One of the most recognized names in Chinese literature is definitely Lu Xun (鲁迅-lǔ xùn). For many years, Lu's work has been used as the teaching materials for Chinese students. In China, almost everyone knows Lu Xun.
Lu's original name was Zhou Shuren (周树人-zhōu shù rén), and he used Lu Xun as his pen name. Lu was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang in 1881. At the end of 19th century, China was undergoing chaos. The influence of Western empires and corruption of Qing government make people long for democracy. When Lu was young, he was very impressed by new things while embracing the spirit of being curious and scientifically skeptical. Seeing his father's death, Lu began to doubt the traditional Chinese medical treatment. He went to Japan to learn modern medicine, hoping to save people's lives with his own effort. On one occasion, Lu watched a documentary about the Russo-Japanese War. In this documentary, Chinese worked as the spies for the Russians and got executed by shooting next to a group of Chinese standing aside and watching it.. That was the moment when Lu changed his mind and decided to alter the thought of Chinese people with his writings.
In 1918, Lu released his novel Diary of a Madman (狂人日记-kuáng rén rì jì), which was a short story, consisting of 13 entries. The protagonist in this short story notices people around him were "吃人 (literal meaning: eating people)". Behind this story was the idea of the madman who sees reality more clearly than those around him. The "madman" sees "cannibalism" both in his family and the village around him. Actually, "吃人" in this novel refers to the decayed feudalism and the ignorance of people, while the madman turns out to be the good man. Diary of a Madman used vernacular Chinese that was easy to understand and read, instead of classical Chinese, which used to be the written language in ancient China. The story was read as an ironic attack on traditional Chinese culture and a call for a new culture.
Lu wrote another work of fiction Kong Yiji (孔乙己- kǒng yǐ jǐ). Kong Yiji was a person who only knew studying, aiming for a position in the government by passing the mandatory Imperial Examination. He fails because the books Kong reads are only full of knowledge useful to pass the exam but could not provide food. He loses his dignity and always gets mocked by others. Kong even tries to steal books, but gets beaten and gets his legs broken. Lu satirized the society at that time with this poor character. Some scholars have suggested that Lu Xun wrote the story to explain the problems with the 'feudal society', where people could waste their entire life trying to pass meaningless examinations and where people were selfish and completely indifferent to the plight of others.
After a few years Lu released a story called The True Story of Ah Q (阿Q正传 – Ā Q Zhèngzhuàn). Ah Q is a man from the rural peasant class with little education and no definite occupation who even didn't know how to write his name. He was poor, but never tried to improve. For survival, he paralyzed his spirit without thinking anything whenever he encountered suffering or misfortune. Lu's True Story of Ah Q criticized the problems in the character of Chinese people, and exposes Ah Q's extreme faults as symptomatic of the Chinese national character of his time.
Later Lu wrote more proses, novellas and essays, criticizing more directly the various issues in China at that time. In addition, Lu has translated much foreign literature and introduced new thoughts to China. Lu Xun believed that the purpose of literature was to transform the minds of and enlighten fellow Chinese. He followed the concept of wen yi zai dao (文以载道, Pinyin: Wényì Zàidào, "literature as a vehicle for moral message").
Until today, Lu Xun is still regarded as the most important writer, ideologist and revolutionist in China.