LU YIN (1899—1934)
LU YIN (1899—1934). Fiction writer and essayist. Lu Yin attended a missionary school and participated in the May Fourth Movement while a student at the Beijing Normal University for Women. In her short literary career, Lu Yin wrote fiction and essays in which she expressed her views on traditional ethics, particularly those designed to confine women. The main theme of her work concerns the oppression of women and their arduous struggle for love and independence. More often than not their efforts end in failure, in part because of their own feeling of paralysis in a society that does not value the needs of the individual. Critics have attributed the melancholy mood of her stories to a lack of love in her childhood and her bumpy journey to matrimony. Indeed, few of her heroes are able to obtain happiness, reflecting Lu Yin’s pessimistic philosophy on life. Lu Yin casts her characters’ romantic relationships against the background of a larger social transformation that took place in the early part of the 20th century, when traditional modes of life clashed violently with changes brought about by modernity. The road to romantic love, as described by Lu Yin, is full of suffering, but for women, the alternative path of career fulfillment is equally unattainable.
Lu Yin wrote in an unadorned style, often relying on the form of letters or diary to carry the narrative structure. “Lishi de riji” (The Diary of Lishi), “Haibing guren” (An Old Acquaintance by the Sea), “Jimo” (Loneliness), and many other stories all share this narrative feature. Her best work, “Xiangya jiezhi” (An Ivory Ring), also contains a fairly large portion of diary entries. It was written in memory of her friend Shi Pingmei, with the intention of leaving a record of a life that the author likens to that of “a tragic and beautiful poem.” The essentially true-to-life narrative revolves around Zhang Qinzhu, the fictional character modeled after Shi Pingmei. Beautiful and talented, Zhang attracts the attention of a devious man who is trapped in an unhappy marriage arranged by his parents. His relentless pursuit wins her heart before she discovers that he already has a wife and two children. Still emotionally entangled with him, Zhang meets another man, who also falls in love with her and who takes steps to end a loveless marriage only to be told upon his return that Zhang does not want to marry him. Sick and heartbroken, he kills himself. Regrets and remorse soon drive Zhang also to her grave. Lu Yin’s sympathy for the heroine is obvious. She had a similar relationship—her first husband also had a wife when they married. Lu Yin understood the sufferings borne by both the traditional wife and the modern, liberated woman. To some extent, she is also sympathetic to the man who is caught between his duty to his family and his desire to seek happiness. Lu Yin died at the young age of 35 from a botched surgery during childbirth, ending a promising career.