Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Lin Yutang

Chinese Writer and Inventor

"A solemn funeral is inconceivable to the Chinese mind."

"I am speaking of religion as belief colored with emotion, an elemental sense of piety or reverence for life summing up man's certainty as to what is right and noble."

"All women's dresses are merely variations on the eternal struggle between the admitted desire to dress and the unadmitted desire to undress."

"The wise man reads both books and life itself."

"The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach."

"What is patriotism but the love of the good things we ate in our childhood?"

"Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence."

"We do not know a nation until we know its pleasures of life, just as we do not know a man until we know how he spends his leisure. It is when a man ceases to do the things he has to do, and does the things he likes to do, that the character is revealed. It is when the repressions of society and business are gone and when the goads of money and fame and ambition are lifted, and man's spirit wanders where it listeth, that we see the inner man, his real self."

"Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do."

"There is nothing more beautiful in this world than a healthy wise old man."

"A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he ame from."

"Any adequate philosophy of life must be based on the harmony of our given instincts."

"Miserable indeed is a world in which we have knowledge without understanding, criticism without appreciation, beauty without love, truth without passion, righteousness without mercy, and courtesy without a warm heart!"

"Art should be a satire and a warning against our paralyzed emotions, our devitalized thinking and our denaturalized living. It teaches us unsophistication in a sophisticated world. It should restore to us health and sanity caused by too much mental activity. It should sharpen our senses, re-establish the connection between our reason and our human nature, and assemble the ruined parts of a dislocated life again into a whole, by restoring our original nature."

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials."

"Where there are too many policemen, there is no liberty. Where there are too many soldiers, there is no peace. Where there are too many lawyers, there is no justice."

"A strong determination to get the best out of life; a keen desire to enjoy what one has, and no regrets if one fails; this is the secret of the Chinese genius for contentment."

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

"There is so much to love and to admire in this life that it is an act of ingratitude not to be happy and content in this existence."

"The busy man is never wise and the wise man is never busy."

"When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set."

"A vague uncritical idealism always lends itself to ridicule and too much of it might be a danger to mankind, leading it round in a futile wild-goose chase for imaginary ideals."

"It is not so much what you believe in that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action."

"The three great American vices seem to be efficiency, punctuality, and the desire for achievement and success. They are the things that make the Americans so unhappy and so nervous."

"It is not when he is working in his office but when he is lying idly on the sand that his soul utters, "Life is beautiful.""

"I feel, like all modern Americans, no consciousness of sin and simply do not believe in it. All I know is that if God loves me only half as much as my mother does, he will not send me to Hell. That is a final fact of my inner consciousness, and for no religion could I deny its truth."

"Peace of mind is that mental condition in which you have accepted the worst. "

"Today we are afraid of simple words like goodness and mercy and kindness. We don't believe in the good old words because we don't believe in good old values anymore. And that's why the world is sick. "

"Instead of holding on to the Biblical view that we are made in the image of God, we come to realize that we are made in the image of the monkey."

"No child is born with a really cold heart, and it is only in proportion as we lose that youthful heart that we lose the inner warmth in ourselves."

"Neckties strangle clear thinking."

"Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas, and only he who is master of his ideas is not enslaved by them."

"I call no man wise until he has made the progress from the wisdom of knowledge to the wisdom of foolishness. "

"Simplicity is the outward sign and symbol of depth of thought."

"The question that faces every man born into this world is not what should be his purpose, which he should set about to achieve, but just what to do with life? The answer, that he should order his life so that he can find the greatest happiness in it, is more a practical question, similar to that of how a man should spend his weekend, then a metaphysical proposition as to what is the mystic purpose of his life in the scheme of the universe."

"While in the West the insane are so many that they are put in an asylum, in China the insane are so unusual that we worship them, as anybody who has a knowledge of Chinese literature will testify."

"Human dignity... consists of four characteristics of the scamp . . . They are: a playful curiosity, a capacity for dreams, a sense of humor to correct those dreams, and finally a certain waywardness and incalculability of behavior. "

"Common sense is so uncommon."

"The Sage talks about life, as he is directly aware of it; the Talented Ones talk about the Sage's words and the stupid ones argue about the words of the Talented Ones."

"Disagreement is not only profitable, but necessary to thinking."

"The age we are living in... there is little evidence of regeneration and a great deal of decay."

"All birds are satisfied with their lives; only man is an exception."

"For the Chinese the end of life lies in the enjoyment of a simple life, especially the family life, and in harmonious social relationships. It is so brilliantly simple."

"From the Taoist point of view, an educated man is one who believes he has not succeeded when he has, but he is not so sure he has failed when he fails, while the mark of the half-educated man is his assumptions that his outward successes and failures are absolute and real."