“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.”
Lin Yutang was born on this day in Banzai, Fujian province, China in 1895. today is the 117th anniversary of his birth.
He grew up in the mountains of Fujian province the son of a Chinese Presbyterian minister. He studied at Saint John’s University, Shanghai and at Harvard University in the US. At first he studied to be a minister, but he renounced Christianity and pursued a degree in English instead.
He bridged the cultural and linguistic divide writing and editing for both English and Chinese magazines and produced Lin Yutang’s Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage.
His successful satirical magazine Analects Fortnightly was the first of its kind in China. In 1933 Pearl Buck introduced him to her publisher who took Lin Yutang on as a client.
In 1935 he moved to the US.
Lin published the first of his many English-language books, My Country and My People. It was widely translated and for years was regarded as a standard text on China. [Britannica.com]
He moved to New York and published Moment in Peking in 1939. His 1941 novel A Leaf in the Storm, presents China on the brink of war with Japan. Wisdom of China and India followed in 1942.Lin’s fiction includes Chinatown Family — a look at culture, race and religion faced by an immigrant Chinese American family; and his 1968 The Flight of the Innocents.
During the WWII Lin developed a workable Chinese typewriter, the “Ming Kwai” typewriter.
His belief that literature should be a means of self-expression, not a tool for propaganda put him at odds with political movements in China when he returned to his homeland in 1943 and 1954.
Lin wrote more than three dozen books and is “arguably the most distinguished Chinese American writer of the twentieth century.” [Google Books] He died on March 26, 1976.