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six The Goujian Story in a Privatizing China on the first night of the lunar New Year of 2004 ( January 22), Hu Xiaolong, a twenty-seven-year-old inhabitant of a village in the county-level city of Dujiangyan, some fifty kilometers northwest of the Sichuan capital , Chengdu, went on a murderous rampage, using a dagger and a cutter for chopping pig fodder to kill fellow villager Zhou Guohong and two other members of the Zhou household. The motive was revenge. Twenty years earlier, when a large number of fish had died in a stream running through the village, Zhou Guohong’s younger brother, Zhou Yuanfu, then just over ten years of age, and Hu Xiaolong’s father had gone to the stream to collect the dead fish. There was a large fish that they both saw at the same instant and scrambled to get. Hu Xiaolong’s father gave Zhou a shove, whereupon Zhou, not giving in, struck Hu on the head with a thin iron object. Ten years later, Zhou Yuanfu, as a result of an illness, committed suicide by hanging himself. A few years after this, Hu Xiaolong’s father and mother both died in quick succession. To everyone ’s astonishment, in Hu Xiaolong’s mind the deaths of his parents and the humiliation his father had suªered earlier at the hands of Zhou Yuanfu were connected. For years Hu practiced martial arts to build up his physical strength and took part in a number of martial arts competitions. According to the villagers, he was an eccentric man of few words and kept to himself. Although he had never picked a quarrel with the Zhou fam2 0 3 ily, he treated them as virtual strangers and nursed a deep hatred toward them. Several days after the revenge killings, reporters were taken to Hu Xiaolong ’s home. The wall opposite the courtyard entrance was covered with crude gra‹ti, which Hu, apparently the night before the murders, had scrawled with a piece of charcoal: “King Goujian of Yue slept on brushwood and tasted gall, three thousand Yue soldiers at long last destroyed Wu.” “To withdraw in order to avoid the enemy’s spears isn’t cowardice; rather, it is to wait patiently for the right moment to fight, to defeat the enemy by surprise and send him to his death.” On another wall was written: “If this grievance is not avenged, I swear I am unworthy and my manhood will have been wasted.” And also, “Kill, kill, kill,” and “Blood will stain the enemy’s door, blood will be splattered over the enemy’s door.” Hu seemed to incriminate himself, finally, with a scribble that read, “The rage of a bygone day leads twenty years later to the misfortune of an entire family’s destruction.”1 What is fascinating about Hu Xiaolong’s allusions to the Goujian story, both direct and indirect, is that they are totally personalized, even to the point where he identifies with the Yue ruler and views the story as a prot h e g o u j i a n s t o r y i n a p r i v a t i z i n g c h i n a 2 0 4 Figure 28. Reporter examining gra‹ti scrawled by Hu Xiaolong at his home. Source: Lanjun, “Emo wei xue jiachi xiwu 20 nian,” Jan. 28, 2004. totype for his own behavior. In the republican era, in Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, and in the PRC in the early 1960s and early 1980s, the Goujian story had been used either to symbolize collective national aspirations or to lay bare some of the more poisonous aspects of Chinese political life. Now, at a time when politics had retreated and was no longer the omnipresent force in ordinary Chinese lives that it had been during the Mao years, there was a dramatic shift to a newly opened space centering on individual concerns and hopes. This space began to open in the late 1970s, as the quarter-century-long experiment with collectivized agriculture ended and household farming was resumed, market incentives started to play a growing role in the domestic economy, China’s economic involvement with the rest of the world rapidly expanded, intellectual and cultural life were rejuvenated, and the academic world emerged from the deep freeze in which it had long been buried. These changes were accompanied in time by a dramatic increase in personal freedoms . It...


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