Lin Yutang, 1895 - 1976

portrait of Lin Yutang
Portrait by Carl Van Vechten (16 September 1939)

Born: 10 October 1895, Banzai, Pinghe, Zhangzhou, Fujian, China
Died: 26 March 1976, Yangmingshan, Taipei, Taiwan

The eleventh of twelve children born to a Chinese Presbyterian minister in a small mountain town, Lin was educated in English at St John's at Shanghai. He studied at Tsinghua University from 1916 to 1919, then entered Harvard. When his half tuition scholarship was cut off, he and his wife left for France where he worked for the YMCA teaching basic literacy to Chinese workers, then moved on to Leipzig where he earned his PhD in linguistics in 1923. He then returned to China as a professor at Peking National University through 1926. He was briefly involved politically, joining the Nationalist Government as SEcretary to the Foreign Ministry, but left to wrote for popular magazines and edit literary publications. He met Pearl S. Buck who suggested he write about China for the American audience, his My Country and My People (1935) was soon at the top of the New York Times best seller list, a first for a Chinese author. He followed that with The Importance of Living in 1938, but his Vigil of a Nation, a tour of China at war, led to an uproar and a break with Pearl Buck. As her husband had been the publisher of his books to that date, it meant finding a new outlet for his work as well. He continued to write but spent a significant amount of time and capital developing an ingenious Chinese typewriter with a 72-key keyboard. It was seen by experts as a great step forward, but as China was engulfed in civil war at the time it went nowhere and he was forced to sell his New York home to pay the debts from the venture. Ne took a job with UNESCO at Paris, which he found frustrating if placid, then was hired as Chancellor at Nanyang University at Singapore. He managed to cause enough upset there that he left after only six months, before the school actually opened its doors, and returned to Paris. The Lins moved to New York to be near their daughters, then in 1965 moved to Taiwan where he lived for the rest of his life.

Biography from Wikipedia and University of Massachusetts Amherst

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