Asia Shorts

A Friend in Deed: Lu Xun, Uchiyama Kanzo, and the Intellectual World of Shanghai on the Eve of War



JOSHUA A. FOGEL

ISBN: 978-0-924-304-88-0. 122 pages. Paperback.

Lu Xun spent the last decade of his life in the turbulent world of Shanghai. Soon after arriving in 1927, he befriended Uchiyama Kanzō, owner of a bookstore specializing in Japanese writings. Their friendship and the mutual kindnesses (occasionally involving near-death experiences) form the core of this short volume. In part a meditation of what two people with such different backgrounds—one the most famous intellectual of his time, the other a merchant with a sixth-grade education from a country on the verge of launching total war against China—may speak to our own fractious times.

“Joshua Fogel’s superb command of Japanese has allowed him to access sources untapped by Chinese and Western scholars to compile this tour-de-force treatment of a cross-cultural, cross-political, cross-religious, and cross-linguistic friendship between Lu Xun (1881-1936), China’s intellectual leader of the 20th century, and Uchiyama Kanzō (1885-1959), a Japanese businessman who ran a bookstore that became an office (at times a hiding place) for Lu Xun and a literary salon for other Chinese writers. What Uchiyama operated was at times tantamount to a ‘safe house’ in the complex, often dangerous, political milieu of Shanghai in the 1930s, from which Uchiyama, a Christian convert and a China enthusiast, could offer a degree of protection and ‘head space’ to embattled Chinese intellectuals of his era. He also fulfilled an important role as an importer of foreign books for the Chinese readership (and for Lu Xun in particular). But the friendship between the two seems to have had an element of chemistry above and beyond these affinities. Fogel does a masterful job in assembling the pieces of a puzzle, tracing the rumors that Uchiyama was a spy back to their source, and examining the role that Japanese Doctor Sudō Iozō (1876-1959), Lu Xun’s personal physician, played in the days leading up to his death.”

— Jon Eugene von Kowallis, Professor of Chinese Studies, UNSW Sydney, author,  The Lyrical Lu Xun, The Subtle Revolution and Warriors of the Spirit

“Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Sino-Japanese exchange, Joshua Fogel paints a captivating portrait of Lu Xun and Uchiyama Kanzō, two men of very different temperament, background, and political outlook. We see their friendship in ordinary moments over a cup of Karigane tea, a specially-reserved rattan chair, and the efforts at mounting exhibits of woodblock prints but also in extraordinary moments when Uchiyama protected Lu Xun from GMD spies and Japanese military police in the tumultuous years before total war. Theirs was a remarkable friendship indeed.”

— Hu Ying, Professor, East Asian Studies, University of California, Irvine, author, Burying Autumn: Poetry, Friendship, and Loss



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