Lamenting the College Students

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Fudan University, 2005

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Lamenting the College Students
        Lu Xun 1881-1936

Gone the grandees, who already
        rode off on the objets d'art of our culture.
Empty, this place from whence they took flight,
        save for the name 'City of Culture".
These objets d'art, once gone,
        shall ne'er return again;
Tho' the ancient city, for a thousand years
        in sullen emptiness remain.
Before Qianmen Station
        queue lines of express trains;
But for our college students
        luck has run out.
Whither our resistance when at Yu Pass
        the Rising Sun they fly?
Yet those in the brothels still demand:
        "What's all the hue and cry?"
Diào Dàxuéshēng
Lǔ Xùn 1881-1936

Kuòrén yǐ qí wénhuà qù,
Cǐ dì kōng yú Wénhuàchéng.
Wénhuà yī qù bù fùfǎn,
Gǔcheng qiān zǎi lěng qīngqīng.
Zhuān chē duìduì Qiánmén zhàn,
Huìqì chóngchóng dàxuěshēng.
Rì bó Yúguān hé chù kàng,
Yānhuāchǎng shàng méi rén jīng.
Translator: Jon Kowallis 翻譯者

This poem was written in protest of the Guomindang's removal of priceless ancient relics from Peking in the face of the advancing Japanese, but at the same time not allowing students to flee the city. Lu Xun prefaced the poem with this article entitled 'Worshiping Lucre'.

"Facts are not as pretty as they sound. Take this newspaper column Ziyou Tan (Free Comments), for example. Although in actuality it is not free, it is called 'Free Comments' because we have about this much freedom to comment here.

Another case in point is the government's current removal of ancient relics from Peking while at the same time refusing permission for university students to flee the city. Those who issue such orders have their points as do those who are criticizing them. But all that is simply talk and not the crux of the matter.

One might say that because these ancient relics are so old and irreplaceable, they are treasures that should be removed post haste. That argument certainly makes sense. But we have only one Peking as well, and the place itself is more ancient than all the extant relics and art treasures. Since Yu was a worm, we need not speak of such an early era, but at least the place exisited by the time of the Shang and the Zhou dynasties. Why should we give it up then, and merely remove the relics? To speak frankly, it is not because of the 'antiquity' of the antiques that they are prized, but because after Peking is lost someone can still carry those things around and sell them for hard cash at any time.

Though the college students are the 'backbone of society', they have no market value. If they were worth five hundred US dollars a head on the European and American market, they too would be boxed up and shipped out of Peking together with the curios, to be stowed away in the vaults of Western banks in the foreign concessions. But college students are too new and too numerous, so woe to them!

Enough of this idle talk. Let me mourn their fate in the style of Cui Hao's poem 'Yellow Crane Pavillion'." (Translation by Jon Kowallis)

Jon Kowallis writes in The Lyrical Lu Xun;

"Lu Xun's poem 'Lamenting the College Students' published in the February 6, 1933 edition of Shenbao, was originonally untitled. It has become generally known under this title from the last line of his essay Chong Shi (Worshiping Lucre) which introduced the poem by saying, 'Let me morn their fate in the style of Cui Hao's original poem Yellow Crane Tower' " (See Cui's poem separately under Yellow Crane Tower).

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