Ah Q in Modern China

Chinese national character has long been tied up with the issue of “face,” and how best to “save” it.  The idea that what is important in any situation is not so much the actual outcome, but the way the situation looks to outsiders.

This concept has been an enduring one from the feudalist imperial system that ruled China for two thousand years throughout its turbulent 20th century history of civil war and communism.

It is a contributing factor to most of the major political and historical events that have taken place there, such as the Cultural Revolution, the annexations of Tibet and Xinjiang, the attitude towards Taiwan, the Tian’anmen Square Protests, and even the economy that grows at an average of 10% per year for over fifteen years.

It is also well represented in China’s literature and cultural life.  Many authors from the late Qing Dynasty onward have tried to define a Chinese national character through their works.  One of the most successful of these was Lu Xun.

Born in Zhejiang province and educated in Japan, Lu Xun dedicated his works, both fiction and non-fiction, to the goal of defining Chinese qualities and healing the spiritual and moral needs of the Chinese people.  His most famous story was The True Story of Ah Q, published in a newspaper beginning in late 1921.

It features a village loser who does nothing notable and is looked down upon by all who encounter him.  This story, however, has become ingrained in the Chinese culture and scholars such as Lee Ou-fan maintain that it holds influence even today.

One of the major ways the story portrays saving face is in the way Ah Q relates to his defeats.  When he does something wrong, such as insulting someone for no good reason by not holding his tongue, he gets beaten up, but he then justifies it by claiming it to be an outrage that people like his “sons” could beat him up.

His psychological victory is enough for him to justify anything, no matter how pathetic it seems to the other villagers.  When he loses his gambling money in a mob, he justifies it by slapping himself so that he’ll have something to feel victorious over (Lu).

This relates to Chinese mentality in general, from government actions to individuals.  The way China deals with any situation is to put a good face on it or to cover it up.  Passing an anti-secession law, such as the one the Party Congress enacted in 2005 for the show effect it would have on Taiwan, is only one in a long line of examples.

Refusing to re-evaluate their currency in relation to the dollar, the lack of acknowledgement about SARS and AIDS, the blocking or censoring of websites such as google, wikipedia, and the BBC, the banning and rehabilitation of filmmakers such as Zhang Yimou and now Jia Zhangke-each contributes to the argument that Chinese character has not changed since Ah Q’s time.

Another enduring aspect of Chinese mentality skillfully depicted here is that of the mob.  We see mobs in everyday village life, such as the gambling mob that steals Ah Q’s money, and also when he teases the nun.  While most people are at least respectful of religious individuals, no one in the crowd does anything but laugh as Ah Q disgraces the nun in order to get attention.

He touches her bare skin and insinuates that she sleeps with a monk, both of which are extremely insulting, but no one does anything but laugh (Lu).  This kind of onlooker crowds can be found anywhere in China when there is a fight or traffic accident.

  They reached the peak of their violence during the Cultural Revolution, in which many people were denounced before just such mobs of jeering onlookers.

Mobs also come into the story near its end, when the sweep of history enters the quiet village in the form of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911.  Here the mobs try and loot the homes of anyone who is not “revolutionary,” meaning those of the wealthy.

In the end, Ah Q is caught and executed as a scapegoat for the looting.  The end of this character is as unspectacular as the rest of his life had been.

Through telling the story of this kind of small man, Lu is expressing his concern that the “average” Chinese person is becoming too much like Ah Q, and will be too afraid to participate when the real revolution comes around.

That real revolution is still around the corner, and it remains to be seen if the growing Chinese middle class will ever be so discontent as to make a real change to their totalitarian government.

The people today still need to take Lu’s message to heart and realize that the actions of their government are viewed by the outside world the way a reader views Ah Q, as idiotic praising of past and hoping for future while neglecting the present by worrying more about “saving face” than any concrete action.

Beijing can move all the Han people it wants into Tibet and Xinjiang, but it will never eradicate or assimilate these two different ethnicities completely, and will only require more “saving face” in the future when the never-ending sectarian violence escalates.

Lu was very observant in pointing out these weaknesses in Chinese character, and the PRC would do good to take on his message as well, instead of just celebrating his image because Mao had him declared a communist hero.

His true ideas were much more individualistic than what he is reduced to, and maybe someday China will truly see the significance of this great writer and thinker.

Works Cited

Lu, Xun.  “The True Story of Ah Q.”  Trans. Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang.  Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1960, 1972.  Ah Q! Performance Project.  16 Apr. 2007  <http://www.wac.ucla.edu/cip/ahq/ahqstory.htm>.

Writing Quality

Grammar mistakes

F (42%)


A (93%)

Redundant words

D (61%)




F (54%)

Total mark


Calculate the price
Make an order in advance and get the best price
Pages (550 words)
*Price with a welcome 15% discount applied.
Pro tip: If you want to save more money and pay the lowest price, you need to set a more extended deadline.
We know how difficult it is to be a student these days. That's why our prices are one of the most affordable on the market, and there are no hidden fees.

Instead, we offer bonuses, discounts, and free services to make your experience outstanding.
How it works
Receive a 100% original paper that will pass Turnitin from a top essay writing service
step 1
Upload your instructions
Fill out the order form and provide paper details. You can even attach screenshots or add additional instructions later. If something is not clear or missing, the writer will contact you for clarification.
Pro service tips
How to get the most out of your experience with MyHomeworkGeeks
One writer throughout the entire course
If you like the writer, you can hire them again. Just copy & paste their ID on the order form ("Preferred Writer's ID" field). This way, your vocabulary will be uniform, and the writer will be aware of your needs.
The same paper from different writers
You can order essay or any other work from two different writers to choose the best one or give another version to a friend. This can be done through the add-on "Same paper from another writer."
Copy of sources used by the writer
Our college essay writers work with ScienceDirect and other databases. They can send you articles or materials used in PDF or through screenshots. Just tick the "Copy of sources" field on the order form.
See why 20k+ students have chosen us as their sole writing assistance provider
Check out the latest reviews and opinions submitted by real customers worldwide and make an informed decision.
Thank you!!! I received my order in record timing.
Customer 452551, February 9th, 2021
Impressive writing
Customer 452547, February 6th, 2021
Business and administrative studies
looks good thank you
Customer 452773, March 3rd, 2023
I just need some minor alterations. Thanks.
Customer 452547, February 10th, 2021
thank you so much
Customer 452749, June 10th, 2021
English 101
great summery in terms of the time given. it lacks a bit of clarity but otherwise perfect.
Customer 452747, June 9th, 2021
Don't really see any of sources I provided, but elsewise its great, thank you!
Customer 452697, May 8th, 2021
10th grade English
very good
Customer 452773, March 26th, 2023
Business and administrative studies
excellent work
Customer 452773, March 12th, 2023
Great job
Customer 452773, February 13th, 2023
Business and administrative studies
Thank you
Customer 452773, March 19th, 2023
Business and administrative studies
Customer 452773, February 23rd, 2023
Customer reviews in total
Current satisfaction rate
3 pages
Average paper length
Customers referred by a friend
15% OFF your first order
Use a coupon FIRST15 and enjoy expert help with any task at the most affordable price.
Claim my 15% OFF Order in Chat

Sometimes it is hard to do all the work on your own

Let us help you get a good grade on your paper. Get professional help and free up your time for more important courses. Let us handle your;

  • Dissertations and Thesis
  • Essays
  • All Assignments

  • Research papers
  • Terms Papers
  • Online Classes