To read foreign literature in the original language is the ultimate goal for many foreign language students. Requiring knowledge of a few thousands of characters for reading Chinese literature, the challenge is particularly immense for students of Chinese. Lu Xun is China's most famous author and is frequently referred to as the "father" of modern Chinese literature. To read Lu Xun is to experience living in China during the decline of the Qing dynasty and the rise of the Republic of China. His characters are poignant, his style is sarcastic, and his stories are unforgettable. While his stories are laced with difficult Chinese phrases, allusions to Chinese Classics, and historical references, his stories are too important not to read. With a little help and a historical introduction, students of Chinese can enjoy his stories and have the satisfaction of reading one of the world's greatest authors in the original language. In this article, I will be exploring my experience with reading Lu Xun in the original Chinese and hopefully will inspire you to do the same.
Mastering a foreign language is like mastering another culture. When you begin to learn a foreign language, you open yourself up to another way of life and another way of thinking. When you have truly mastered a foreign language you have also mastered the history and culture of that language. How many people can say they are fluent in English without having read some of the best English authors like Shakespeare or Mark Twain? Too many idioms and cultural references come from literature. Without having cultural frames of reference when you are learning another language, you will find yourself lost on certain topics.