Professor Jon Eugene von Kowallis Speaks about Lu Xun at ACIAC

The year of 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese New Culture Movement (also known as the May Fourth Movement). Generally seen as one of the most significant turning points in China’s cultural history, the Movement also saw the rise to fame of some of the country’s most distinguished literary artists and thinkers, among whom was Lu Xun.

On 1 May, 2019, ACIAC had one of Australia’s best renowned Chinese literature experts, Professor Jon Eugene von Kowallis from the University of New South Wales to deliver a public talk on “Takeuchi’s Lu Xun/China’s Takeuchi”. Professor Kowallis is Professor and Chair of Chinese Studies in the School of Humanities and Languages at UNSW and President of the Oriental Society of Australia. In this lecture, he began with an introduction to the life and works of Lu Xun and his Japanese translator Takeuchi Yoshimi, but he then moved on to discuss the trajectories of Lu Xun’s transnational reception in Japan. He spoke about Takeuchi Yoshimi’s book Rojin and its evaluations of Lu Xun’s achievements and intellectual stance as an oppositional writer. He also looked into some of the problems that stand out in Takeuchi Yoshimi’s political positioning against his passionate appraisal of Lu Xun. He finally offered his comments on the changing attitudes among contemporary Chinese colleagues towards Takeuchi Yoshimi’s arguments and work. After his lecture, Professor Kowallis took questions about Lu Xun in the Japanese school syllabus and current Chinese and Western attitudes towards the critical stance that Lu Xun so often took towards his world.

The talk was moderated by Professor Labao Wang and attended by an enthusiastic audience including ACIAC Advisory Board member Helen Sham-Ho, Emeritus Professor and former Director of Asian Studies Institute at Western Sydney University Professor Edmund Fung, ACIAC key researcher and head of the Bilingualism Lab A/Professor Ruying Qi, ACIAC research Dr David Cubby, translation expert Dr Yan Qian of Macquarie University, Chinese Australian poets Ms Tang Yingxia, Dr Sheng Tong and WSU students.

Professpr Kowallis is a multilingual. He studied Chinese language and literature at Columbia University in the City of New York (BA), National Taiwan University, the University of Hawaii (MA), Peking University and the University of California, Berkeley (PhD). He became an internationally famous authority on Lu Xun in the 1990s after the publication of his monograph titled The Lyrical Lu Xun: a Study of his Classical-style Verse. Another book by him, The Subtle Revolution: Poets of the ‘Old Schools’ in late Qing and early Republican China (2006) influenced the direction of an entire field on rethinking the role of traditional genres in Chinese literature.