Picture of author.

Yutang Lin (1895–1976)

Author of The Importance of Living

147+ Works 3,006 Members 47 Reviews 7 Favorited

About the Author

Though he was never considered to be a serious original thinker or a leading writer in his native China, Lin Yu-t'ang's role as an essayist and popularizer of things Chinese in the West is worthy of attention. He was a native of Changchow in Amoy, son of a Presbyterian minister, and show more third-generation Christian. He was brought up in a strict household and prepared for the ministry, and after middle school he was sent to the Protestant College of Amoy. In 1911 he entered the famous St. John's University in Shanghai, and it was during his time there that he became disillusioned with the choice of a religious career and renounced Christianity. After graduation (with a rather weak academic record), Lin Yu-t'ang became a professor of English at Tsinghua University because his grounding in foreign languages was much stronger than in classical Chinese. In 1919 he decided to pursue further study in the United States, where he spent one year at Harvard University and then went on to France where he worked for the YMCA. He moved to Germany for a term, and at last in 1923 earned a Ph.D. in Leipzig in the field of archaic Chinese phonology. Lin Yu-t'ang then returned home and tried out various teaching posts, and in 1927 became secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Wuhan government. But politics was not to his liking, and he resigned in the following year. In 1932 he founded the Analects Fortnightly, a magazine of wit and satire that proved to be an instant popular success. Two years later he began another periodical, This Human World, which contained short essays. Unfortunately, his satire angered intellectuals on both the Left and the Right, and this was the beginning of his lifelong friction with Chinese literary and academic circles. In 1936, feeling hostility at home but an increased demand for his writings in the West, Lin Yu-t'ang went to New York City and remained there until 1943, when he went back home to lecture briefly and again became embroiled in controversy. However, in the United States, his essays and ideas were greeted with great enthusiasm. Early in 1954 he was appointed chancellor of the new Chinese University in Singapore, but, because of a disagreement with the trustees on policy, he and his staff left early in 1955 before the university opened its doors. Not long after this, in New York, he and his wife publicly announced their reconversion to Christianity. In addition to his many books of essays, Lin Yu-t'ang published a novel, Moment in Peking, a saga about a Chinese family spanning the years 1900--38. He also published a number of translations of classical Chinese works, the best of which is perhaps Shen Fu's Six Chapters of a Floating Life, the moving autobiographical account of a happy marriage marred by parental disapproval and the tragic early death of the wife. Lin Yu-t'ang's writings are marked by an appreciation of both Eastern and Western culture, and their sparkling, idiomatic English style has endeared him to thousands of Western readers. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Library of Congress

Works by Yutang Lin

The Importance of Living (1937) 892 copies
The Wisdom of Laotse (1948) — Translator — 274 copies
My Country and My People (1938) 219 copies
Moment in Peking (1939) 192 copies
Famous Chinese Short Stories (1954) — Author — 149 copies
Between Tears and Laughter (1943) 83 copies
From Pagan to Christian (1959) 73 copies
Lady Wu (1965) 72 copies
A Leaf in the Storm (1940) 52 copies
With Love and Irony (1940) 52 copies
The Wisdom of India (1942) 42 copies
The Vigil of a Nation (1945) 37 copies
Chinatown Family (1952) 35 copies
The Red Peony (1961) 34 copies
The Chinese Theory of Art (1967) 31 copies
The Vermillion Gate (1953) 29 copies
The Wisdom of China (1949) 26 copies
Juniper Loa (1963) 15 copies
The Chinese way of life (1959) 15 copies
The flight of the innocents (1968) 14 copies
Imperial Chinese Art (1983) 13 copies
Miss Tu (1950) 12 copies
The Secret Name (1958) 8 copies
Looking Beyond (2011) 6 copies
The unexpected island (1955) 3 copies
A GOLDEN RING (1994) 3 copies
啼笑皆非 (1994) 2 copies
京華煙雲 (下) (2006) 2 copies
朱門 1 copy
人生就像一首詩 (2013) 1 copy
大城北京 (2003) 1 copy
武則天傳 (2006) 1 copy
京華煙雲 1 copy
行素集 1 copy
武則天 1 copy
風聲鶴唳 1 copy
正當徬徨少年時 (1991) 1 copy
紅牡丹 1 copy
信仰之旅 1 copy
信仰之旅 1 copy
China 1 copy
京華煙雲 (上) (2006) 1 copy
Widow Chuan (1952) 1 copy
La vida en China (1986) 1 copy
Buddhisme untuk pemula (2021) 1 copy
勵志人生 1 copy
Ren sheng bu guo ru ci (2007) 1 copy
Universally Responding (2001) 1 copy
京華煙雲 1 copy
Die rote Peony (1969) 1 copy
Boundless 1 copy
Lin Yutang 1 copy

Associated Works

The Wisdom of Confucius (1938) 546 copies
A World of Great Stories (1947) 263 copies
Secrets of Chinese Cooking (1960) — Contributor, some editions — 24 copies
The Analog Sea Review: Number Two (2019) — Contributor — 18 copies
A history of Chinese literature (1964) — Preface, some editions — 9 copies


Common Knowledge



La importancia de vivir es la obra de referencia en Occidente para conocer, desde una perspectiva moderna, la ancestral y rica cultura oriental. Asuntos como el sentido del ocio, la felicidad, la naturaleza, el viaje, la cultura o la religión son abordados por Lin Yutang con una amena combinación de conocimiento teórico y experiencia personal que lo convierten en un magnífico manual de sabiduría concreta que nos ayuda a conocernos a nosotros mismos y nuestras posibilidades. A partir a menudo de anécdotas en las que todos podemos reconocernos o de actitudes y comportamientos que no nos son ajenos, Lin Yutang invita a dedicarles una mirada crítica y a verlas con nuevos ojos.… (more)
AmicanaLibrary | 14 other reviews | Jan 31, 2024 |
I found this in Browsers' Bookstore and decided to pick it up after flipping through a few pages and laughing. (would strongly encourage flipping through and bringing home old books- they can surprise you!)

I'd never heard of Lin Yutang before, and it's a shame I hadn't. With Love and Irony is a collection of his essays and satire that he wrote in English, some from various magazines he published in between 1930 and 1940. 80 years later, his sense of humor still reads sharp, and he remains relatively optimistic in spite of the Second Sino-Japanese War and occupation contemporary to his work. In "Mickey Mouse", he chides the college revolutionaries that sometimes art can just be for enjoyment and that not all literature needs to be political propaganda, recommending they take a break with comic strips. "The Coolie Myth" skewers Western perceptions on Chinese laborers. A lot of essays compare and contrast "traditional Chinese" culture to their English and American counterparts, in addition to the invading neighbors from Japan.

I felt sad reading "The Future of China", thinking about how he thought post-war nationalism would buoy future prospects only for the Chinese Civil War to resume and dash all those dreams.

Would recommend. It also makes me wonder what an equivalent would be today- like if someone in 2060 decided to read a Dave Barry collection? Would it age as well, or stymie the reader in temporally specific references and metaphor?
… (more)
Daumari | Dec 28, 2023 |
Outstanding Eastern wisdom from a Chinese who knows the West.
Hoyacane | 14 other reviews | Aug 27, 2022 |
The Importance of Living is a number of essays about the importance of enjoying life and ways to do so. In some ways, the author's ideas are kind of silly, but they are presented in such a non-pushy way that they the unpleasant ideas are easy to forget. However, his attitudes towards women are infuriating. At one point the author talks about how it is best for people to be natural... and women require lipstick to be natural. At another point, he makes this statement
Is it merely because woman is more charming and more graceful in a chiffon dress than in a business jacket, or is it merely my imagination? The gist of the matter seems to lie in the fact that women at home are like fish in water. Clothe women in business jackets and men will regard them as coworkers with the right to criticize, but let them float about in georgette or chiffon one out of the seven office hours in the day and men will give up any idea of competing with them, and will merely sit back and wonder and gasp.

This book may have been first published in 1937, but I still find the attitude towards women in this book excessively condescending.

Still, the general message of the book was nice, although not particularly noteworthy or inspiring. I agree that it is good to take things easily and to notice the world around us and appreciate nature and each other. It is good to make sure one's truths are consistent with human nature as well as with logic.
… (more)
eri_kars | 14 other reviews | Jul 10, 2022 |



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