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Lu Xun (1881-1936) is one of the paradigmatic figures of twentieth-century Chinese literature, celebrated during and since his lifetime for his powerful diagnoses of his nation's social and political crisis, and for his pioneering achievements in reinventing the vernacular as a literary language. Despite his public commitment to Marxist literary ideals and his posthumous canonization by Mao Zedong, Lu Xun's final years were spent mired in squabbles with the Chinese Communist Party's representatives of ideological orthodoxy. When he died he bequeathed to modern Chinese letters a contradictory legacy of cosmopolitan independence, polemical fractiousness and anxious patriotism that continues to resonate in Chinese intellectual life today.
Cao Xueqin (?1715-63) was born into a family which for three generations held the office of Commissioner of Imperial Textiles in Nanking, a family so wealthy they were able to entertain the Emperor four times. However, calamity overtook them and their property was consfiscated. Cao Xueqin was living in poverty when he wrote his famous novel The Story of the Stone.
Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958 and was a successful journalist and radio presenter in China. In 1997 she moved to London, where she began work on her seminal book about Chinese women's lives, The Good Women of China. Since then she has written a regular column for the Guardian; appeared frequently on radio and TV and has published the acclaimed Sky Burial; the novel Miss Chopsticks; the groundbreaking book of oral history China Witness; a book of her Guardian columns called What the Chinese Don't Eat and Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, about mothers and their lost daughters. She lives in London but travels regularly to China.
Liu Xiaobo was a political activist, author, university professor and writer. He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 2017.
Xenophon was born c.430BC, an Athenian gentleman. Whilst fighting for Greece, he was finally banished due to his devotion to Socrates and support for Sparta. Settling near Olympia under Spartan protection, he began to write his treatises, histories and biographies.
Michael Xander is a product designer and engineer and the co-founder of the online magazine My Morning Routine.
Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.
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