|Lin Yutang, photographed by
Carl Van Vechten, 1939
Lin Yutang (October 10, 1895 – March 26, 1976) was a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West. He also invented the Mingkwai "Clear and Quick" Chinese-language typewriter that played a pivotal role in the Cold War Machine Translation research (see Tsu, 2010).
Lin was born in the town of Banzai, Pinghe, Zhangzhou, Fujian. This mountainous region made a deep impression on his consciousness, and thereafter he would constantly consider himself a child of the mountains (in one of his books he commented that his idea of hell was a city apartment). His father was a Christian minister. His journey of faith from Christianity to Taoism and Buddhism, and back to Christianity in his later life was recorded in his book From Pagan to Christian (1959).
Academic career and Shanghai intellectual world 
Lin studied for his bachelor's degree at Saint John's University in Shanghai, then received a half-scholarship to continue study for a doctoral degree at Harvard University. He later wrote that in the Widener Library he first found himself and first came alive, but he never saw a Harvard-Yale game. He left Harvard early however, moving to work with the Chinese Labor Corps in France and eventually to Germany, where he completed his requirements for a doctoral degree in Chinese philology at the University of Leipzig. From 1923 to 1926 he taught English literature at Peking University.
Enthusiastic about the success of the Northern Expedition, he briefly served in the new Nationalist government, but soon turned to teaching and writing. He found himself in the wake of the New Culture Movement which criticized China's tradition as feudal and harmful. Instead of accepting this charge, however, Lin immersed himself in the Confucian texts and literary culture which his Christian upbringing and English language education had denied him. His magazine Lun Yu (Analects) attracted essays and readership, and Lin maintained friendship and debate with Hu Shi, Lu Xun, and Zhou Zuoren, key figures in the Shanghai literary scene of the 1930s. He was a key figure in introducing the Western concept of humor, which he felt China had lacked. In 1933, however, Lu Xun attacked the journal Analects for being apolitcal and dismissed Lin's elegant xiaopin wen 小品文, or small essay as "bric a brac for the bourgeoisie." .
Lin's writings in Chinese were critical of the Nationalist government, to the point that he feared for his life. Many of his essays from this time were later collected in With Love and Irony (1940). In 1933, he met Pearl Buck in Shanghai, and she introduced him and his writings to her publisher, Richard Walsh, head of John Day publishers, who published Lin's works for many years.
Career after leaving China 
After 1935 Lin lived mainly in the United States, where he became known as a "wise and witty" popularizer of Chinese philosophy and way of life. Lin's first best sellers were My Country and My People (simplified Chinese: 吾国与吾民; traditional Chinese: 吾國與吾民) (1935) and The Importance of Living (simplified Chinese: 生活的艺术; traditional Chinese: 生活的藝術) (1937), written in English in a charming style. Others include Between Tears and Laughter (啼笑皆非) (1943), The Importance of Understanding (1960, a book of translated Chinese literary passages and short pieces), The Chinese Theory of Art (1967). The novels Moment in Peking (simplified Chinese: 京华烟云; traditional Chinese: 京華煙雲) (1939), A Leaf in the Storm (1940), and The Vermillion Gate (simplified Chinese: 朱门; traditional Chinese: 朱門) (1953) were well received epics of China in turmoil, while Chinatown Family (1948) presented the lives of Chinese Americans in New York. Partly to avoid controversial contemporary issues, Lin in 1947 published The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo which presented the struggle between Su Dongpo and Wang Anshi as parallel to the struggle between Chinese liberals and totalitarian communists.
Lin's political writings in English sold fewer copies and were more controversial. Between Tears and Laughter (1943) broke with the genial tone of his earlier English writings to criticize Western racism and imperialism. After Pearl Harbor, Lin traveled in China and wrote favorably of the war effort and Chiang Kai-shek in Vigil of a Nation (1944), and was criticized by American China Hands such as Edgar Snow.
He was interested in mechanics. Since Chinese is a character-based rather than an alphabet-based language, with many thousands of separate characters, it has always been difficult to employ modern printing technologies. For many years it was doubted that a Chinese typewriter could be invented (Tsu 2010). Lin, however, worked on this problem for decades and eventually came up with a workable typewriter—brought to market in the middle of the war with Japan. He also invented and patented several lesser inventions such as a toothbrush with toothpaste dispensing.
He was nominated and served briefly as president (or chancellor) of the Nanyang University created in Singapore specifically for Chinese studies complementary to the English-oriented University of Singapore. He did not, however, choose to continue in that role when Nanyang (South Seas) University became a focus of the struggle for control of Singapore between the Communist-directed left and the liberal, social democratic right. He felt he was too old for the conflict.
With his unique facility for both Chinese and English idiom, Lin presided over the compilation of an outstanding Chinese-English dictionary, Lin Yutang's Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage (simplified Chinese: 林语堂当代汉英词典; traditional Chinese: 林語堂當代漢英詞典) (1972), which contains a massive English index to definitions of Chinese terms. The work was undertaken in Hong Kong, where Lin served for a time at the newly founded Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Dr. Lin was buried at his home in Yangmingshan, Taipei, Taiwan. His home has been turned into a museum, which is operated by Taipei-based Soochow University. The town of Lin's birth, Banzai, has also preserved the original Lin home and turned it into a museum.
Lin's reputation and scholarship on Lin 
Although his major books have remained in print, Lin is a thinker whose place in modern Chinese intellectual history has been overlooked until recently. Lin themed conventions have been organized in Taiwan and Lin's native Fujian, and in December 2011, the International Conference on the Cross-cultural Legacy of Lin Yutang in China and America was held at City University of Hong Kong, with professional and private scholars from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, the United States, Germany and Slovakia. The organizer of the conference was Dr. Qian Suoqiao, whose book, Liberal Cosmopolitan: Lin Yutang and Middling Chinese Modernity (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2010) was the first (and still only) full length academic study of Lin in any language. Jing Tsu's Sound and Script in Chinese Diaspora (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010) gives a detailed account of Lin Yutang's typewriter and its role in the context of late 19th century script reform, Chinese national language reform in the early twentieth century, and the fascinating story of his typewriting keyboard and Machine Translation research during the Cold War.
His wife, Liao TsuiFeng (廖翠鳳), was an author, who, along with her daughter Lin Hsiang Ju, wrote three cookery books which popularized Chinese cuisine in the English speaking world. Dr. Lin wrote introductions which explained the historical background and relevance for American life.
His first daughter Adet Lin (林鳳如; also known as Lin Rusi 林如斯) (1923–1971) was an author who also used the pseudonym Tan Yun.
His second daughter Lin TaiYi (林太乙) (1926–2003) was also known as Anor Lin in her earliest writing, and had the Chinese name 玉如. She was an author and the general editor of Chinese Reader's Digest from 1965 until her retirement in 1988. She also wrote a biography of her father in Chinese (林語堂傳), which shows some signs of her father's literary flair.
His third daughter Lin HsiangJu (林相如) (1931-), was referred to as MeiMei in childhood. She was co-author of cookbooks with her mother, and was a biochemist at Queen Mary hospital in Hong Kong.
The daughters all had names containing the character 如 (Ju): Adet 鳳如, Anor 玉如, and HsiangJu 相如.
Works in Chinese or published in China to 1935 
(courtesy Lin Yutang House )
- (1928) Jian Fu Collection (Shangha: Bei Hsin Book Company)
- (1930) Letters of a Chinese Amazon and Wartime Essays (Shanghai: Kaiming
- (1930) Kaiming English Books (Three Volumes) (Shanghai: Kaiming)
- (1930) English Literature Reader (Two Volumes) (Shanghai: Kaiming)
- (1930) Kaiming English Grammar (Two Volumes) (Shanghai: Kaiming)
- (1931) Reading in Modern Journalistic Prose (Shanghai: Oriental Book)
- (1933) A Collection of Essays on Linguistics (Shanghai: Kaiming Book)
- (1934) Da Huang Ji (Shanghai: Living)
- (1934) My Words First Volume (Sing Su Ji) (Shanghai Times)
- (1935) Kaiming English Materials (Three Volumes) co-written by Lin Yutang and Lin you-ho (Shanghai: Oriental Book Co.)
- (1935) The Little Critic: Essays Satires and Sketches on China First Series: 1930-1932 (Shanghai: Oriental Book Co.)
- (1935) The Little Critic: Essays Satires and Sketches on China Second Series: 1933-1935 (Shanghai: Oriental Book Co.)
- (1935) Confucius Saw Nancy and Essays about Nothing (Shanghai: Oriental)
- (1936) My Words Second Volume (Pi Jing Ji) (Shanghai Times)
Works in English by Lin Yutang 
- (1935) My Country and My People, Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., (A John Day Book)
- (1936) A History of the Press and Public Opinion in China, Kelly and Walsh
- (1937) The Importance of Living, Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., (A John Day Book)
- (1938) The Wisdom of Confucius, Random House, The Modern Library
- (1939) Moment in Peking, The John Day Book Company
- (1940) With Love & Irony, A John Day Book Company
- (1941) A Leaf in the Storm, A John Day Book Company
- (1942) The Wisdom of China and India, Random House
- (1943) Between Tears & Laughter, A John Day Book Company
- (1944) The Vigil of a Nation, A John Day Book Company
- (1945) Between Tears and Laughter, written during World War II, as a bitter plea for the west to change its perspective of the world order. Published in London by Dorothy Crisp & Co Ltd.
- (1947) The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo, A John Day Book Company
- (1948) Chinatown Family, A John Day Book Company
- (1948) The Wisdom of Laotse, Random House
- (1950) On the Wisdom of America, A John Day Book Company
- (1951) Widow, Nun and Courtesan: Three Novelettes From the Chinese Translated and Adapted by Lin Yutang, A John Day Book Company
- (1952) Famous Chinese Short Stories, retold by Lin Yutang, The John Day Book Company, reprinted 1952, Washington Square Press
- (1953) The Vermilion Gate, A John Day Book Company
- (1955) Looking Beyond, Prentice Hall (Published in England as The Unexpected island, Heinemann)
- (1957) Lady Wu, World Publishing Company
- (1958) The Secret Name, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy
- (1959) The Chinese Way of Life, World Publishing Company
- (1959) From Pagan to Christian, World Publishing Company
- (1960) Imperial Peking: Seven Centuries of China, Crown Publishers
- (1960) The Importance of Understanding, World Publishing Company
- (1961) The Red Peony, World Publishing Company
- (1962) The Pleasure of a Nonconformist, World Publishing Company
- (1963) Juniper Loa, World Publishing Company
- (1964) The Flight of Innocents, G. P. Putnam's Sons
- (1973) Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage, Hong Kong Chinese University
Works in English by Liao TsuiFeng & Lin HsiangJu (wife & third daughter) 
- (1956) Cooking with the Chinese Flavor, Prentice Hall
- (1960) Secrets of Chinese Cooking, Prentice Hall
- (1972) Chinese Gastronomy, Pyramid Publications; 1977 reprint: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (introduction by Dr. Lin Yutang)
- (1996) The Art of Chinese Cuisine, Tuttle (a retitled edition of 1972 Chinese Gastronomy)
Works in English by Adet Lin (first daughter) 
- (1939) Our Family with Anor Lin (New York: John Day).
- (1941) Dawn over Chungking with Anor and MeiMei (HsiangJu) Lin (New York: John Day).
- (1943) "Flame from the Rock" (New York: John Day).
- (1961) "The Milky Way and Other Chinese Folk Tales" (New York: Harcourt Brace).
Works in English by Lin TaiYi (Anor Lin) (second daughter) 
- (1939) Our Family with Adet Lin. (New York: John Day).
- (1941) Dawn over Chungking with Adet and MeiMei (HsiangJu) Lin. (New York: John Day, rpr. Da Capo, 1975 ).
- (1943) War Tide (New York: John Day).
- (1946) The Golden Coin (New York: John Day).
- (1959) The Eavesdropper (Cleveland: World).
- (1960) The Lilacs Overgrow (Cleveland: World).
- (1964) Kampoon Street (Cleveland,: World).
- (1965) translated, Li Ju-chen Flowers in the Mirror (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965).
Further reading 
- Jing Tsu, "Lin Yutang's Typewriter," in Sound and Script in Chinese Diaspora. Harvard University Press, 2010, pp. 49–79. ISBN 978-0674055407
- Suoqiao Qian. Liberal Cosmopolitan: Lin Yutang and Middling Chinese Modernity. Leiden: Brill, Ideas and History Series, 2011. 271p. ISBN 978-90-04-19213-3.
See also 
- E. Bruce Brooks, "Sinologists: Lin Yutang"
- Kirk A. Denton, "Lu Xun Biography," MCLC Resource Center, (2002)
- Qian Suoqiao,Compiled and edited with an Introduction, Selected Bilingual Essays of Lin Yutang '《林语堂双语文選》 (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2010; Liberal Cosmopolitan: Lin Yutang and Middling Chinese Modernity. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011
- “Representing China: Lin Yutang vs. American ‘China Hands’ in the 1940s,” Journal of American-East Asian Relations Vol. 17, No. 2 (2010) (99-117)
- William Sima, "New Scholarship: The Cross-Cultural Legacy of Lin Yutang in China and America," China Heritage Quarterly 29 (2012). 
- International Conference on the Cross-cultural Legacy of Lin Yutang in China and America 
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Lin Yutang|
- Works by or about Lin Yutang at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions)
- List of Lin Yutang's publications
- Lin Yutang Biography & Photograph Collection
- Lin Yutang's Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage
- Patent for Lin Yutang's Chinese typewriter
- Lin Yutang's house (Taipei)
- "History of a 'Scribal Machine,'" The Harvard Gazette (April 2, 2009) http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/04/history-of-a-%E2%80%98scribal-machine%E2%80%99/