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Lu Xun was the pen name of Zhou Zhangshou (birth name) or Zhou Yushan (courtesy name) or Zhou Yucai (courtesy name 2.0) or Zhou Shuren (the name he chose in 1898).

The "Lu" (魯 / 鲁) in his pen name comes from his mother's family name. Where did the second part, 迅, come from? This isn't mentioned in Wikipedia, the Encyclopædia Britannica or the Lu Xun Biography at the MCLC Resource Center.

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On this website (in Chinese):

鲁迅”这个笔名,历来有两种解释:一种说法是指“鲁”字乃鲁迅先生母亲的姓,他的小说中常提到的“鲁镇”,就是他母亲的老家;“迅”是他的小名,所以在他的小说里也出现过“迅哥儿”一词。另一种解释是先生挚友许寿裳所说,他亲自问过鲁迅先生,先生笑道:“取愚鲁而迅行的意思。”此乃先生自谦之辞。这两种说法,都是从字面上解释,也切合鲁迅的生平,都说得通。可最近又有人发现了第三种解释。认为“迅”字,古义为狼。出处见《尔雅·释兽》:“狼子绝有力者曰迅。”照这样注解引申出来,“鲁迅”是指狼的一个勇敢有力的儿子。持此一说的是历史学家侯外庐。他说,鲁迅是封建社会的叛逆者,他的小说代表作《狂人日记》就是抨击封建社会“吃人”制度的,他取用这两个字为名,正是鲜明表示他甘以“狼子”自居,与封建社会制度彻底决裂之心声。据说侯外庐的这种解释,曾向鲁迅夫人许广平提起过,许广平连连称谢,表示首肯。

Link: https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/157476489.html

1st Explanation: is the author's mother's family name and old home; 迅 is the author's "little name". Sorry, but the original text uses 小名. This is not translatable into English. This name is given to little children, and it may stick as a term used by family and close friends. Sometimes, this "little name" is replaced by the "big name" (大名)or personal name (姓名); sometimes, this "little name" remains as that individual's name for eternity instead of calling that individual by his/her actual personal name 姓名. 大名 and 姓名 are the same thing. It is easy to explain in Chinese: "大名就是大人名字,小名就是小孩名字。" In English, that would be: "Big name" is the name of big people (adults), "little name" is the name of little children.

2nd Explanation: 鲁迅 is a joke made by the author: "取愚鲁而迅行的意思". Translation: "pick something that means unclever and fast-moving." This "unclever" word means unclever, dim-witted, or slow mind. The "fast-moving" word means fast-moving. The contradictory meanings between 鲁 and 迅 make up the joke.

3rd Explanation: In ancient times, 迅 means 狼 (translation: "wolf"). Wolves are brave and strong. By taking that character as one's given name, it means that he is the son of a wolf, characterizing himself.

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    Thanks for this answer. Are those explanations by Baidu users based on statements by Lu Xun or just guesses? Also, if 迅 is his 小名, why is that term not found in the Chinese Wikpedia article. What is the difference between 小名 and 原名? – Christophe Strobbe Jan 13 at 21:18
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    To answer your first question, all three explanations are popular guesses made by other people. The true answer: we don't know why Lu Xun picks his own pen name. These are all popular estimates. – Double U Jan 13 at 21:24
  • 小名 is only used by family members and close friends as an appellation in one's youth. It is NOT a name that society will recognize you by, but it can be used so commonly that sometimes close friends don't know each other's 姓名, unless they continue their friendship in adulthood. – Double U Jan 13 at 21:32
  • 原名 can mean the original or previous appellation or personal name of a person. It may be used for the original name for the woman in foreign societies. Note: In Chinese culture, women generally inherit the father's family name and keep it forever. They do not take on the husband's family name, unless they are in Hong Kong. Some Hong Kong women may attach their husband's surname to their own, and thus, they may have three- or four- character names. – Double U Jan 13 at 21:45

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