An Incident by Lu Hsun
Six years have slipped by since I came from the country
to the capital. During that time I have seen and heard quite enough of
so-called affairs of state; but none of them made much impression on
me. If asked to define their influence, I can only say they aggravated
my ill temper and made me, frankly speaking, more and more
One incident, however, struck me as significant, and aroused me
from my ill temper, so that even now I cannot forget it.
It happened during the winter of 1917. A bitter north wind was
blowing, but, to make a living, I had to be up and out early. I met
scarcely a soul on the road, and had great difficulty in hiring a
rickshaw to take me to S—— Gate. Presently the wind dropped a
little. By now the loose dust had all been blown away, leaving the
roadway clean, and the rickshaw man quickened his pace. We were just
approaching S—— Gate when someone crossing the road was entangled in
our rickshaw and slowly fell.
It was a woman, with streaks of white in her hair, wearing ragged
clothes. She had left the pavement without warning to cut across in
front of us, and although the rickshaw man had made way, her tattered
jacket, unbuttoned and fluttering in the wind, had caught on the
shaft. Luckily the rickshaw man pulled up quickly, otherwise she would
certainly have had a bad fall and been seriously injured.
She lay there on the ground, and the rickshaw man stopped. I did
not think the old woman was hurt, and there had been no witnesses to
what had happened, so I resented this off iciousness which might land
him in trouble and hold me up.
"It's all right," I said. "Go on."
He paid no attention, however—perhaps he had not heard—for he set
down the shafts, and gently helped the old woman to get up. Supporting
her by one arm, he asked:
"Are you all right?"
I had seen how slowly she fell, and was sure she could not be hurt.
She must be pretending, which was disgusting. The rickshaw man had
asked for trouble, and now he had it. He would have to find his own
But the rickshaw man did not hesitate for a minute after the old
woman said she was injured. Still holding her arm, he helped her
slowly forward. I was surprised. When I looked ahead, I saw a police
station. Because of the high wind, there was no one outside, so the
rickshaw man helped the old woman towards the gate.
Suddenly I had a strange feeling. His dusty, retreating figure
seemed larger at that instant. Indeed, the further he walked the
larger he loomed, until I had to look up to him. Ar the same time he
seemed gradually to be exerting a pressure on me, which threatened to
overpower the small self under my fur-lined gown.
My vitality seemed sapped as I sat there motionless, my mind a
blank, until a policeman came out. Then I got down from the rickshaw.
The policeman came up to me, and said, "Get another rickshaw. He
can't pull you any more."
Without thinking, I pulled a handful of coppers from my coat pocket
and handed them to the policeman. "Please give him these," I said.
The wind had dropped completely, but the road was still quiet. I
walked along thinking, but I was almost afraid to turn my thoughts on
myself. Setting aside what had happened earlier, what had I meant by
that handful of coppers? Was it a reward? Who was I to judge the
rickshaw man? I could not answer myself.
Even now, this remains fresh in my memory. It often causes me
distress, and makes me try to think about myself. The military and
political affairs of those years I have forgotten as completely as
the classics I read in my childhood. Yet this incident keeps coming
back to me, often more vivid than in actual life, teaching me shame,
urging me to reform, and giving me fresh courage and hope.