Selected Modern Chinese Essays: On Presenting a View

By Lu Xun

I dreamed that while preparing to write a composition in a primary school classroom I asked the teacher how to present a view.

“That’s a hard nut,” said the teacher, giving me a sidelong glance over his glasses. “Let me tell you this story —”

“When a baby boy is born to a family, there is immense joy in the whole household. When he is one month old, they invite some people over for taking a look at him — customarily, of course, in expectation of some good wishes.

“One of the guests receives hearty thanks for saying, ‘The child is destined to be rich.’

“Another is paid some compliments in return for saying, ‘The child is destined to be an official.’

“Still another, however, is given a sound beating by the whole family for saying, ‘The child will eventually die.’

“To call the child mortal is to state the inevitable while to say that the child will become very rich or a high official is probably a lie. Yet the former gets a thrashing while the latter is rewarded. You …”

“I don’t want to tell a lie, and neither do I want to be beaten. Then what should I do, sir?”

“Well, just say, ‘Ai-ya, this child! Just look! Oh, my! Hah! Hehe! He, hehehehe!'”