Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sendai and Lu Xun

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Sendai or Sendai shi(仙台市) was hit by earthquake on 11 March 2011, with a magnitude of 9.0 earthquake, and the subsequent major tsunami followed also hit Sendai, without causing much damage in the center. In other areas however, especially on the coastal area including Sendai Airport major damage were reported. The tsunami reportedly reached as far as Wakabayashi Ward Office, 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) from the coastline.

Sendai, believe or not, was the place I nearly visit on my recent trip to Japan. It was abandoned due to tight schedule of the plan. I am a greedy traveler, maximize my travel with minimize resources and time. It is lucky that the maximization cannot be capitalized during the recent trip, and I avoid the earthquake in Sendai and Tokyo. Sendai is the place that my favorite author, Lu Xun once studied, a place of great interest to me.....

History of Sendai city

The city was founded in 1600 by the daimyo Date Masamune, and is well known by its nickname, the City of Trees (杜の都 Mori no Miyako?); there are about 60 zelkova trees on Jōzenji Street (定禅寺通 Jōzenji dōri?) and Aoba Street (青葉通 Aoba dōri?).
Although the Sendai area was inhabited as early as 20,000 years ago, the history of Sendai as a city begins from 1600, when the daimyo Date Masamune relocated to Sendai.
Masamune was not happy with his previous stronghold, Iwadeyama. Iwadeyama was located to the north of his territories and was also difficult to access from Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Sendai was an ideal location, placed in the center of Masamune's newly defined territories, upon a major road from Edo, and near the sea. Tokugawa Ieyasu gave Masamune permission to build a new castle in Aobayama, Sendai after the Battle of Sekigahara. Aobayama was the location of a castle used by the previous ruler of the Sendai area. At this time, Sendai was written as 千代 (literally means "a thousand generations"), because a temple with a thousand buddha statues (千体 sentai) used to be located in Aobayama. Masamune changed the kanji to 仙台 (literally means "hermit on a platform"). The kanji was taken from a Chinese poem that praised a palace created by the Emperor Wen of Han China, comparing it to a mythical palace in the Kunlun Mountains. It is said that Masamune chose this kanji so the castle would prosper as long as a mountain inhabited by an immortal hermit. Masamune ordered the construction of Sendai Castle in December 1600 and the construction of the town of Sendai in 1601. The gridlocked roads in present-day central Sendai are based upon his plans.
Sendai was incorporated as a city on April 1, 1889, as a result of the abolition of the Han system. The City became a designated city on April 1, 1989. The city's population exceeded one million in 1999.
Sendai became known as The City of Trees (杜の都 Mori no Miyako) at least before World War II. This was because the Sendai han encouraged residents to plant trees in their yards. As a result, many houses, temples, and shrines in central Sendai had household forests (屋敷林 yashikirin), which were used as resources for wood and other everyday materials. Air raids during World War II destroyed much of the greenery, and more was lost during the post-war rehabilitation and growth. Sendai is still well known as The City of Trees, but this is mainly because of massive efforts to restore greenery in the city.
(source: wikipedia)

Sendai and Date Masumune(伊達政宗)

But Sendai, which may not be a tourist city, as there is little historical sites in the city, they said the most famous sight in Sendai is the Sendai station. The two historical sites to remind tourists of the city founder,Date Masumune(伊達政宗), are

1. Aoba Castle (青葉城; Aoba-jō). Often recommended by locals, but what they mean is the site of the old castle - there's actually only a replica of a gate and a statue of the founder of the city, Date Masumune. However, the ruins of Aoba Castle is the theme of a famous poem written by Doi Bansui called 'Kojo no Tsuki' - 'The Moon over the desolate castle'. In the poem, the author touchingly invites us to reflect on the impermanence of all life, which is represented by the ruins of the once great castle caught in the light of the full moon. The poem has been put to music and is famous throughout Japan.

2. Sendai Castle Ruins (仙台城跡). This is a famous place to visit for many tourists. There is a statue of Masamune Date (伊達政宗)who built the basis of Sendai.

Sendai and Lu Xun(鲁迅)

But for tourists who are interested in Chinese literature, another famous personality is Lu Xun(鲁迅), also known as Zhou Shuren周樹人(b1881 - d1936), a famous Chinese author who was related to the May Forth Movement. A monument was at Sendai City Museum (仙台市博物館 Sendai-shi Hakubutsukan) that commemorates the Chinese writer Lu Xun(鲁迅),father of modern Chinese literature, who studied at Tohoku University [东北大学], Sendai in 1904-1906. Another statue of Lu Xun can be found in the Tohoku University Katahira Campus, where Lu Xun studied medical science.

Lu Xun was a government scholar of Manchu government, studied Japanese language in Tokyo, where he was associated with the anti- Manchu struggle. Tokyo had several specialized schools of medical studies, but Lu Xun chose a place, Sendai, that was hundreds of miles in the north, extremely cold in winter and totally removed from contact with the Chinese student movement at Tokyo.

Sendai was the military base of The 2nd Infantry Division (歩兵第二師団 Hohei daini shidan), which was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call-sign was Courageous Division (勇兵団 Yū-heidan).The 2nd Infantry Division was formed in Sendai, Miyagi in January 1871 as the Sendai Garrison (仙台鎮台, Sendai chindai), one of six regional commands created in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Army. The Sendai Garrison had responsibility for northern region of Honshū (Tohoku district), ranging from Fukushima Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture. The six regional commands were transformed into divisions under the army reorganization of 14 May 1888. The headquarters of the 2nd Division was located in the Ni-no-maru of Sendai Castle, where the campus of Tohoku University is now located. As one of the oldest Divisions in the Imperial Japanese Army, the 2nd Division saw combat in the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, where it gained a reputation for excellence in night operations.

Xenophobia was very high in Sendai. In this highly charged political atmosphere, the famous news slide incident took place, an incident that decisively changed the course of Lu Xun's life. Lu Xun was the first and only Chinese student to study in Sendai, a small town that gave Lu Xun a friendly welcome. In contrast to racial discrimination elsewhere against the Chinese, residents of Sendai treated him warmly, fearing even to lose him to other cities.

Lu Xun left for Sendai Medical Academy in 1904 at the age of 23 and gained a minor reputation there as the first foreign student of the college. At the school he struck up a close student-mentor relationship with lecturer Fujino Genkurou (藤野厳九郎); Lu Xun would recall his mentor respectfully and affectionately in an essay "Mr Fujino" in the memoirs in Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk. (Incidentally, Fujino would repay the respect with an obituary essay on Lu Xun's death, in 1937.) Mr. Fujino Gamkulo (1874—1945), a native of Fukui County, Japan, was a teacher at the Sendai Medical School where Lu Xun studied between April of 1902 and the summer of 1906. Mr. Fujino gave him a lot of help.

However, in March 1906, Lu Xun abruptly terminated his pursuit of the degree and left the college.

Lu Xun, in his well-known Preface to Nahan (吶喊), Call to Arms), the first collection of his short stories, tells the story of why he gave up completing his medical education at Sendai. One day after class, one of his Japanese instructors screened a lantern slide documenting the imminent execution of an alleged Chinese spy during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). Lu Xun was shocked by the complete apathy of the Chinese onlookers; he decided it was more important to cure his compatriots' spiritual ills rather than their physical diseases.
"At the time, I hadn't seen any of my fellow Chinese in a long time, but one day some of them showed up in a slide. One, with his hands tied behind him, was in the middle of the picture; the others were gathered around him. Physically, they were as strong and healthy as anyone could ask, but their expressions revealed all too clearly that spiritually they were calloused and numb. According to the caption, the Chinese whose hands were bound had been spying on the Japanese military for the Russians. He was about to be decapitated as a 'public example.' The other Chinese gathered around him had come to enjoy the spectacle." (Lyell , pp 23).

The actual extract in Chinese was as follow:-



The incident was the famous news slide incident which provided transformation for Lu Xun to change from medical study to literature, to call for awakening of the Chinese masses, a mental revolution inline with the time of Chinese revolution to overthrow Manchu.

The story of Lu Xun’s life in Japan has long fascinated Japanese readers as a means of understanding his transformation into China’s greatest modern writer. Lu Xun’s descriptions of his time in Japan appeal to Japanese readers not only because of his famous epiphany following the slide incident, but also because of the countervailing narrative of Lu Xun’s relationship with his former anatomy teacher and mentor at medical school, Professor Fujino Genkuro (1874-1945).

A group of private citizens interested in Lu Xun got together to research materials from Lu Xun's days in the city of Sendai, where he had attended medical school, a marvelous example of just how popular he has become.

Sendai, despite the news slide incident, and Lu Xun was anti Japanese militarism; still gave honor to him, for being a famous alumni of Tohoku University (东北大学)and once a resident of Sendai city. This reflected that Sendai is always friendly to Lu Xun and Chinese people,regardless of your political inclination. Lu Xun is the famous son of Sendai, and Tohoku University (東北大学).

Sendai provided a good memory for sensei(先生)-gakusei(学生) or seito(生徒)relationship of Professor Fujino Genkuro and Lu Xun, the Japanese and Chinese cherish the famous historical relationship.

In fact the Japanese - Chinese relationship traced long into history, since Tang dynasty and The Taika Reforms (大化の改新 Taika no Kaishin) period. There was cultural interaction between the two countries. During the time, China was the sensei and Japan was a gakusei. After the Meiji Reform, Japan adopted western technology and reform, many students from China were sent to Japan, Japan was the sensei, and China was the gakusei. Many Japanese support the China revolution headed by Dr Sun Yat Sen. If not because of the militarism in Japan politic which started wars against China and its neighboring countries. Japan and China can always be a friendly nations. The relationship started from the long historical past. Culturally China and Japan are the same, with some differences. Sendai is the classical example of the relationship.

After all, Sendai was name taken from a Chinese poem that praised a palace created by the Emperor Wen of Han China, comparing it to a mythical palace in the Kunlun Mountains. When Date Masumune(伊達政宗)named the place, it was based on his cultural understanding and admiration for China. This revealed how close is the relationship between Japan and China in ancient history.

Sendai will always in the mind of Chinese people and readers of Lu Xun literature works.

Nahan((吶喊) was translated as Call to arms, which sound military, but it is actually a scream from the inner soul, or an inner call from the heart. In English it is correctly translate as "Outcry". Nahan is a collection of short friction published in the journals during the period of 1918 - 1922,which was then collected in 1923 as a volume entitled Nahan or The Outcry". The short stories included "Kuangren riji" 狂人日記 (Diary of a madman; 1918), "Kong Yiji" 孔乙己 (1919), "Yao" 藥 (Medicine; 1919), and "Ah Q zhengzhuan" 阿Q正傳 (True story of Ah Q; 1921). Lu Xun is making use of the short stories from the book "Nahan" to awake the Chinese masses, from their spiritual vacuum, the lacking of spiritual value or pride of Chinese race or even as a nation. The stories were published first in journals and then collected in 1923 as a volume call Nahan (Outcry). The most famous short story was "Ah Q zhengzhuan" 阿Q正傳 (True story of Ah Q). The story was considered as to reflect the ugly characteristic of Chinese during the period.

According the Xu Shoushang(許壽裳),LU Xun's good friend and a fellow from his homeland of Shaoxing(紹興),Zhejiang Province. They often discussed on the topic of "national character" (guominxing 國民性) issue while studied in Tokyo. In the 1940s Xu recalled the focus of their concern with the national character:

The first was, what is the ideal human character? The second was what is most lacking in the Chinese race? The third was, what is the root of their ailment? . . . As to our probing of the second question, we thought at that time that what our people lacked most was sincerity (cheng 誠) and love (ai 愛)--in other words, we were infected with shameless pretense and mutual suspicion. No matter how fine-sounding our slogans, no matter how nice-looking our banners and manifestos, how grandiloquent and flowery our writing, the reality was entirely different [in Pollard 2002: 26]).

In Feb 1933, Lu Xun met Edgar Snow. Snow apparently asked Lu Xun if there were still many Ah Q's in China, to which he responded: "It's worse now. Now it's Ah Q's who are running the country."

If you are to ask Lu Xun now, is there any Ah Q in China, after economic success of China; I think if he is still around, he will reply, ""It's worse now. Now it's Ah Q's who are all over the country." .......

From the recent Japan earthquake 2011 incident, the reaction of Chinese; reflected by the chaotic rushes at the Narita airport to get out, and the speculative activities on salt accumulation on fear of radiation in China. The magnitude of fear and panic was greater than Japanese themselves. This is typical of Ah Q character. Some foreign blogger even said: "中国人,你们担心什么核辐射,还是多担心你们自己的毒奶粉、毒饺子吧!"(Hei, Chinese, why worry about foreign radiation, better worry about domestic tainted milk and Jiǎozi). This revealed that there are many Ah Q still in China. Compared to the peace and calmness of Japanese, it revealed that the awakening call of Lu Xun is still valid today, and his work is not finished yet. Despite the economic success, there is still a long way for Chinese masses to achieve the level of developed nation, culturally. Lu Xun still can hear the nahan((吶喊) from the inner souls of Chinese people, the outcry for spiritual transformation....They need to learn from Japan, and a mental revolution to reflect the quality of civilization that fit the economic success story of China.... Otherwise it is sad, for Lu Xun, and for China....The outcry of Lu Xun is still clearly heard....

We remember Sendai; we remember Lu Xun......

We pray for the Japanese people....

Recommended websites:

1.Yokoso! Japan TOHOKU 1(English subtitles),

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the Chinese is not a sensei(先生) anymore, the modern Chinese is a gakusei(学生).
    Even in the past, we call our teacher as Sinseh (in Hokkien) but now become Laushi (老師). That's why I encourage the young should learn from Japanese not Chinese, culturally.