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My Country and My People, written by Lin, Yutang, is an important piece of literature by a Chinese writer that first introduces China and Chinese culture to the Western world. Since its publication in 1935, this book has a great influence on American readers. However, it had not been popularized in China until the 80s. The creation of My Country and My People was under the inspiration of Pearl S. Buck, an American writer who lived in China for a long time. She wrote a lot about China and wanted to find a Chinese writer to write a book about China in English. She invited Yutang Lin to undertake such a task. After several conversations with Pearl, Yutang Lin decided to write My Country and My People.
My Country and My People introduces China to the Western world, which covers many aspects of China including Chinese politics, Chinese character, Chinese society, and Chinese literature and so on. This book and Mr. Lin have been misunderstood by most Chinese people since 1930s. Even now there is still some critique for him. This is not surprising at all when we take into consideration the "Red education" since the liberation of China. Here, the term "red education" means that the education carried on in China is all in the favor of communism. For example, all the Chinese textbook articles must be written by "red writers" or "left wing writers."Because of this nationwide education since childhood, we intuitively hold onto this criterion when we evaluate literature, people, etc. We cannot get good grades if we are not good at these kinds of literature. Thus, those writings by "non-left" writers, especially those criticized by "left wing" writer, cannot be selected into Chinese textbooks no matter how high their achievement is. Yutang Lin is such a typical example. In order to understand why Mr. Lin was not well-received in China, we need first to bring in another famous writer during the revolution period-Lu Xun. He produced harsh criticism of social problems in China. He has often been considered to have had leftist leanings. He used literature as daggers and guns to point at his enemies-the old Chinese society, which was just to the taste of communist activists. On the contrary, Lin usually expressed his dissatisfactions tactfully in a humorous way. Particularly, the word "humor" was first introduced to China by him. At the revolutionary time, as a communist, Lu Xun enjoyed a high reputation in China. It is said that Lu once tried to persuade Lin to translate some books that were "good" for China. Rather than accept Lu's advice, Lin wrote books such as "My Country and My People." Thus, writers and intellectuals in China at that time said that Lin, with not so good knowledge about Chinese culture and history, wrote this book in order to win money and reputation from western audience. Lin was aware of the potential criticism even when he was writing this book. Therefore, in the preface he wrote "only to communicate my own opinions" and "I should offend many writes about China, especially my own countrymen and great patriots" (Lin 17) . He also expressed his standing towards western audience-"nor do I write for the patriots of the west. For I fear more their appreciative quotations from me than the misunderstanding of my countrymen." (Lin 17) Instead of betraying China, his deep love and concern for China penetrate the whole book. In the preface of the book, Lin says: "I am able to confess because, unlike these patriots, I am not ashamed of my country. And I can lay bare her troubles because I have not lost hope. China is bigger than her little patriots, and does not require their whitewashing. She will, as she always did, right herself again." (Lin â…¹â…¶) This is not only his attitude towards China, but also his standing point of the book. At the same time, he states that My Country and My People is written for "the men of simple common sense."He wants to promote western understanding of China through this book.
Moreover, although Lin pointed out many weaknesses of Chinese people, he does not deny that China is a great nation. "The Chinese are by nature a proud race--excusably so, when one considers the whole course of their history except the last hundred years." (Lin 72) "The Chinese art of painting has reached a height yet unreached by the west, and in calligraphy they have forged a way alone and reached what I believe to be the maximum variety and refinement in the conception of rhythmic beauty." (Lin 79) He passionately extols the high intelligence of Chinese people and excellent talent in the creation of culture and arts. All those opinions are brimmed with his love for our country.
Second, he comments on the traditional Chinese society and politics. In the "social and political life" chapter, Lin points out many bad things of traditional family system. For example, it takes the right of contracting marriage from our hands and gives it to those of our parents; it makes it rude for a young couple to close the door of their room in the family house in the daytime, and makes privacy an unknown word in China. He quotes Confucius that: "A man does not travel to distant places when his parents are living and if he does, he must have a definite destination." The doctrine of social status, popularized by Confucianism, holds some truth because it gives every man and woman a definite place in society so that social order will be ensured. However, this family consciousness may take the place of social or national consciousness and develops into a form of selfishness. Based on such starting point, Lin disagrees with "intelligence government" proposed by Confucius. "The idea of a government by virtue and by benevolent rulers is so fantastic." (Lin 212) In reality, it resulted in "one of the most corrupt governments the world has ever seen. He agrees with Hanfeise's idea of "inviolable law which should apply to both the ruler and the ruled alike."(Lin 211) "What China needs, then, are not more morals but more prisons for politicians. These opinions are farsighted and applicable even today. After the communist party took over the regime, laws are enforced in China. Even though right now China do not enforce the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, government becomes much better than the imperial China.
In "women's life", Lin narrates the change of women lives in China, which is like a history of Chinese women. Chinese women had been in a subordinate position until Lin's days. They have no rights to study or appear in public. They needs to obey their parents will in choosing marriage partners. Ironically, the only female group who can enjoy the freedom of romance is prostitute. Compared to that period, things have changed a lot today, although there is still some discrimination against women, women almost enjoy the same rights as men and play an important role in modern society.
Compared to that period, the social and political structure has changed a lot. Women do marry because of love rather than responsibility. Before revolution, people got married for various reasons such as political interest or economic interest. For example, in the imperial period of China, the emperors liked to marry their daughters to those barbarian leaders to stabilize the potential rebels. Now, women become more self-conscious and less dependent on men. The heroine of Lin's another masterpiece "Moment in Peking" is such an example.
Since My Country and My people's publication, it has been well received in the States and became the best seller of 1935. However, despite Lin's reputation in America, this book arouse totally different reactions from the Chinese literary world. Some people think that it is the honor of Chinese people that a Chinese writer can be well known all over the world. Others hold opposite opinions. They think that Lin is betraying his country and mislead a large group of Chinese people for tens of years. Today¼Œthis great book become fairly treated and beyond any doubt it is valuable for Lin to write such a masterpiece to publicize Chinese culture as early as 1930s, which still have an enlightening effect on today.