Biography in English

Lin Shu (8 November 1852-9 October 1924), the first major Chinese translator of Western fiction and one of the last important prose writers in the Chinese classical style. He also was known for his outspoken opposition to the new literary movements of the May Fourth period.

Minhsien, Fukien, was the birthplace of Lin Shu. He came from a farming family which had become so impoverished that it often had to go without food for five or six days a month. By the time he was eight, the nine members of his family depended for support on the needlework done by Lin's mother and older sister. His mother, who came from a scholar-gentry family, soon discovered his unusual propensity for learning. An uncle finally obtained employment, and the small monthly allotment he sent enabled Lin to attend the nearby village school. When Lin was ten, his father obtained a position as private secretary to an official in Taiwan, and the family finances improved. Five years later, Lin joined his father in Taiwan, where, about 1864, he married a girl from Minhsien. His father died in 1870, and his father-in-law assumed part of the cost of his education. After spending a brief period in Foochow at the Chih-yang Academy, Lin gave up his studies in 1872 and began to teach. By this time, he had contracted tuberculosis, and, although he eventually regained his health, he often was ill during the next eight years. In 1879, at the age of 27, he finally passed the examinations for the sheng-yuan degree. He improved his literary style by studying in the family library of a wealthy acquaintance, Li Tsung-yen, and passed the provincial examinations for the chü-jen degree in 1882. One of | the other successful candidates at this examination was Cheng Hsiao-hsü (q.v.), who later became the prime minister of Manchoukuo; he and Lin became close friends. The chief ' examiner was Pao-t'ing ^ECCP, II, 611-12), a Manchu nobleman known as a poet and reformer, whose son, Shou-fu, also became a friend of Lin.

After obtaining the chü-jen degree, Lin had no further success in the civil service examinations. Between 1883 and 1898 he failed the metropolitan examination in Peking seven times. These were years of personal sorrow for Lin Shu. In 1895, on returning home after his sixth attempt to pass the examinations, he found his mother gravely ill, and she died in December. His wife died of tuberculosis in 1897; his eldest daughter and his second son succumbed to the same disease in the next two years. To distract Lin from his grief, his friend Wang Tzu-jen, who had studied in France, suggested that they translate La Dame aux camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils into Chinese. Wang translated the work into vernacular Chinese, and Lin, who knew no French, then rendered it into classical Chinese. The resulting work, Pa-li ch'a-hua-nü i-shih, was published by Lin's friend Wang K'ang-nien (1860-1911; T. Jang-ch'ing). Thousands of copies were sold, and the story became very popular in literary circles.

By the spring of 1898 the reform movement led by K'ang Yu-wei (q.v.) and his associates was gaining strength in response to the German seizure of Kiaochow in Shantung and the appearance of Russian ships at Port Arthur. Although he did not join K'ang Yu-wei's group, Lin Shu, who was in Peking to take the metropolitan examinations for the seventh time, joined with Shou-fu and other friends in submitting a memorial to the emperor protesting the German invasion and suggesting political, financial, and military reforms. The memorial, which never reached the emperor, was rejected by court officials. Soon afterwards, Lin returned to Fukien, where he continued to advocate reforms, expressing his ideas in a series of 32 poems written in a semi-vernacular style. These poems proposed such reforms as education for women, the abolition of footbinding, reduction of taxes, and the betterment of social conditions.

Near the end of 1898 Lin Shu went to Hangchow, where he taught school for three years. Much of his leisure time was spent in reading the Chinese classics and in observing the beautiful scenery for which Hangchow is famous and which was to provide motifs for his landscape paintings of later years. Some of his pai-hua [vernacular] poems of this period appeared in the Hang-chou pai-hua pao [Hangchow vernacular magazine].

Lin Shu went to Peking in 1901 to teach Chinese literature at the Wu-ch'eng Middle School. About this time, with the help of a collaborator named Wei Yi, he translated Harriet Beecher Stow=e's Uncle Tom's Cabin into Chinese as Hei-nu yü-fien lu. Lin soon met Wu Ju-lun (ECCP, H, 870-72), who also was one of the last masters of the T'ung-ch'eng school of prose writing. W'hen Wu became head of the faculty of Imperial University (later Peking University) in 1902, Lin joined the university's translation bureau, headed by Yen Fu (q.v.). About 1905 he also joined the faculty as a teacher of Chinese literature, and in 1909 he became dean of the school of letters. Although he was by no means an advocate of the republican revolution of 1911, Lin Shu apparently had some sympathy for the young revolutionaries, as indicated by his 1914 novel. Chin-ling ch'iu [autumn in Nanking] and some of his stories. Before long, however, he found cause to resent the new order, particularly as it affected Peking University. Professors who were adherents of the T'ung-ch'eng school of writing, of which Lin Shu was considered to be a leader, gradually were replaced by such scholars as Chang Ping-lin (q.v.), who were interested in such fields as etymological studies and textual criticism. In 1913 Lin was forced to resign from the university. In 1915 Lin Shu and Yao Yung-kai, a former colleague at Peking University and one of the leading literary men of the T'ung-ch'eng group, went to teach at the Cheng-chih Middle School on the invitation of Hsü Shu-cheng (q.v.), a close associate of Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.), who greatly admired Lin Shu. Lin then directed an institute which offered correspondence courses in Chinese literature and which boasted an enrollment of some 2,000 students from China and Southeast Asia. In his later years, Lin Shu's influence and popularity declined rapidly as a result of the intellectual ferment that culminated in the May Fourth Movement of 1919. His pro- Manchu political sentiments and his friendship with the pro-Japanese Hsü Shu-cheng did little to enhance his reputation among Chinese youth. Moreover, Lin opposed the general use of pai-hua as a literary medium even though he had used it occasionally, and the pai-hua movement challenged his deepest literary convictions as well as lessening his prestige as a writer.

Lin Shu soon became one of the most outspoken critics of the new literary movements. In the spring of 1919 he wrote several articles attacking them and ridiculed Ch'en Tu-hsiu, Hu Shih (qq.v.), and others in short allegorical tales. On 18 March he wrote an open letter to Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei (q.v.), the chancellor of Peking University, in which he criticized the young intellectual leaders, many of whom taught at the university, for discarding classical literature and language. He accused them of seeking to destroy the traditional principles of Confucianism, maintaining that the deviation from traditional ethics and literature would not save China from decay and foreign domination, but would lead to disaster. Although Lin's 1919 writings on this subject and the rebuttals of Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei and others provoked considerable debate, his influence continued to decline. He soon withdrew to his residence in Peking, where he devoted his attention to translating and painting until his death on 9 October 1924, at the age of 72.

Lin Shu's personal life was characterized by his obstinate struggle to overcome physical frailty. In the last decade of his life, he was able to support his family on the income derived from the sale of his copyrights and his paintings. This income was the subject of jokes among his friends, who referred to his study as tsao-pi ch'ang, or the money factory. Little is known about Lin's family. He was survived by his second wife and by several children. His eldest son by his first wife became a magistrate in Hopei.

Lin's major work as a translator began in 1904 when, with the aid of collaborators, he translated Aesop's Fables {I-so yü-yen), H. Rider Haggard's Joan Haste {Chia-yin hsiaochuan) and Cleopatra (Ai-chi chin-fa p'ou-shih chi), and Charles Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare {Yin pien yen yü). The following year, he translated Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (Sa-k'ohsün chieh-hou ying-hsiung lüeh), Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe [Lu-pin-sun p^iao-liu chi), Haggard's Allan Quatermain {Fei-chou yen shui ch'ouch'eng lu), and other adventure stories. The year 1906 saw the appearance of Swift's Gulliver's Travels {Hai-wai hsien-ch'ü lu), Washington Irving's Tales of a Traveller {Lü-hsing shu-i), A. Conan Doyle's Alicah Clarke {Chin-feng Cieh-yü lu), and four stories by Haggard. The following .year, Lin translated about a dozen works, including Irving's Alhambra { Ta-shih ku-kung yü tsai) „and part of The Sketch Book [Fu-chang lu), Scott's The Talisman {Shih-tzuchün ying-hsiung chi) and The Betrothed {Chien ti yüan-yang), and Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby [Hua-chi wai-chih). In 1908 he produced about 20 translations, among which were Dumas' Le Chevalier de la Maison-Rouge {Yu-lou-hua-chieh ch'ien-hou-pien), Robert Louis Stevenson's The New Arabian Nights {Hsin t'ien-fang yeh-t'an), and Dickens' Oliver Twist [Tsei-shih), David Copperfield {K'uai-jou yü-sheng ch'ien-hou-pien), and Dombey and Son {Ping-hsüeh yin-yüan) .

Lin continued to produce important translations, and in 1914 he completed Chinese versions of several novels, including Dumas' Comtesse de Charney {Hsieh-lien chün-chu chuan), and some of Honore de Balzac's short stories, which appeared in the Hsiao-shuo yüeh-pao [short story magazine]. Lin's 1916 translations included prose versions of four of Shakespeare's plays: Richard II {Lei-ch^a-te chi), Henry IV {Heng-li ti-ssu chi), Henry VI (Heng-li ti-liu i-shih), and Julius Caesar {K^ai-sa i-shih). At about this time, Lin also introduced his readers to the stories of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. It is interesting to note that in 1917-19, before and during the rise of humanism in Chinese literature, Lin devoted his attention to Leo Tolstoy and translated (from their English versions) The Death of Ivan Ilyitch {Jen-kuei kuan-Cou), Russian Proprietor and Other Stories {She-hui sheng-ying lu). Childhood, Boyhood and Youth {Hsien-shen shuo-fa). The Kreutzer Sonata, and Family Happiness {Hen lü ch'ing ssu). Lin Shu was probably the most prolific Chinese translator in the history of China. At the time of his death he had rendered into Chinese some 180 works (published in about 281 volumes). In addition, more than 15 translations of short stories were published after his death, and some 1 7 translations of novels remained in manuscript form. In contrast to this facility in translating, he sometimes took several months to write a brief article. Because he was unable to read any language but his own, Lin was forced to rely on collaborators. Although some—Wang Tzu-jen, Wei Yi, ^Vang Ch'ing-t'ung, Wang Ch'ing-chi, Li Shih-chung, and two sons of Yen Fu—had literary talent, most of Lin"s collaborators had insufficient training in literature. He was also dependent upon his collaborators for the selection of the woiks to be translated, and popular interest seems to have been the major consideration governing this selection. As a result, almost 100 of Lin's translations were of works by authors of little literary consequence, and about 30 more were adventure or detective stories by H. Rider Haggard or Arthur Conan Doyle, the latter's famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, being introduced to Chinese readers through Lin's version of A Study in Scarlet {Hsieh-lo-k'' ch'i-an k' ai-ch' ang) . Nevertheless, Lin and his collaborators produced translations of some 40 important works, including in addition to those noted previously, Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop {Hsiao-nü Xai-erh chuan). Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield {Shuang-yüan lü), Hugo's Quatre-vingt-treize {Shuang-hsiung i-ssu lu), Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes {YU yen chüeh ivei), Bernardin de St. Pierre's Paul et Virginie {Li hen t'ien), Cervantes' Don Quixote {Mo-hsia chuan), Ibsen's Ghosts {Alei nieh), J. R. AV'yss' The Swiss Family Robinson (Ch'anch'ao chi ch'u, hsU pien), tales from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene (Huang-fang yen), and a few other works by such authors as Henry Fielding and H. G. Wells.

Lin's prefaces and comments reflected the reaction of a traditional Chinese moralist and man of letters to Western literature. He frequently justified the selection for translation of love stories or even naturalistic novels by treating these as "cautionary tales" or "exemplary stories." An example is the Chinese title he gave to his translation of The Old Curiosity Shop, which he rendered as Hsiaonü Nai-erh chuan, or "The Story of the Filial Girl Xell." In other instances, Lin regarded the stories he translated as examples for social, political, and educational reform or as w'orks to inspire patriotism and the spirit of adventure. Although Lin's total ignorance of foreign languages and his inability to check the accuracy or completeness of his collaborators' versions resulted in errors, distortions, and omissions in his translations, he possessed a mastery of the classical language and an ability to portray in rich and subtle language the mood and the setting of his characters which resulted in a paradoxical situation : the alterations and omissions often had the effect of improving the text for Chinese readers, who were able to feel that they were reading an elegant classical Chinese tale which recounted the strange but interesting lives of the people of the West. In many cases, Lin's versions of Western literary works may be considered imaginative adaptations rather than closely worked translations. The principal significance of Lin Shu as a translator was that he opened the eyes of Chinese readers to the achievements of Western literature and increased Chinese understanding of W estern customs and society. He was the first Chinese of substantial literary prestige to attach importance to the literary merits of Western writers, deeming Charles Dickens, for example, an equal of the first-rank Chinese novelists of the past, and even of the traditional literary idol Ssu-ma Ch'ien. Lin was also the first Chinese writer to use the Chinese literary language as a medium for novels, and the influence of his writings brought about some changes in the technique of Chinese storytelling. Lin's translations were highly influential among the younger generation of China's writers, who were attracted to them despite their allegiance to the new^ vernacular language movement. Kuo Ivlo-jo wept over Haggard's Joan Haste, the first Western novel he had ever read, and admitted publicly that the single most significant influence on his writing was the romanticism of Walter Scott. Liu Fu (q.v.) was led by Lin's version of La Dame aux camelias to produce a stage version, a theatrical innovation which reinforced the romantic tendencies of his generation. And Lao She (Shu Ch'ing-ch'un, q.v.) derived much of his understanding of humor from Lin's translations of Dickens.

In 1914 a series of 50 of Lin's translations was published in 97 volumes by the Commercial Press as Lin-i hsiao-shuo ts'ung-shu; and several of his other translations appeared in three series of the Shuo-pu ts'ung-shu (1914-16), also published by the Commercial Press. In addition to his translations, Lin wrote eight novels, three old-style operas, six collections of short stories, three collections of articles and anecdotes, and three collections of poetry, one of which, the Wei-lu shih-ts'un, appeared in 1923. Collections of Lin's essays were published in 1910, 1916, and 1924 bv the Commercial Press as IVei-lu wen-chi, Wei-lu hsu-chi, and Wei-lu san-chi. More than ten textbooks on literature and ethics were either written or edited by him. Lin also maintained an active interest in painting: a volume of his essays on this subject, entitled Ch' un-chueh-chai lunhua, and a two-volume collection of photographic reproductions of his landscapes, Weilu i-chi, were published by the Commercial Press in 1935 and 1934, respectively.

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