The former childhood home of Lu Xun - alternatively, Lu Hsun, but born Zhou Zhangshou on September 25, 1881 - is located at 208 Luxun Zhong Lu Street in Shaoxing, in Zhejiang Province. The former Shaoxing residence and private school buildings of the Zhou family - a once wealthy, well-established Shaoxing family - were quite large, consisting of over a hundred different rooms. The family had fallen on harder times already during Lu Xun's youth, partly due to an accusation of bribery, where Lu Xun's grandfather was accused of having attempted to bribe officials in order to procure a job for his son, the father of Lu Xun, and partly due to Lu Xun's father's ill health.
As a young adult, Lu Xun came to champion the cause of ordinary folk. The budding social conscience in the young writer continued to be strengthened throughout Lu Xun's life. Lu Xun became not only a short story writer, but an editor, translator, essayist and poet, and through it all, a devoted social critic, defending the dignity of ordinary people against what the author felt were the injustices of the wealthier classes, an attitude which earned the author and activist a reputation as a subversive. The author eventually had to seek refuge in Shanghai's French Concession from a hostile Kuomintang that considered his writings seditious.
In 1904, Lu Xun travelled to Sendai, Japan to study medicine at Sendai Medical Academy, which taught Western medicine. Part of Lu Xun's motivation for becoming a medical doctor was the poor state of health of his father, who eventually died of tuberculosis. It is said that on his deathbed, the father urged his son to study Western medicine, since the traditional Chinese medicine, such as it was often practiced by what could only be termed quacks, had not healed his father.
But the same deep feelings of humanity that had motivated the young man to study medicine eventually inspired him to abandon his medical studies, for Lu Xun came to the realization that there were more fundamental problems in Chinese society that needed to be addressed than improving the state of the practice of medicine in his country. Lu Xun came namely to the conclusion that his countrymen were in many respects jaded, and accepted social injustices - even primitive cruelty - as if this were the norm. For these reasons, Lu Xun abandoned the study of medicine in order to devote himself to writing, especially themes that expressed social critique in general, and which defended the comman man in particular.
However, Lu Xun the author and social critic did not devote himself exclusively to defending the common man. As a free-thinking intellectual, Lu Xun was also involved in the emancipation of Chinese women, and he fostered intellectual freedom in general. While Lu Xun was hailed by the Chinese Communist Party for his struggle on behalf of the common man, he was also rebuked, posthumously, for exhibiting bourgeois intellectual tendencies.
Lu Xun is known as the father of modern Chinese literature for good reason: his literary contributions spanned almost the entire gamut of writing genres, save the novel. His clear, forceful writing style was to influence generations of Chinese writers who followed him, and in particular, in the genres in which the author had made his presence especially felt. During the latter part of his life, and during the years immediately following his demise in 1936, Lu Xun was cherished in his home country much more than he was abroad. Given that foreign literature was not in vogue in China at that particular juncture, Lu Xun's contribution to the literature that was popular among his countrymen during this somewhat inward-looking period in China took on even greater significance. In the early 1930s, Lu Xun, who at the time lived in Shanghai's French Concession, rose in prominence among the Shanghai-based League of Left-Wing Writers, quickly becoming its titular head.
The former residence of the Zhou family has been restored by the government of the PRC and today includes five sections: the Residential Exhibition section, which consists of the living quarters of Lu Xun as a child, the living and working quarters of Lu Xun as a young man - including his brief study period at Sendai Medical Academy, and the Zhou family's ancestral residence; the Life & Times Exhibition section, which includes many characters and scenes from the works of Lu Xun as well as exhibits that reflect the marketplace life of the city of Shaoxing during the latter part of the Ming Dynasty (CE 1368-1644) and the early part of the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644-1911), which period corresponds to the Zhou family's rise to prominence in Shaoxing; the Research Exhibition section, which is devoted to research into the author's influence on Chinese culture, both during his lifetime and in the years that followed; the Traditional Commercial section, which depicts various aspects of the traditional commercial district of the city of Shaoxing during the author's lifetime; and the Tourist Service section, which sells reprinted works by the author as well as reprints of photographs as well as odes and greetings from fellow artists, etc.
There are a number of noteworthy sites within the Former Residence of Lu Xun that are of particular interest. These include the Sanwei Study, Baicao Garden, the Tai Gate of the Zhou Family, Tugu Temple, Changqing Temple, Tazi Bridge, and the Xianheng Wine Shop. In 2004, the city of Shaoxing unveiled the Lu Xun Memorial Building, which is a special structure built on the concept of "old house, new space" and which is, as the concept suggests, at once modern and traditional.
There is also a small river, the Qiantang, that glides past the Former Residence of Lu Xun and which offers contemplative walks alongside it. Shaoxing is in fact a charming city of rivers and canals, stone-arched bridges, and of course boats, boats, and more boats!