this open-ended style of writing. Even though I cannot say that I fully understand Diary of a Madman, I am at least able to say that I read some good writing!

Works Cited

Chapter 12 Summary

Chapter 13 Summary

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto: The sesquicentennial edition with an introduction by Martin Malia. Signet Classic. Penguin, New York, 1998. (PDF)

Lu Xun, “Diary of a madman”. Translated by William A. Lyell. In Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1990.