Yutang Lin

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Date: 2003
Document Type: Biography
Length: 1,781 words

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About this Person
Born: October 10, 1895 in Changchow, China
Died: March 26, 1976 in Hong Kong
Nationality: Chinese
Occupation: Philologist
Other Names: Lin Yu-tang
Updated:Aug. 22, 2003


Family: Born October 10, 1895, in Changchow, China; died March 26, 1976; son of Chi-seng (a minister) and Sunmeng (Yang) Lin; married Tsuifeng Liao, July 9, 1919; children: Adet (daughter), Anor (Mrs. Lai Ming), Hsiang Ju (daughter). Education: St. John's College, B.A., 1916; Harvard University, M.A., 1920; University of Leipzig, Ph.D., 1923. Religion: Christian.


Peking National University, Peking, China, professor of English philology, 1923-26; National Amoy University, Amoy, Fukien, China, professor of English and dean of College of Arts, 1926-27; Revolutionary Government of China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wuhan, secretary, 1927; research fellow in philology and English editor, Academia Sinica, 1930-35; UNESCO, head of arts and letters division in Paris, France, 1948-49; Nanyang University, Singapore, chancellor, 1954-55; writer.



  • (Compiler) Readings in Modern Journalistic Prose, Commercial Press (Shanghai), 1931.
  • (With Shih Hu) China's Own Critics, Commercial Press, 1931, reprinted, Paragon, 1969, Hyperion Press (Westport, CT), 1981.
  • (Translator) Hsieh Ping-ying, Letters of a Chinese Amazon (also see below), Commercial Press, 1934.
  • War-Time Essays (bound with Letters of a Chinese Amazon), Commercial Press, 1934.
  • The Little Critic: Essays, Satires and Sketches on China, Commercial Press, Second Series: 1933-1935, 1935, First Series: 1930-1932, 1936. (Both reprinted by Hyperion Press, 1983.)
  • My Country and My People, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1935, new edition, Heinemann, 1962.
  • (Translator) Liu Eh, A Nun of Taishan and Other Translations (novelette), Commercial Press, 1936.
  • A History of the Press and Public Opinion in China (monograph), University of Chicago Press, 1936, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1968.
  • Confucius Saw Nancy and Essays about Nothing, Commercial Press, 1937.
  • The Importance of Living, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1937, reprinted, John Day, 1965, Morrow, 1996.
  • The Birth of a New China: A Personal Story of the Sino-Japanese War, John Day, 1939.
  • Moment in Peking: A Novel of Contemporary Chinese Life, John Day, 1939.
  • With Love and Irony, John Day, 1940.
  • A Leaf in the Storm: A Novel of War-Swept China, John Day, 1941, reprinted, Lythway Press, 1974.
  • (Editor) The Wisdom of China and India, Random House, 1942.
  • (Editor) The Wisdom of India, Random House, 1942, reprinted, New English Library, 1965.
  • Between Tears and Laughter, John Day, 1943, reprinted, Books for Libraries, 1972.
  • (Editor and translator) The Wisdom of Confucius, Modern Library, 1943.
  • The Vigil of a Nation, John Day, 1944.
  • Chinese Ideals of Life, Watts & Co. (London), 1944.
  • The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo, John Day, 1947, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1971.
  • Mao Tse-Tung's "Democracy": A Digest of the Bible of Chinese Communism, Chinese News Service, 1947.
  • (Editor) Gems from Chinese Literature (in Chinese and English), Yupuwei Studio, 1947.
  • Kaiming English Grammar, 9th edition, Kaiming, 1947.
  • Chinatown Family, John Day, 1948.
  • (Editor and translator) The Wisdom of Laotse, Modern Library, 1948, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1979.
  • Miss Tu, Heinemann, 1950, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1971.
  • On the Wisdom of America, John Day, 1950.
  • Peace Is in the Heart, Aldor, 1950.
  • (Translator and adapter) Widow, Nun and Courtesan, John Day, 1951, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1971.
  • Widow Chuan, Heinemann, 1952.
  • (Editor) Famous Chinese Short Stories, John Day, 1952, Greenwood Press, 1979.
  • The Vermillion Gate, John Day, 1953, reprinted, Greenwood Press, 1971.
  • Looking Beyond, Prentice-Hall, 1955 (published in England as Unexpected Island, Heinemann, 1955).
  • (Translator) Chuang-tzu, World Book (Taipei), 1957.
  • Lady Wu: A True Story, Heinemann, 1957, published as Lady Wu: A Novel, Putnam, 1965.
  • The Secret Name, Farrar, Strauss, 1958 (published in England as The Secret Name: The Soviet Record, 1917-1958, Heinemann, 1959).
  • From Pagan to Christian, World Publishing, 1959.
  • The Chinese Way of Life, World Publishing, 1959.
  • (With Toni Keitlen) Farewell to Fear, Geis, 1960.
  • (Compiler and translator) The Importance of Understanding, World Publishing, 1960, published as Translations from the Chinese (The Importance of Understanding), 1963.
  • The Red Peony, World Publishing, 1961.
  • Imperial Peking: Seven Centuries of China, Crown, 1961.
  • Pleasures of a Nonconformist, World Publishing, 1962.
  • Juniper Loa, World Publishing, 1963.
  • The Flight of the Innocents, Putnam, 1964.
  • (Compiler) The Chinese Theory of Art, Putnam, 1967.
  • (Author of introduction) Lin Hsiung-Ju (daughter) and Lin T.F.L. (wife), Chinese Gastronomy, Hastings House, 1969.
  • Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage, Chinese University of Hong King, 1972.
  • Lin Yutang: The Best of an Old Friend, edited by A. J. Anderson, Mason/Charter, 1975.
  • Founder and editor, Analects Fortnightly (Lunyu), 1932, This Human World (Jenchienshih), 1934, and The Cosmic Wind (Yuchoufeng), 1935.
  • Imperial Chinese Art, Greenwich House (New York City), 1983.
  • Crossing the Gate of Death in Chinese Buddhist Culture: June 17, 1995, Tan Wah Temple, Honolulu, Hawaii: A Presentation in Understanding Death in Chinese Buddhist Culture, self-published (El Cerrito, CA), 1995.
  • Crossing the Threshold of Liberation, n. p. (Taipei, Taiwan), 1995.
  • A Golden Ring: An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation, n. p. (Taipei, Taiwan), 1995.
  • The Sixfold Sublimation in Limitless-Oneness, n. p. (Taipei, Taiwan), 1995.
  • Wisdom and Compassion in Limitless-Oneness, n. p. (Taipei, Taiwan), 1995.
  • (Author of introduction) Hisiang-ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin, Chinese Gastronomy, C. E. Tuttle (Boston, MA), 1996.

Member of editorial staff, China Critic, beginning 1927, and T'ien Hsia Monthly, beginning 1936.


For the most part, the work Lin liked to do best throughout his long career as scholar, translator, educator, lexicographer, and humanist was to write. Totally bilingual or, as he himself once described it, alternately "thinking with the brush in Chinese and thinking with the typewriter in English," Lin spent several decades preparing a Chinese-English dictionary of modern usage, the completion of which he considered the crowning achievement of his career.

Yet while it was his last major achievement, it was certainly not the only one. During the 1930s, for example, Lin wrote two best-selling nonfiction works, My Country and My People and The Importance of Living, both of which attempted to clarify the nature of Chinese character and thought for Western readers. The author's delightfully sly sense of humor, amiable tone, and excellent command of idiomatic English, combined with an underlying seriousness of purpose, quickly made him a favorite among readers and reviewers alike. As M. H. Bro of Christian Century observed: "[My Country and My People] is not just a great book about China but a great book about life. . . . Although the author appears in the chapter headings to cover the whole range of human interest, it is not his complexity which astounds one. It is his simplicity. He wastes no words. He chooses deliberately."

T. F. Opie of Churchman stated: "No one who wants to know either old or new China need go beyond the covers of My Country and My People. . . . The whole gamut of matters Chinese, is here treated with a deftness, a frankness, an intelligence, a subtlety, seldom matched in any work." Peter Fleming of the Spectator agreed, as did the Nation's Younghill Kang. "This book," Fleming wrote, "although its quality is uneven, is worth all the other modern books about China put together." Kang noted that "My Country and My People is not just another book on China. It has something to say, and says it with charm and humor."

The New York Times' R. E. Kennedy remarked that "reading Mr. Lin's book is a tremendous experience, and one feels deeply grateful for the enlightenment derived from it. No one but a Chinese could have given such an honest, faithful, unprejudiced account of the people."

Finally, Nathaniel Peffer of the Saturday Review of Literature wrote: "Mr. Lin has lived in Europe and America and measured the ways of the West with a critical eye. He is widely read in Western literature, has an impressive erudition, and has not only `learned' Western culture but understands it. Withal he has the mellowness, the wisdom, and the humor of his race. . . . His book is therefore the best tha has been written on China in English, and I recommend it to all those who want a true and sensitively perceived picture of China."

In The Importance of Living, Lin offered readers a Chinese philosophy of life "written with a chuckle," in the words of a Christian Century reviewer. Books critic Florence Ayscough called it "an all revealing book: not alone is a civilization portrayed, but a personality as well. A wise, whimsical, witty, ironical personality: that of the author."

The New Republic's R. M. Lovett commented: "[The Importance of Living] is a more didactic and calculated treatise than My Country and My People and lacks something of the spontaneous charm of the latter. It is too long, and somewhat overwritten. . . . [But] for the rest, Mr. Lin has written a wise and beautiful book."

Carl Crow of the Saturday Review of Literature claimed that "Dr. Lin has performed the inestimable service of distilling the philosophy of generations of Chinese sages and presenting it against a modern Occidental background, which makes it easily readable and understandable. It is, in fact, a charming text book on living which anyone can read with pleasure and profit."

In his review of The Importance of Living, J. S. Bixler of Atlantic also praised the usefulness of Lin's overview of Chinese philosophy. He wrote: "When a book by an Oriental has the style of a sophisticated contribution to the New Yorker, we are put at once on our guard. If this atuhor has become so completely one of us, we ask, can he have anything to say for himself? . . . But if the reader suspects this book he soon changes his impression. . . . [Lin] preaches a gospel that applies to all men, and behind his sense for the apt American word is the artist's awareness of the universal."




Saturday Review of Literature, September 21, 1935, November 27, 1937;

Chicago Daily Tribune, September 21, 1935;

Books, September 22, 1935, November 21, 1937;

Springfield Republican, September 29, 1935;

Nation, October 23, 1935;

Christian Century, November 6, 1935, December 22, 1937;

Churchman, December 1, 1935;

New York Times, December 8, 1935, December 5, 1937, November 23, 1972;

Foreign Affairs, January, 1936;

Spectator, February 28, 1936;

Manchester Guardian, March 5, 1936;

New Statesman and Nation, March 14, 1936;

Pacific Affairs, June, 1936;

New Republic, December 15, 1937;

Atlantic, February, 1938; Francis Hackett, On Judging Books, John Day, 1947; Evelyn Lowenstein, Picture Book of Famous Immigrants, Sterling, 1962; Newsweek, December 4, 1972, April 5, 1976.*

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Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000060151