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My Country and My People by Lin Yutang

My Country and My People

by Lin Yutang

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Written in 1935, Lin’s was the first major work by a Chinese to introduce China and her culture to the West. Lin was born in China, but was educated in the West, in the US and Europe. He was a key figure in the New Culture Movement of the 1920s, but after 1935 spent most of his life in the US. He was the compiler of a Chinese - English dictionary which is still one of the most widely used today, and the inventor of the first Chinese language typewriter – a kind of Renaissance Man. He is ideally suited, then, as a kind of insider-outsider to write about his own culture.

The Chinese observer has a distinct advantage over the foreign observer, for he is a Chinese, and as a Chinese he not only sees with his mind but he also feels with his heart… he writes of his mission to observe and explain his birth culture to his adopted culture.

Lin’s book covers subjects as diverse as…

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12 vote tomcatMurr | Mar 12, 2015 |
Lin Yutang writes here in a systematic approach to a western audience about China and Chinese culture. Still prescient even today, after nearly seventy years, Lin truly understands what it is to be Chinese and conveys that to his audience, and is frank and sincere about China's shortcomings and positives. Highly recommended at the time of its publishing, it ought to remain so today. ( )
1 vote xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
"...He wrote this during the 1930s after China’s Opium Wars. A lot of people were trying to understand what was going on in China so Yutang wrote the book to explain. For many people it became the standard text to read on the subject if you wanted to understand the key characteristics of Chinese people and China’s history. He wanted to explain why Chinese people are lost without the Imperial Emperor who is like our god. He suggested that without a god we had nothing to fight for except a new god; that is why when the last Emperor fell in the early 20th century there was such turmoil as Chinese people fought to find the new Emperor or god.

This was something I read in the 1980s at university and I was very surprised to see this portrayal of Chinese people to the Western world, because Yutang wrote it in English for foreigners. You have to understand that China has a long history without religion and even though Western people might say they are not religious your country is so deeply embedded in religious history it permeates your culture and your way of life. You have Christmas and Easter, you can walk down a street in London and see St Paul’s Cathedral and hear church bells. When you pray for something it is to do with the afterlife and your spiritual well being. Your daily life is watered and weathered by religion. For Chinese people it is all about the here and now. If they adopt a religion and pray it will be for money or good luck or good health or good exam results..."
(reviewed by Xinran at FiveBooks. Full interview is available here:http://fivebooks.com/interviews/xinran-on-understanding-china)
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2 vote | FiveBooks | May 10, 2010 |
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