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Lu Shi'e

Entry updated 23 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

(1878-1944) Chinese author who came to his profession late in life, after previously working as a doctor and rental library manager. His work was primarily in the field of Wuxia as by "Qinmeizi". His sole venture into future fiction under his own name, Xin Zhongguo ["New China"] (1910), also known as Lixian 40-nian hou de Zhongguo ["China Forty Years After the Constitution"] often lapses into fantastical analogies, as if his future Shanghai of 1951 is being observed by wide-eyed travelers from Faery.

Xin Zhongguo is unashamedly Utopian, an answer to Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888) by Edward Bellamy, describing China as a thriving democracy and industrial powerhouse. The author's alter-ego dreams he is in a world where there is no such thing as haggling or prostitution, where foreigners are courteous to the Chinese in the street, and where the police are locals, rather than Sikhs. He witnesses a theatre performance, which with futuristic verve turns out to be a "shadow play with electric lights", walking through the story of China's modernization, much like Liang Qichao's unfinished Xin Zhongguo Weilai ji ["An Account of New China's Future"] (1902 Xin Xiaoshuo).

Lu most enduringly coined the term zhi shijie ["paper world"], an allusion in his novel to contemporary China's reliance not on silver hard currency but on bonds and futures, subsequently used as a blanket term for speculative Utopias. Pointedly, his own future characters use a different terminology of utopia, discussing their world as a datong ["Grand Unity"], alluding to the imagined ideal society of the philosopher Confucius, an arguably achievable possibility rather than the fantastical and improbable taoyuan ["Peach Garden"] more common in fantasy fiction. Beyond his expectations of a democratic and harmonious society, with flying cars and similar wonders, Lu also speculated on refreshingly mundane improvements to everyday life, such as yujie ["rain alleys"] – glass-roofed sidewalks that remove the need for citizens to carry umbrellas. [JonC]

see also: Kang Youwei.

Lu Shi'e

born Qingpu, Jiangsu, China [Shanghai]: 1878

died 1944

works (selected)

  • Xin Zhongguo ["New China"] (Shanghai, China: Gailiang Xiaoshuo, 1910) [pb/]

about the author


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