Lin Yutang - Chinese American Author
Lin Yutang (October 10, 1895 – March 26, 1976) was a Chinese writer 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.
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).
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 France and eventually to Germany, where he completed his requirements for a doctoral degree (in Chinese) at the University of Leipzig. From 1923 to 1926 he taught English literature at Peking University. On his return to the United States in 1931, he was briefly detained for inspection at Ellis Island.
Dr. Lin was very active in the popularization of classical Chinese literature in the West, as well as the general Chinese attitude towards life. He worked to formulate Gwoyeu Romatzyh a new method of romanizing the Chinese language, and created an indexing system for Chinese characters.
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. 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.
His wife, Lin TsuiFeng was a cookbook author whose authentic recipes did a great deal to popularize the art of Chinese cookery in America. Dr. Lin wrote the introduction to one collection of recipes compiled by his wife and their third daughter, Lin HsiangJu (林相如).
His first daughter Adet Lin (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. She was an author and the general editor of Chinese Reader's Digest from 1965 until her retirement in 1988.
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.