on August 27, 2005
First off, allow me to say that I'm shocked this book hasn't had more reviews. This book was a major turning point in my Life. After working the "American Dream" i.e. 50 hour work weeks and having zilch to show for it in 3 years, I had a nervous breakdown. Luckily I survived and made it through. Afterwards, I searched the bookstore for a genuine book and found this diamond in the ruff. Wow, was I not dissappointed! This book is totally refreshing for the stressed out individual. Like the heading I wrote proclaims, welcome BACK to your childhood and to the Mystery thereof. After reading this book, I realized that unless one enjoys Life, it is simply not even worth living! Sounds harsh but it's true, you know it. Lin Yutang boldly stands for the human condition. This book relearned me on the fun of my childhood. How could we have gone so far astray? I've dove head first into various religions which did do some good but really only left me full of dogmatic doctrines and repetitive rituals. The Bible says that we should be as children. What good is that advice without a proper manual for the return to this innocense? This book is the manual leading one back to the joys of those not so distant memories. I recommend it to everybody I meet. Take back that precious gift which was stolen from you, the Mystery of Life. Just because you are breathing and active does not mean that you are truly Living, never forget the importance of it! Stand with us and don't look back upon, otherwise babblonn!!! And thank you!!!
on March 3, 2005
Lin Yutang is endlessly fascinating, and his book of personal philosophy, "The Importance of Living," is a classic, especially his listing of the three American vices (gee, I thought they were virtues!), his unique perspective on loafing, smoking, vacationing, and women in conversation. I've read it several times and have spoken on Lin, and have even appeared as Lin Yutang one time.
But the Little, Brown "reprint" edition is a travesty of cheapness....a white cover and no running heads. Why do American publishers cut corners? It's an insult to the author and the reader. I recommend you avoid the Little Brown edition and buy the original 1937 edition, published by John Day Co., or if you want a new alternative edition in quality paperback, buy the recently published edition in Singapore by Cultured Lotus, available from [...] The original and the Singapore copies have beautiful Chinese paintings on the cover and delightful running heads.
Remember, "The busy man is never wise, and the wise man is never busy." -- Lin Yutang
on September 25, 2005
Lin-Yutang (1895-1976) a Chinese humanist and humourist, was
steeped in the ancient wisdom of his motherland. Lin-yutang was also a cosmopolitan. Educated at Saint Johns University in Shanghai, he went on to take his Master's degree at Harvard, then his doctorate at the University of Leipzig. His two most well known writings 'My Country and My People' (1935) and 'The Importance of Living' (1937) brought him international fame, the latter a perennial classic and best seller for decades. A decent reprint of this remarkable book has long been overdue. Happily, the Singapore based publisher, Cultured Lotus, has made a new edition available. The positive reviews were gratifying to see.
This isn't a book to read in a hurry. As the cover-blurb puts it: "offered as a remedy to modern day living, is the classic distillation of Chinese wisdom, revere inaction as much as action , observe the place of humour to ensure healthy living, and simply celebrate existence. Gaily serious, cynicaly kind, shot through with a sense of comedy and backed by sages of many centuries, it brings forth the salt and tang of life.
Lin Yutang observes: " a man who loves life intensely must be always jealous of the few exquisite moments of leisure that he has. And he must retain the dignity and pride of the vagabond. His hours of fishing must be as sacred as his hours of business, erected into a kind of religion as the English have done with sport. "
Superficially, one might see such a philosophy as a refusal to take life seriously - but, Lin Yutang's perspective here is summed up by the quotation from Chang chao:
"Only those who take leisurely what the people of
the world are busy about can be busy about what
the people of the world take leisurely. "
Hence, what this outlook refuses to embrace is the notion that the only meaningful activity open to us - is that which is purpose driven, against which, leisure time will be evaluated as 'dead time.' Lin Yutang reminds us of the positive, living potentialities of 'leisure' time. Much of this is of Taoist inspiration, but like the ancient Greeks, even Confucius recognised that human life is meaningless, if reduced to repetitive, merely utilitarian processes.
Lin Yutang's thought ranges over many aspects of life. Not everything said in this book reflects the 'oriental' point of view (he knew Europe and America)- or Taoist wisdom. Whatever he touches on, usually elicits some witty fact or observation. Nevertheless, many - if not most readers, find Lin-Yutang at his most compelling when digressing on the finer details of ancient Chinese culture, be it the appreciation of tea and incense, eminent Chinese painters and poets - and their works. Although but sixteen pages, the 'Critical Chinese Vocabulary' Lin-Yutang appended to this text is immensely interesting and worth its weight in gold, when it comes to unpacking the delicate shades of meaning permitted by the combination of various Chinese characters. This is a charming and delightful book.
on May 4, 2005
I first became aware of this great book when I found an old copy in my Father's library, when I was around age 14. Though it was not exactly an "exciting" read for a boy of 14, I found some of the headings intriguing..."On Having a Stomach; On Having Strong Muscles; On Playful Curiosity; Celibacy A Freak of Civilization ( of course as a 14 year boy old I HAD to read that one!), Inhumanity of Western Dress... and many others.
Perhaps it was partly in response to this book, that I developed an interest in Chinese culture which has now spanned over 40 years.
This book gets the reader back to the very basics of human life--food, friendship, tea, smoking (a bit controversial nowadays), growing old. It is all about CHERISHING EACH PASSING MOMENT and learning to instill each moment of life with quality and to live it artfully.
I was so happy to find this book reprinted. It is not necessarily the kind of book one must read all at once, but a book to pick up on a rainy day, and just savor a few pages--while drinking a fine cup of tea and awaiting a visit from a special friend.
It's one of thoe rare books that may well become a part of you and of each moment of your life.
on September 9, 2002
This is a true modern classic (to those who consider 1937 modern anyway). Lin Yutang offers a meandering, informal look at life, happiness, the differences between Eastern and Western cultures, the enjoyment of food and many other things. What I like best about this book is not what it argues for or advocates (Yutang is about as far from an academic philosopher as you can get) but the joy and wisdom he injects into every paragraph. He is often considered a Chinese thinker, but this is only partially true. His very broad studies and experiences make him a true cosmopolitan, the sort it is hard to find today. The Importance of Living is really a call to appreciate the earthly pleasures of life and not take so seriously the overrated follies of modern civilization. You don't have to completely agree with his views to appreciate his style. The ideal life for Lin Yutang is that of a lazy, wandering Taoist scholar. Not a humorless ascetic, but someone who approaches life with a sense of humor and an ability to enjoy the small pleasures. Yutang identifies himself as a hedonist (later in life he became Christian, but that's another story). There are many self help and new age books out today that tell you how to live a simpler, more spiritual life. This book tells you the same thing in a way that is far wittier and less sanctimonious.
on October 17, 1999
I found Lin Yutang's writings many years ago. The book gives me a peaceful feeling and leads me back to the importance of simple living. I enjoy the author's views on aging especially in a society where aging is not often honored. I have quoted Lin Yutang often when working with elderly people who sometimes feel that they are forgotten.
on October 30, 2005
What was true about Chinese and Americans no longer hold, but the brilliance of this book is for all human kind!
As a Hong Kong Chinese, i have heard of the name LinYuTang for a while, but knowing the era (1930s)in which he was active, i figured that it must be some boring scholar. I was surprised that how undercredited he was in Chinese society when i found out that he, using English as second language, can write a 52 week bestseller in USA in 1938. He was nominated twice for Nobel prize but lost , yet i think the CHinese Nobel prize winner Gaoxingjian cant measure up to a tenth of LinYutang's achievement in writing bestseller, compiling Sino-English dictionary and invented Chinese typewriters.
What was true about Chinese and Americans no longer hold, but the brilliance of this book is for all human kind!
Interesting enough the traits that was used in the book to describe Chinese and Americans have switched places. Nowadays, our impression about European/Americans are that they got labour unions to protect workers right, minimum age, so many vacations, family is given a top priority; while lot of Chinese are working non-stop, dumping the Made In China labels to every corner of the globe.
I ordered the Chinese version online the other day, but yesterday, i couldnt wait for its arrival and i went to the bookstore in shenzhen to get a cheap english copy, it was indeed cheap, less than USD2 and brandnew, however, in the Foreword by Editor, iwas told that Lin is a great man and a pride of Chinese, however his views are against Marxist ideas and readers should be careful, so they apologize for having to make some deletion. OH, i guess i need to buy a complete version in amazon again.
However, when i reflect on this a little bit, has China really changed so much? Freedom of speech will lead to social turmoil and riots in a yet developing country with enough illiterate everywhere, Democracy is a form of thinking which in itself is a by-product of evolution of our brain as said by Lin; the ultimate function of brain is to help us live, so problem of hunger and poverty must be solved first before everything else. So is the logic of Chinese Communist party and that of majority of citizens here. This seemingly negative trait has been glorified well by Lin in a logical way.
Therefore, i guess despite how life-enjoying americans have become and how all Chinese are burning candles at both end, this book still hold true in some way.
on May 31, 2006
I first heard of Lin Yutang, I am almost reluctant to say, many years after my exposure to Alan Watts and the "New Left", long before the "Neo-Cons" came to be a force majeure....in fact,..it was during a Michael Savage discussion of his new (4th) political bestseller, "The Political Zoo." He even remarked that he was probably hurting his own sales to remark on this classic work of Yutang--which experienced a resurgence in sales the LAST time he mentioned it in about 1998. But I ordered the Political Zoo at the same time--they are so different as to occupy quite different spaces in the mind and thought.....
I know that fans of Savage (Michael A. Weiner, Ph.D.) are have probably already purchased this book--those who missed the mention in the late 90s, or if they failed to write it down in the recent mention, have found it.
Yutang makes people like Watts, westerners who dabbled in Eastern thought, seem like the true dilettants they were. In any advanced Psychology class contrasting Western and Eastern Philosophy of Living, Yutang comes across as the one who has truly digesting both styles of living, to the point of being able to allow an intelligent lay reader to thing deeply and make some rational and deeply philosophical decisions about life-style.
I'll give one example--the Western custom of shaking hands, versus the Eastern tradition of shaking one's OWN hand. In the mid-19th century, Col. Fremantle discussed the dirty American habit of hand-shaking--which was not done in the upper classes in Britain and in the the officer corps. The point being--close human contact was considered a very special phenomenon and not part of daily human discourse......even in a western culture. There are many such relevations in this book--which is why it fascinated Savage, and why it will fascinate and reader who is interested in cross-cultural psychology and comparative con-specific behaviour....well written, and highly recommended!!
on May 28, 2015
This book is a miracle. Somewhat dated, it provides the most comprehensive history, philosophy, and understanding of pre-Mao China. Peppered with insights about the contrasts and comparisons between America and China. Its discussion of Confucianism and Taoism are tempting me to adopt those religions. This is the one book on China you must own. An added bonus, it does prove that "life is worth living."
on August 24, 2015
This is not a quick read. It is something like the Bible in that you can read a few pages and chew on the yummy substance of it for a day or so. Lin Yutang de bunks a lot of our silliness while affirming what we knew all along: the best things in life are free.