Liang and Lin

Liang and Lin, Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past, a biography by Wilma Fairbank tells a touching story about Liang Shicheng and Lin Huiyin.

His father was Liang Qichao, an eminent scholar and government official of his time who mastered the Chinese Classics but was in the meantime a leading modern thinker at a time when China was transitioning into its first republic from its last monarchy. Her father was also eminent scholar who held important government posts. Born into these intellectually elite families, they both grew up bilingual and bi-cultural, traveling and being educated abroad.

She, a beauty and poet, was embroiled in a passionate pursuit by Xu Zhimo, a brilliant talent who was known as the foremost Chinese modern poet, but coolly made her choice otherwise. Inspired by her interest in architecture, Liang went with Lin to University of Pennsylvania to study architecture.

At the completion of their study, they went back to China where an incredible journey awaited them. With tremendous dedication, they devoted their lives to exploring and preserving China’s architectural heritage. With such talent and devotion, they could have achieved so much. And yet their path was fraught with disruptions to their profession and too many times life threatening situations. Being uprooted during the Japanese invasion, reduced to poverty and stricken with disease did not stop them in their work. What that followed the long eight years of hardship was not peace but civil war.  When peace finally came with the establishment of new China, unimaginable ordeals unfolded ahead.

The most disheartening events happened in new China under the leadership of the new communist government on which they placed their faith. These events were of such preposterousness that they were unfathomable. What they experienced was tragedy of such magnitude that it could not help but break a reader’s heart.

Over the years and the multitude of vicissitudes, the only constancy was their dedication to their work; they never once contemplated giving up. It was such drive that enabled them to achieve what they did and earned them great respect and admiration all over the world.

They eventually received posthumous recognition that they duly deserved. Alas, it is all too little too late.

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