Call to Arms 呐喊

The starting point of modern Chinese vernacular novels


Chinese Name: 呐喊

English Name: Call to Arms

Other Name: Nahan

Author: Lu xun 鲁迅

Originally Published: In 1923

Genre: Novel

Call to Arms 呐喊
Call to Arms 呐喊

Brief Introduction of Call to Arms

Call to Arms 呐喊 is a collection of short stories by Lu Xun 鲁迅, a modern writer. It is a collection of 14 short stories written by Lu Xun between 1918 and 1922. It was published in 1923 and is now included in volume 1 of The Complete Works of Lu Xun 鲁迅全集. Call to Arms is the starting point of modern Chinese vernacular novels and the forerunner of modern realism literature. It established Lu Xun’s position in the history of modern Chinese literature and culture.

The collection truly depicts social life from the Revolution of 1911 to the May 4th Movement五四运动. Starting from the revolutionary democracy, with the aim of enlightenment and humanitarianism, it reveals various deep-seated social contradictions, deeply analyzes and completely negates the old Chinese system and some outdated traditional ideas. It shows a strong sense of national survival and strong hope for social change.

The Scream includes 14 novels, including A Madman’s Diary 狂人日记, Kong Yiji 孔乙己, Medicine 药, The True Story of AH Q 阿Q正传 and Hometown 故乡. It through realism, symbolism and romanticism technique, vividly shaped a madman, Kong Yiji, AH Q and a number of immortal artistic images, reflects the end of the 19th century to the 1920 s between the status quo of China’s social life, strong expose and tackling a feudal labor forces. It expresses the author’s desire for change, cries out for The Times, and hopes to awaken the national mind.

Call to Arms 呐喊
A Madmans Diary 狂人日记

A Madman’s Diary describes a “man-eating” society. The “madman” in it is actually an awakened intellectual figure, surrounded by people whose souls have been eroded by the feudal ethics, and what he fears and resists is the feudal tradition of cannibalism.

Call to Arms 呐喊
Poor scholar — Kong Yiji 贫困潦倒的读书人–孔乙己

Kong Yiji tells the tragic experience of a scholar who failed to pass the examination of a scholar. The protagonist Kong Yiji is a kind-hearted man, but under the poison of the imperial examination system, he is helpless and poor, and has become a source of ridicule. Forced by life, he occasionally do some petty thieving, was finally broken leg, silently died in the torture of life. It exposed the decadence of feudal imperial examination system and castigated the poison of feudal education to the minds of intellectuals.

Medicine presents important and thought-provoking themes in modern history. The work describes the story of Hua Laoshuan 华老栓 using the blood of Xia Yu 夏瑜, a revolutionary killed by the ruler, to make “human blood steamed bread” for his son’s medical treatment. A revolutionary sacrificed generously for the liberation of the people, but his blood was treated as a cure-all by the people. This sharp contrast powerfully revealed the serious gap between the old democratic revolution and the people, and the numbness and ignorance caused by the long-term feudal rule.

Ah Q in “The True Story of Ah Q” has both self-esteem and inferiority, but no matter what he goes through, he always triumphs spiritually. “Spiritual victory method 精神胜利法” is the main characteristic of AH Q. The novel profoundly shows the bad habits of Chinese formed under the asphyxiation of feudal culture.

Call to Arms 呐喊
The scene that Ah Q painted before his death. 阿Q临死前在画押的场景。

In short, Call to Arms is the strongest voice of the New Culture Movement 新文化运动 against feudalism, and it is the most profound criticism of the Chinese feudal cultural tradition of suppressing, distorting, enslaving and destroying people from the standpoint of humanitarianism, individual liberation and ideological enlightenment. The language of the novel is rich in distinctive national characteristics and forms a unique personal style, creating a model of modern literary language.

Author of Call to Arms

Lu Xun (1881-1936), Shaoxing 绍兴 , Zhejiang province 浙江省, formerly known as Zhou Zhangshou 周樟寿, later renamed Zhou Shuren 周树人, a famous writer, thinker, democracy fighters, important player in the May 4th New Culture Movement 五四新文化运动, the founder of Chinese modern literature, was famous for pen name “Lu Xun”. He was one of the worldwide influential cultural giant of the 20th century.

Call to Arms 呐喊
Lu Xun 鲁迅

When Lu Xun was young, his father died of illness, and his family was ruined from then on. In 1902, Lu Xun went to Japan to study medicine at Sendai Medical School 仙台医学专门学校. He wanted to inspire the consciousness of the Chinese people through medicine, but after some experiences in school, he realized that mental numbness was more terrible than physical weakness. So he abandoned medicine and turned to literature.

Lu Xun often discussed with his friends about China’s national character: what is the most lacking in China’s national character? What is the cause of its illness? These thoughts made him connect his personal life experience with the destiny of the whole Chinese nation, and also laid the basic ideological foundation of his later life as a writer and thinker.

From the publication of his first article in 1907 until his death, Lu Xun left behind a large number of works, including novels, essays 散文, essays 杂文, modern prose poetry, foreign literature and academic translations. His classic articles had been selected into the middle school textbooks. “Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk 朝花夕拾” had become one of the required reading books for Chinese middle school students. Many of his classic works have been handed down to future generations as a reminder and spur.

Lu Xun died of tuberculosis in Shanghai 上海 in 1936 at the age of 55. Lu Xun’s works had exerted a profound influence not only on the younger writers, but also on the Chinese social thought after the May 4th Movement.

Excerpts From Call to Arms


I don’t think medicine is a priority. The feeble nation, however healthy and strong it may be, can only serve as meaningless public display and witness, and it is not more or less unfortunate to die of illness.


When a person’s ideas are praised, they are encouraged to advance; when they are opposed, they are encouraged to struggle.


In fact, there is no road on the earth, but when many people walk on it, it becomes a road.

Evaluation of Call to Arms

This is the best novel in China.

Li Dazhao 李大钊

Lu Xun is often a pioneer in creating “new forms” in China’s new literary circle. Each of the more than ten stories in “Call to Arms” has a new form, and these new forms have a great influence on the young author, and most people are bound to follow and experiment with them. The title, genre, style and even the ideas in Call to Arms are all very novel, a new world.

Mao Dun 矛盾

Call to Arms opened for me a way into the heart of the Chinese people, a way to understand new Chinese literature and culture.

Jaroslav Průšek 雅罗斯拉夫·普实克

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