Wu Shuang, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Chinese Literature, National Chengchi University
Lu Cheng Da’s “Twilight of the Gods” won the best-essay prize at 2004’s Third Religious Literature Awards, and appeared in Lu’s collection Lonely Planet, Bustling Crowd. Written in epistolary form – a letter from a pastoral counselor to a murder victim’s family – the essay chronicles a young offender’s confusion, fear, and repentance, examining questions of life and death, atonement, and forgiveness.
The essay opens with the salutation “Dear ”. Characters’ identities and circumstances gradually become apparent in the course of the letter. The narrator is a pastoral counselor assisting a young man who has been convicted of the grisly murder of a female high-school student. Sentenced to death, the youth is filled with remorse. After the execution has been carried out, the counselor writes a letter of consolation to the victim’s family members, informing them of the young murderer’s repentance, seeking forgiveness for his soul. Lu’s bleak and desolate autumn imagery symbolizes capital punishment and life’s approaching end, a metaphor for the young convict’s final days.
The essay’s title implies that “the gods” abandoned the young man at the moment he committed his crime – thus, “twilight of the gods” is a lament for the youth’s descent into murder. When the counselor asks the young man “Do you have a religious belief?” the boy replies, “My family worships Guanyin, the bodhisattva of mercy.” As the hour of execution approaches, the two recite Buddhist scriptures and imagine life after death. And when the young man asks “Can a bad person like me become a good spirit after death?” the question reveals the boy’s remorse for his crime and his thirst for redemption. Intermediating between the killer and the victim’s family, the counselor is in a difficult position, for most people find it easy to sympathize with victims’ hatred and resentment, whereas few can understand or forgive the perpetrator of a heinous crime. Before the sentence is carried out, the counselor tells the condemned, “The Bodhisattava is waiting to receive your spirit.” Prior to his execution the young man draws a picture of the Bodhisattva Guanyin in which the goddess’s face is that of the girl he killed. The counselor sends the picture along with the letter, also asking the victim’s family if they have religious beliefs. When confronted with repentance and redemption or pain and loss, spiritual forces can bestow on us the power of mercy and righteousness.
Lu Cheng Da records life’s vestiges with the eye of a professional psychologist. A blend of fact and fiction, the essay looks back on life’s pain and trauma, finding truth – bitter and deep – in paradox and opposition. Lu’s writing accurately captures the flow of consciousness and temporal and spatial atmospheres. Although it is an essay, “Twilight of the Gods” is filled dramatic tension. Written in unadorned prose, the work is warm and moving; the story is sad and perplexing, but in the end the writer still looks forward to “a bountiful autumn harvest” after the pain has passed. Lu’s essay is a vivid inquiry into the spiritual life.
Wu Shuang, PhD student, National Chengchi University Graduate Institute of Chinese Literature
Lu Cheng Da (1962- ), a Tainan native, currently resides in Taipei. He is a graduate of Fujen University’s Department of Applied Psychology, holds a Master’s degree from National Taiwan University’s Institute of National Development, and is currently studying for a doctorate in Fujen University’s Department of Psychology. He has served as editor of Teacher Chang Monthly, literary-group director and chief supplement editor at Independence Evening News, chief editor of Hsin Yi Foundation Preschool Monthly, editorial director at Amazing magazine, and psychology instructor.
Since 1997 Lu Cheng Da has received numerous literary awards: the China Times Literature Award, the United Daily News Literature Award, the Liang Shiqiu Literature Award, the Religious Literature Award, and the Lin Rongsan Literature Award. Chiu Ko Publishing Company voted Lu one of the Taiwan’s thirty most influential essay writers. He is also a National Arts Foundation grant recipient.
Lu writes children’s literature as well as fiction and essays, covering a range of topics and categories – popular spirituality, adolescent education, parenting, sociology, history, and politics. Be a Shining Star (2011) received the Government Information Bureau’s Best Adolescent Literature recommendation; The Boy Who Talked to Dolphins (2005) won the Beautiful Life Reading Award; “Twilight of the Gods” took first prize in the Third Annual Religious Literature Awards’ essay category, and was adapted by director Zhang Aijia and incorporated into the film 10 +10. Other works include Daughter of Taiwan (2014), Brocade Purse (2013), A Dad Who Won’t Run Away (2013), Papa, Are We OK? – The Father of an Autistic Child’s Book of Love and Woe (2012), Lonely Planet, Bustling Crowd (2011), 36 Parent-Child Strategies (2010), Practice Growing Up: 50 Lessons for Teenagers (2007), A Husband’s Secret Base (2006), The Boy Who Talked to Dolphins (2005), and The Man in the Strange Shoes Has Come to Have Tea (2008). Works Lu has co-written include Teacher Chang Culture Books’ The Time Thief (1989) and Come Out of Life’s Deep Valley (1989; 2005).
Lu Cheng Da’s writing is concise and fluid, his subjects diverse: His children’s books are simple and accessible; his essays are deft and relevant; his fiction is moving and thought provoking, evincing deep wisdom. Lu’s rich body of writing manifests his heartfelt concern for spiritual, family, and educational issues. His work incorporates his training in psychology, engaging topics directly, touching readers both intellectually and emotionally.
|Work(English)：||Twilight of the Gods|
|Anthology：||Lonely Planet, Bustling Crowd|
|Author：||Lu Cheng Da|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Route Culture Co. Ltd.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.uniqueroute.com|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Uniqueroute Publishing Co. Ltd.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|