Lin Yutang explains Christianity from a Chinese viewpoint

Lin Yutang (1895 – 1976) was a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. He was one of the most influential writers of his generation. In 1933, he met Pearl S. Buck in Shanghai and she introduced him, and his writings to her American publisher.

For most Chinese the end of life lies not in life after death, for the idea that we live in order to die, as taught by Christianity, is incomprehensible, nor in Nirvana, for that is too metaphysical, not in the satisfaction of accomplishment, for that is too vainglorious, nor yet in progress for progress’ sake, for that is meaningless.

The true end, the Chinese have decided in a singularly clear manner, lies in the enjoyment of a simple life, especially the family life, and in harmonious social relationships.

My Country and My People by Lin Yutang

“The Chinese are a nation of individualists. They are family-minded, not social-minded…. It is curious that the word society does not exist as an idea in Chinese thought. In the Confucian social and political philosophy we see a direct transition from family, ‘chia’, to the state, ‘kuo’, as successive stages of human organization.…

lin-yu-tang

Lin Yutang

“The Chinese, therefore, make rather poor Christian converts, and if they are to be converted they should all become Quakers, for that is the only sort of Christianity that the Chinese can understand. Christianity as a way of life can impress the Chinese, but Christian creeds and dogmas will be crushed, not by a superior Confucian logic but by ordinary Confucian common sense. Buddhism itself, when absorbed by the educated Chinese, became nothing but a system of mental hygiene, which is the essence of Sung philosophy.” Source: My Country and My PeopleLin Yutang. Halcyon House, New York. 1938. Pgs 94; 101; 103; 172, and 108

Discover China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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5 Responses to Lin Yutang explains Christianity from a Chinese viewpoint

  1. kikathree@aol.com says:

    Lloyd,

    Interesting blog about how the Chinese are individually-minded, but family orientated, not societal orientated.

    And your point about Christianity’s message is well taken. The Christian belief in living for the after-life does not mesh well with Chinese thought. That might explain why the Chinese gravitated towards Communism, which does not support religion, especially religions that deal with the after-life. Communism in its purest form strives to make the “now” much better instead of not doing anything because one is totally focused on the after-life.

    Take care Lloyd and may the Writing Gods continue to bless all of your literary endeavors.

    Neil

    • True, but like everything else China does, it converted Communism to fit China just like it is converting capitalism to China’s culture.

      Communism in China was not the same model that was practiced in the old Soviet Union and that eventually led to a falling out between Russia and China leading to Nixon’s trip to China. The political fall out between China and the Soviet Union got so bad that the Soviets wanted to nuke China and asked Nixon what the U.S. would do it they did. Nixon saw this as an opportunity to make China a partner with the U.S. against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Thanks to Nixon, China was not attacked with nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union.

      The rest is history and explains why China eventually opened its doors to the West and moved toward a capitalist form of consumerism Chinese style. Then of course, the Soviet Union went bankrupt and collapsed leading to the gangster state it is today.

      I wrote about Nixon’s trip here: http://ilookchina.net/2011/02/21/nixon-in-china-at-the-met-%E2%80%93-feb-12/

  2. chennicole2013 says:

    My late husband was a Chinese Christian convert. He was a good Catholic Christian, but as Lin Yutang said, he didn’t abandon his “Confucian common sense.”

    Lin Yutang went to school on Gulangyu, my husband’s birthplace, and taught at Xiamen University. My father-in-law was proud of their connection and enjoyed Lin’s writing.

    My family visited Gulangyu and Xiamen in 1983 before the recent surge in development. That was a stroke of luck for me since later I wrote a novel, Tiger Tail Soup, which is set on Gulangyu during the Japanese invasion and occupation of the thirties and forties.

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