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December 15, 1935 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1935-12-15

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Native Chinese Interprets His
Ancient Land For Occidentals

by Lin Yutang. Reynal and Hitch-
cock. $3.00.
By Prof. Charles E. Remer
(Of'The Economics Dept)
Let me begin in a matter-of-fact
way. I wish to introduce to you Mr.
Lin Yutang, a Chinese, who has writ-
ten a book about China. I wish, also,
to expand this brief statement until
I make you believe that the publica-
tion of this book is an important
event, until you are convinced that
you cannot begin to understand to-
day's events in the Far East until
you have read it, until you are
brought to such a degree of excite-
ment about this book that you will
actually consider buying it.
Lin Yutang I knew first as a college
student in China who was not to be
distinguished from his fellow students
except by a livelier energy, a quicker
wit and an ability to make more effec-
tive use of the English language.
Since his college days in China he has
traveled and studied (he has degrees
from Harvard and Leipzig), thereby
acquiring the shrewd view of the West
which he displays in this book. He is
now a well-known writer, edits two
Chinese magazines and provides the
always interesting, frequently auda-
cious "Little Critic" section of "The
China Critic," a weekly published in
Shanghai, in English, bysChinese.
Essays, text books for English study
and articles on research are turned
out by him in a considerable quanti-
ty. Oh, yes, he finds time to be the
scholar, too, as his book so charming-
ly shows - and is research fellow of
the Academica Sinica. When a
Chinese scholar of sensitiveness, of
courage, of keen wit and engaging
humor tells you what he actually
thinks and tells it to you in your own
language, which he writes better than
you, he is worth listening to.
The author's thoughts concern
themselves with the present state of
China, with the explanation of that
state, and with his country's future.
One sees in the pages of this book
China and the Chinese, one sees also
the spirit of Mr. Lin Yutang strug-
gling to understand. The result is
reported in a highly objective man-
ner, startlingly so when one bears in
mind the unwillingness of most of us
to be objective under such circum-
stances and the strong impulse which
a Chinese who knows both East and
West must feel to plead his country's
cause in a book addressed to readers
of the English language. This ob-
jectivity is, however, that of the ar-
tist and not that of the scientist, and
so it is combined, or rather blended,
with an account of the author's emo-
tions on viewing the Chinese scene.
\r. Lin shows, in revealing the work-
ings of his mind and spirit, many of
the qualities which he sets forth as
characteristically Chinese, but some-
thing has driven him to be what he
himself would call un-Chinese in his
candid appraisal of that scene.
This book shows that an intelligent
and sensitive Chinese living in a per-
iod of disillusionment is not ashamed
of his country as are, in his opinion,
many of the "great patriots" of the
land. What is more, the author shows
quite convincingly that he need not
be ashamed of China, in spite of
shameful events and conditions.
"China," he says, "is greater than the
lame propaganda and petulance of all
her returned students, greater than
the hypocrisy, shame, and greed of all
her petty officials and turncoat gen-
erals and fence-riding revolutionists,
greater than her wars and pestilence,
greater than her dirt and poverty and
famines. For she has survived them
all. Amidst wars and pestilence, sur-
rounded by her poor children and
grandchildren, merry old China quiet-
ly sips her tea and smiles on, and in
her smile I see her real strength. She
quietly sips her tea and smiles on,
and in her smile I detect at times a
mere laziness to change and at others
aiconservatism that savors of haught-

And upon what, one may ask, does
such a conviction of greatness de-
pend when the scene is filled with
evidence of failure? To answer this
question adequately one should give
a detailed outline of the book. How-
ever, three sections of the book in
themselves present convincing evi-
dence of the greatness of China. The
section on Chinese calligraphy, paint-
ing and architecture will carry con-
viction of China's greatness to those
who do not know China as certainly
as they will please and reassure those
who do know the country. The sec-
tion on family and social life, while
it points out very clearly the faults of
the family system, convinces the
reader of the stability and endurance
of the nation. Incidentally, the dis-
cussion of the place of woman in
Chinese society and the rapidity with
which that position is changing is an
exceedingly interesting chapter.
But the author is most convincing
of his country's greatness in his dis-

is a quality about Chinese life which
every thoughtful Westerner who
comes to know China looks upon with
at least some degree of envy. Lin
Yutang is humorous, at times even
perverse, in his attempts to portray
this quality. He has a good time tell-
ing us how much he dislikes exercise.
He smiles over his statement that the
Chinese educated abroad really grows
up when he quits his western clothes
with their "dog collar" and goes back
to the Chinese long gown. He pokes
fun at the Westerner for "exploring
the South Pole and scaling the Him-
alayas" and generally wanting to be
where he is not. But all this has been
done before, if nowhere with better
When it comes .o pointing out, not
what is wrong with the West, but
what is right with China, the author
is on more difficult ground. He uses
the word "contentment" again and
again in his efforts to explain. Let
me offer a single quotation, "We al-
ways go back to nature as an eternal
source of beauty and of true and deep
and lasting happiness . . . We throw
open our windows and listen to ci-
cadas, or to falling autumn leaves and
inhale the fragrance of chrysanthe-
mums, and over the top there shines
the autumn moon and we are con-
tent." He adds to such statements
comments on the art of taking an
afternoon nap and on the delights of
Chinese cookery. "Any nation that
does not know how to eat and enjoy
living is uncouth and uncivilized in
our eyes."
This task of stating what it is in
Chinese life that arouses the envy
of the West is beyond precise and
certain statement. Though there re-
mains something still to be said the
author's excellent statement is to be
applauded. This quality of the Chin-
ese spirit is so important that any
honest effort to describe and ac-
count for it is worthy of attention.
When one adds to this effort knowl-
edge of the background, great objec-
tivity and a charming literary style,
as does Lin Yutang, one has made a
valuable contribution to the literature
of the English speaking people.
All that has been said so far gives
no adequate idea of the inclusiveness
and variety of Mr. Lin's volume. Here
the reader will find a little encyclo-
pedia with a good index, of things
Chinese presented with lightness and
gracefulness. It is taken for granted
that this book is not for the special-
ist seeking detailed material concern-
ing his speciality, though the special-
ist would, for the most part, not dis-
agree with anything in the book. This
book is, then, the best single volume
on the Chinese people and their ways
to be recommended to the reader who
wants things of importance said in
pleasant ways.
In his closing chapters Mr. Lin con-
siders the problem of his country's
immediate future. Here he faces the
fact of possible failure with no hope
of an easy solution, if, indeed, he al-
lows himself much hope of any solu-
tion at all. He writes of beheading
and quotes with approval, Han Fei,
the philosopher of the third century

- Pictures The Rge Of
Beethoven ...
THE LIFE AND TIMES OFa-d Beethoven. his dream. his chimE
BEETHOVEN. By Edouard_- I* * The three styles? There was
Herriot. MacMillan. $3.50. one, slowly, definitely developing.
By WILLIAM C. BOYD draws another complete pictur
A most welcome addition to the the man andbartist in this
literature already extant on Beetho- "Aware of, but indifferent to
ven or his music is Edouard Herriot's crowd, and its ways, spontan
Life and Times of Beethoven. Al- freed of all academic influences
though many will say that there exist belling against classic rules and
today numerous biographies on Beet- portions when they encountered
hoven, this particular book justifies j or obstructed his imagination, at
its publication in that it makes a new ing in his works to those cont
attempt, and a good one too, to paint that are the law of life itself,
not only a picture of the man and Master of joy and sorrow, of inti
artist but also to show the period in and heroism stood erect on iso
which he lives, the influences of that heights and composed not for
period on the artist and how those epoch or for one group. but for
influences came into his works. men and for all times."
Mr. Herriot, famous French states- 4While some ot the material
man, author and amateur musician sented is common knowledge t
has given us a keen insight into the music lovers and in some ways it
man Beethoven by an approach that pensable to a complete portrait o
many biographers and musicologists pnal oacmlt otato
are apb ogroverook. This s us egsto artist, Mr. Herriot has tried to a
ahe a threrlook.Thiis uerothe rut which most self-styledt
the fact that they are so engrossed r ' raphers fall into. It is interestir
in the chronological cataloging of art- another way, in that it presen
ist's life by years and telling little pcture., n afathfu one, prs
anecdotes abbu,t the man, which ,1 picture, and a faithful one, b
anedots aoi~ th ma, hic ________________Frenchman concerning a Ger:
makes very interesting reading and~cmser nBy ni not mGa
helps to give a more complete pic- EDOUARD HERRIOT composer. By this I do not me
ture, yet they only touch upon some
of the external influences that have political and aesthetic picture of the
a great importance on the artist. Mr. times that produced Beethoven.
Herriot realizing that there are better While we may not agree with some
"biographies" written about Beetho- of the conclusions Mr. Herriot has
ven makes no pretense that his book reached concerning Beethoven, we
is a biography. In the very first cannot help but admire the sincerity,
chapter he says, "if we wish to know force and conviction of his argument.
him (Beethoven)gin his time and hethr ow tihe the h s orgpens C HR
milieu, we can begin by keeping sev- theory fhe threeadesres t peods
eral dates in mind." Then he pro- in Beethoven's life, Herriot sets out
ceeds to catalogue twelve important to place the theoy in discard. He WOOLLCOTT -
dates in his life. From here on it states "Is it really necessary to break MAUROIS -Pr(
ceases to be strict biography, and up Beethoven's life into periods or COREY - The (
there are no more dates, as such, styles? It would seem wrong, inas-
in the book. Do not interpret the much as it might lead to a disregard EDGAR GUEST
above statements to the effect that of the profound unity of his works. ROCKWELL KE
Mr. Herriot has neglected the general All of his products are intimately DURANTY - I
course of events in Beethoven's life related. The beginning of Flore-
but has made them subsidiary to the stan's aria in Fidelio becomes the CONRAD, JESS
creation of an authoritative social, first theme of the Thwnh1 <snata " TONY WONS -

rake up any political differences that unbiased point of view, and has
these two nations may have, but infer reached his goal exceedingly well.
that a nationalistic feeling is usually The Life and Times of Beehboven
present when a historian and biog- is a well-written book, thati hows
rapher attempts to tell about some shrewd judgment on the part o the
erit one that may be opposed to his or author as wxell as keen discernment
s He her own particular school of thought. and sufficient musical knowledge
" He This is especially true in music. Mr. necessary to a book of this typo. It
e of Herriot has approached the problem is an important and necessary con-
the of writing about Beethoven with an tribution to Beethovenia.
eous,- -
pro- 1Ii i
him PttLF IRST N TIN l.B N
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