Art/ Collection/ Art Object

近代 徐悲鴻 十七帖 卷
Seventeen Letters

Xu Beihong (Chinese, 1895–1953)
Republic period
dated 1938–48
Handscroll; ink on paper
Overall: 12 11/16 x 365 3/8 in. (32.3 x 928 cm)
Credit Line:
The Lin Yutang Family Collection, Gift of Richard M. Lai, Jill Lai Miller, and Larry C. Lai, in memory of Taiyi Lin Lai, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
This handscroll consists of seventeen letters written by Xu Beihong between 1938 and 1948. The first fifteen were written to Lin Yutang, and the last two to Lin's daughter Taiyi. The letters remained separate sheets until the 1980s, when Lin Taiyi had them remounted chronologically as a handscroll.

The letters exemplify Xu Beihong's distinct calligraphic style, which is angular and tense with no concern for charm. More importantly, they document early attempts at cultural exchange between China and the United States, as Xu enlisted Lin Yutang's assistance in organizing a touring exhibition of contemporary Chinese art in America to gain support for China during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45).

Xu Beihong may have come up with this ambitious plan with Lin Yutang in mind. Lin moved to New York in 1936. After the publication of two widely acclaimed best sellers, by 1938 Lin's influence and connections had made him China's unofficial cultural ambassador. In addition, he was an outspoken critic of Japanese militarism. Xu also suggested that Lin Yutang involve his close friends Pearl Buck (1892–1973) and her husband Richard Walsh in planning the proposed exhibition. The majority of the letters chronicle in detail Xu's preparations for his trip to the U.S. Plans were finalized for him to leave Singapore for San Francisco on December 6, 1941. Unfortunately, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the next day caused the entire project to be aborted.
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signatures[1]

Letter 1 [September 15, 1938]

To Mr. Yutang with respect,
I read your article "Can China stop Japan in Her Asiatic March?" last month (It was cited in major newspapers everywhere). Its impact surpasses that of ten elitist regiments with advanced arms. It has energized the morale at the front and strengthened the faith of the people behind. Everyone is joyous and elated like me. It is really wonderful that you can enlighten the world with your great books, which have circulated widely, and in time of crises make important fact-based arguments to key up your countrymen. It is only fitting that you are loved and respected. You once greeted me, a nobody, with kindness. I have always cherished the feeling of mutual understanding. I only regret that you have never seen my better works. The Musée du Jeu de Paume at Place Concorde in Paris has my painting of an old cypress in its collection. I hope you could go for a look at it when you have time, and tell me your precious opinion some other time. At this moment, I am planning to bring one or two hundred works - pure art, no propaganda - to exhibit in major cities of the United States. Half of the profit from the sale will be used to purchase medicine for injured soldiers. The exhibitions must be held at national or provincial museums and libraries. I have exhibited at Musée du Jeu de Paume in France, the palace in Milan, Italy, the Ermitage in the Soviet Union, and the Berlin Museum in Germany. You have friends all over the world. I wonder if you have any close friend in America—no Chinese—that I can trust with this project. I am soon leaving for India at the invitation of Mr. Tagore, the poet (around January next year). Please give me your guidance. May you have a nice journey. Beihong, your junior. September 15, Guilin.
Address: c/o Mr. Xu Dishan, 125 Robinson Road, Hong Kong
I am still teaching at the Central University (Shapingba, Chongqing. My other name is Ju
Péon. I came to Guilin at the end of July and will return to Sichuan in early October. This letter is sent from Guilin.

語堂先生賜鑒。上月得大文日本必敗論(各地大報皆轉載),其力量超越最精銳之機械化十師,前方士氣為之震,後方信念用益堅。若弟之懽忭鼓舞者盡人而然。深慶先生對外能以大著多種昭示世界,既已不踁而走,危時又根據事實發為宏論以策勵國人,宜其為人愛戴也。弟以微末曾蒙青視, 知己之感未能去懷。惟拙作較重要者均未入覽,竊以為恨。巴黎國立外國近代美術館內 Musée du Jeu de Paume 在 Place Concorde 上藏弟古柏一幀,暇中請往一觀,并祈他日示我尊見。弟此時擬以囗作一二百幅 — 純藝術不帶宣傳作用 — 往美國各大都市展覽,以所得之半囗購藥品救濟傷兵。展覽所在必國立或省立博物院與美術館圖書館 — 弟于法即在近代外國美術館,意大利在米蘭皇宮,蘇聯則在 Ermitage [sic],德則在柏囗美術會 — 先生交遊徧天下,不知在美有無知交 -- 不要本國人 -- 可以委託此事。弟不久將應詩人泰戈爾先生之邀往印度(大約明年一月)。示我周行,為禱無量,敬頌旅福。弟悲鴻頓首。 九月十五日桂林

通訊處 香港羅便臣道125 許地山先生轉
弟仍在中央大學任教(重慶沙坪壩 弟兩名 Ju Péon。

Letter 2 [March 14, 1941]

To Mr. Yutang with respect,
I just read your letter of February 5th, feeling greatly excited. With dazzling literary brilliance, whether you write for Westerners or your countrymen, your remarks brim with wonderful thoughts that reflect humanity as well as reason. They witness the greatness of your mind rather than mere trivial expressions accidentally mistaken for treasure. At the invitation of Mr. Tagore, I brought my works abroad in October 1939. I stopped in Singapore to raise relief fund through exhibitions and painted portraits of the chief commander there, which prolonged my stay. I lived in India last year until returning to Singapore at the end of the year. I held exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Penang from February to April this year, and donated all earnings to national causes. I even paid the shipping fees myself. That's why the result is quite satisfactory (17,500 Malayan dollars. The sales in Ipoh have not been calculated entirely, but are already over ten thousand.) A few friends of mine wanted to gather money to help me fulfill my wish to go to America. I recalled something from my stay at Santiniketan (the international university in Tagore's charge) in India. Before my departure, I received a letter through Santiniketan from the associate editor of Asia (whose name suddenly eludes me). He was interested in my works very much, and asked me to send him copies for publication. I heard that you were a close friend of the couple who owned this magazine. I wonder if you could ask them to assess the situation and advise me on whether I should go to America. I have about three hundred paintings in Chinese and Western media accumulated from previous years and recent creations during my sojourn in India. Most of them are earlier works. Works by my friends include fifty odd by Qi Baishi and twenty or thirty by Zhang DaQian. They are over two hundred altogether, all of top quality. You can trust my words. I am sending you a dozen photographs of my works (under separate cover) for your correction. I am about to leave for Penang to make arrangements for my exhibition from March 29 to April 11. I will stay in Malaya for two months. I hope you could give me a brief answer. If I cannot go to America, I will arrange my works to return to China. In haste. Please take care. May your writing go well. Beihong, your junior. March 14 while visiting Ipoh.
Address: Ju Péon. Chinese Consulate. Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.

語堂先生賜鑒。頃讀二月五日通信,至為興奮。先生以生花之筆絢爛之辭,或斟一盞以酹歐美,或割一臠以餉國人,俱玅緒洋溢入情入理,具見偉大之胸襟,不僅咳唾落九天隨風生珠玉已也。弟于廿八年十月因泰戈爾翁之邀,攜拙作出國,經星加坡曾為籌賑之展,又為坡督寫像,故羈滯頗久。去年居印度,年終返星。自今二月至四月接連為吉隆坡怡保檳城三展,所得全數捐國,雖旅運之費皆弟自給,以是成績尚佳(吉隆坡坡幣一萬七千五,怡保未清算,已逾一萬)。友人三四有欲醵金助弟赴美之意。憶弟由印 Santiniketan (即泰戈爾翁所主之國際大學),行前曾得 Asia 副主編某君(忽不記其姓)致函國大,對弟拙作極感興趣,屬集副本寄其發表。又聞先生與此誌主人伉儷友誼深厚,可否請先生託其觀察一下,為弟決定赴美與否之方針。弟歷年所積及旅印近作約有中西畫三百分 ---大半為班底 --- 朋儕作品為齊白石精作五十餘幅,張大千二三十,合二百餘幅,皆一時之選。先生當能信弟之誠實也。謹以拙作照片十幾紙(另包)奉寄希教正。此時弟尚欲赴檳籌備三月廿九日至四月十一日之展,在馬來亞有兩月之留,願先生复我數行。弟如不能赴美,當安置拙作返國。匆匆不盡,伏維為道自愛,敬祝文祺。弟悲鴻頓首, 三月十四日怡保客中。

通信處 Ju Péon. Chinese Consulate. Kuala Lumpur, Malaya

Letter 3 [May 14, 1941]

To Mr. Yutang,
I respectfully acknowledge the receipt of your letter of May 20. Everything you said is well understood. I will relate a few concerns of mine as follows. (1) The main purpose of this exhibition is cultural promotion. It is, therefore, necessary to involve several directors of museums. When the time comes, the exhibition will take place at their museums. In the past my exhibitions were held at famous national museums or palaces in France, Germany, Italy, Soviet Union, etc. (2) I should have no problem with personal expenses. But I need permission from local government to transfer foreign currency, which, I hope, could be done. (3) I need an invitation from a well-established organization, which will save me some trouble to leave here and to enter the United States. This, I personally believe, is important. (4) I can speak and read French. As to English, I am just a beginner. I only barely read newspaper, but cannot speak. It is a problem. If I get to go, I will certainly inform you of my schedule. I need someone to receive me at the port. It is not to make a scene (I do not care for such things). It is really necessary because my luggage will include twenty large cases of objects. I collected some figurines and ceramics of the Six Dynasties and the Tang dynasty in previous years. They have all been taken abroad. If I travel far, I cannot leave them here. (4) The majority of the earnings from the sale will certainly be donated, though what I would like to contribute to my country is more than this. (5) I have sixty odd high-quality paintings of varying sizes by Qi Baishi. I also have his autobiography, which is quite interesting. And there are fifty or sixty letters that he wrote to me. Shitao, on the other hand, is a problem. I will write [Zhang] Daqian, but I cannot promise anything. Because of the war, transportation is less convenient. This kind of objects have long been put away at safe places and are hard to move around. I fully agree with it. Shitao's greatest works, however, are in the collections of Luo Jialun and Zhang Qun. I will try there too. I deeply appreciate your support and assistance. You are not only a powerful figure in the international literary sphere, but also, in my judgment, one that understands art better than any other Chinese who knows Western languages. Among those Chinese who do not know Western languages, even when their appreciation of art intuitively reflects elegant taste, few of them have true understanding. That is why I really have to rely on you. I have received the telegram from the Association for Supporting China (Yuan Hua Lianhehui), but the letter has not yet arrived. I think its contents must roughly correspond to what you said. Please inform them of my concerns. I plan to arrive in America before October. Please take care to make arrangements for me. I cannot thank you enough for this. May your writing go well. Beihong, your junior. May 14 in Penang.
Address: Ju Péon. C/o Chinese Consulate. Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.
There is one more thing. After I contacted you regarding the exhibition, Mr. Zhang Shuqi was sent to America by the government. He specializes in flower-and-bird painting. You may know what the art world in China is like. I am concerned in case your friends inquire about this. It is something subtle. There must be no conflict. I will not rush to action, but my trip to America cannot be postponed. I must not fear to go. Beihong, your junior, notes again.

語堂先生道席。得五月二十日手教敬悉一是,所述各節皆極了解,鄙見數端分述如下。( 1 )此展目的之主要點在文化宣傳,故必須有幾位博物院院長或美術館長參與其事,屆時將在其所屬場所舉行。即弟當年亦均在法德意蘇等國立著名博物院或王宮內舉行也。( 2 )弟個人川資等用費殆無問題,惟須與當地政府商准外匯,或者可以辦到。( 3 )弟必須有一堂皇之團體邀請,則此間出口美國入口皆可省麻煩。此節弟個人認為重要。( 4 )弟法文能說能看,英文方在初學,僅能免強看報,并不能說,是件困難事。弟如成行,必告行程等等,要人接船,非為場面(弟不愛這一套),實在必需,因弟所攜之物必有二十大箱。弟當年曾收集些六朝及唐代俑及陶器,皆攜出。既遠行,亦不便寄存此間。( 4 )賣品所入當然大部捐出。抑弟個人所願貢獻于國家者當不止此。( 5 )白石精品弟有大小六十餘幅,弟尚得其自敘頗有趣,彼與弟之通信亦五六十封。惟石濤則成問題,弟當函告大千,但不能必也。因囗戰時交通既不便,而此類品物早已置為安全所在,移動為難,此事弟極贊成。惟石濤最大傑作藏羅家倫及張群處,弟亦將設法。承足下允與助力,不勝感荷。因足下不惟世界文壇權威,抑在弟個人心目中以為識洋文之中國人中,從未有認識藝術如足下者。至於不識洋文之中國人之了解藝術或亦有直覺當于雅趣之人,實亦甚少真知,是以弟之必有賴於先生者也。援華聯合會電已收得,函尚未到,想大約如先生所示,請即以弟意告之。弟擬在十月前到美,懇先生詳為計劃。感盼不盡,敬祝文祺。弟悲鴻頓首。五月十四日檳城

通信處 Ju Péon c/o Chinese Consulate. Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.

再者張書旂兄在弟與先生接洽畫展之後,由政府派赴美國,彼長于花鳥。中國藝壇狀況先生知之。惟恐先生友人中詢及此事,則頗微妙, 不可令有衝突。弟甘緩于行動也,但赴美則不能緩,懼行不得也。弟悲鴻又及。

Letter 4 [June 25, 1941]

Respectfully to Mr. Yutang,
I sent you a letter sometime ago, which you must have read. Once I receive permission to leave, I plan to ship the artworks to America in advance, so that I may have greater freedom, since there is no more airplane I can take. At this point, I plan to board the ship from Hong Kong to America on August 20. Since it is wartime now, I have to go through many procedures to go to America from here. Even for an American visa, they need to have documents from the States. I hope you could try your best. I will definitely wait till I hear from you to make a final decision. I am expecting two things: (1) I must have an invitation; (2) I must have an easy pass through customs. Neither of these is dispensable. As to personal expenses, I am well prepared. I have always lived a simple life. In addition, my goal is to raise relief fund, and our country is in such a serious crisis. Since I am not in diplomatic service, any accommodation is fine as long as it does not put our country to shame. My luggage include ten cases of paintings, three cases of antiques, two cases of clothes, one case of seals, two cases of books, and two cases of appliances (stationary, pigments, etc.). It is no more than twenty cases. There is one more thing I need your guidance for. Since I come all the way to America, I envision more than one venue for my exhibition. Whether from west to east or from east to west, I must plan economically due to the large quantity of objects. Regarding the July issue of Asia magazine, could you ask them to send ten copies to the Consulate in Kuala Lumpur and keep ten copies for me. I am sorry to cost you lots of effort. May your writing go well. Beihong, your junior. June 25 in Mt. Jinmalun.

I am trying to get Shitao's paintings. I have asked my friends in Chongqing to borrow insurance to ship the works to Hong Kong, then further to the embassy in Washington.

書後乃作最後決定。弟所期待者兩事( 1 )必須有 invitation 。( 2 )須謀得入口海關之便利。二缺一不可。至於個人費用,弟已有相當準備。弟向持樸素生活,且所志在籌賑,國難又嚴重如此,既非外交人員,不辱國即可。弟所攜物,大概畫件十箱,古物三箱,衣服兩箱,印一箱,書籍兩箱,用具(文房顏色等等)兩箱,不過二十箱。尚有一點請明示者,即弟既來美,決不止一處展覽。自西徂東,抑自東徂西,因物多亦須做一經濟打算也。七月分 Asia 雜誌請託該誌以十冊寄吉隆坡領館,并為弟留十冊。實費精神。惶愧。敬祝文祺。弟悲鴻頓首。六月廿五日金馬崙山中


Letter 5 [actually a note, probably attached to Letter 4]

One more thing. If the invitation comes from cultural institutions or academic groups, the customs has to be notified. It will probably be San Francisco or New York. I have not decided yet. Part of the paintings will be sent from Hong Kong (those sent there for mounting). Another part will be sent directly from China (provided that [Zhang] Daqian is willing to take the trouble to lend.) Please keep these things in mind. I know nothing about American tax law. If I have to pay heavy tax, it will be almost impossible to carry out [my plan].


Letter 6 [July 8, 1941]

Mr. Yutang,
I have read in newspaper lately that American government has imposed a great many restrictions on entries at ports. To gather Shitao's works, I wrote my wife in Chongqing to request Zhang Yuejun [Zhang Qun] (a 12-panel screen with continuous composition, which is the best work in Shitao's entire oeuvre), Zhang Daqian, and Luo Jialun (a top-quality huge scroll). The paintings would be sent to Hong Kong and then the embassy in Washington to relieve me of some responsibility. I have also invited my wife to go with me (my wife for twenty years. There is no one else. I hope you won't listen to rumors.) Although these two things might not go through, I must be prepared to enter America. I entreat you to include my wife (named Pillevi, age 42) when you make arrangements for me. Also, I have asked the Zhonghua Publishing Company of Shanghai to send books illustrating the works of Shitao, [Qi] Baishi, [Zhang] Daqian, and mine directly to the Chinese Consulate in New York for future use. Please send them a word on my behalf at your convenience. In haste. May your writing go well. Beihong, your junior. July 8.

I do not hold a government's passport. I do not want it anyway. It is therefore necessary that you try on my behalf to get a permit from Washington for the artworks to enter and be exempt from tax (so I heard). These two matters are most important. Otherwise all our efforts will be futile.

語堂先生,日來閱報見美國進口之限制多得厲害。因為收集石濤作品,弟曾函內子在重慶設法向張岳軍(十二幅通景屏,石濤生平第一精品)、張大千、羅家倫(最精一巨幀)徵求,航寄香港,再寄華盛頓大使館,以輕責任。弟并邀內子同行(二十年來之老婆,並無第二人,望弗信謠言)。兩事雖未必成,顧赴美國入口必當預備,懇先生為弟謀時,加入內子一人(名蔣碧微 Pillevi ,年四十二歲),拜禱。又弟曾屬上海中華書局將石濤各種畫冊以及白石、大千與弟拙作各集直寄紐約中國領館應用,懇便中代為關照。匆匆不盡。敬祝文祺 弟悲鴻頓首。七月八日

Letter 7 [July 16, 1941]

To Mr. Yutang with respect,
I have sent you two letters since I received yours. It is time for summer vacation on the peaceful side of the world. You and your friends must be roaming the countryside, which makes it difficult to go about trivial business. On my part, after two months' preparation, everything is ready except for the two things mentioned in my previous letter, that is, (1) I need a formal invitation; (2) I need to settle the details with the customs in order to enter America undeterred. Shitao's works have to be gathered in Chongqing. I think we will get something. There is another important matter that I need your help with. My friend, Dr. Zheng Zhenwen, whom you might know, is a specialist in mineralogy. Formerly a member of the Committee on National Defense, he is back to Southeast Asia for private business. In hopes of learning the latest technology (in mineralogy), he willingly condescends to accompany me to America as my volunteer secretary. We are frugal and well prepared, so there is no problem with money. Please don't worry. I only entreat you to complete the procedures for legal entry as soon as possible. (Guarantee from the bank here is certainly no problem.) Thank you so very much. May your writing go well. Beihong, your junior. July 16 of the thirtieth year [of the Republic era] in Singapore.

Attached please find two photographs of me and Mr. Zheng respectively. My address in Singapore is Ju Péon 16, Lorong 35 Gaylang, Singapore.

If you kindly reply, please send your letter to this address. The delivery would be one or two days sooner. September and October are the best time in terms of weather. I need to rush a great deal in order to accomplish something significant by October, feeling very anxious. I will bring two cases of reproductions of pictures with me on my trip.

語堂先生惠鑒。自得手教已奉兩書。念此時在泰平盛世正是暑假,故知足下與一切交好將分散山市水涯,難以進行瑣事。而弟則兩月準備,事皆就緒,祇期待前函所陳兩節,即(一)須得一正式 invitation ,(二)須與海關商妥後,方能入美無阻。徵集石濤作品須在重慶努力,弟意或能有結果。茲尚有一要事奉託。友人鄭振文博士足下或能識,其人精于礦學,原任國防委員會參事,因私務返南洋,更思于技術(礦學)方面謀得新識,故願屈尊為弟義務秘書,同赴美國。弟等能節儉,抑知所準備,故經濟絕無問題,請兄釋念。惟懇請費神,速為謀得合法入口手續(此間銀行擔保當然無問題)。感禱無量。敬頌文祺。弟悲鴻頓首。卅年七月十六日星洲

弟照片及鄭君照片各兩紙附入。弟星加坡地址 Ju Péon 16, Lorong 35 Gaylang, Singapore.

儻蒙賜書請寄此處,能快一兩日也。原是九十兩月為最佳季候,茲須極快方能趕在十月有所作為,殊焦急也。有兩箱印刷品 reproductions of pictures 隨弟行。

Letter 8 [August 14, 1941]

Attached please find four photographs.
To Mr. Yutang, my senior,
I am cheered up by your letter of July 25. Your suggestion of forming an organizing committee and inviting people in cultural institutions and museums to participate really touches the base of the matter. It would also be ideal to place the committee in a museum of modern art. As to my portion of the earnings, it is absolutely no problem. Since other people enthuse in helping us through our adversity, how could I possibly take advantage of them? You know me well. While discussing this plan, please tell your friends that I will agree to whatever proposal they might come up with. I have made all necessary preparations. I just have to tell you the most urgent concerns I have. By the time you receive this letter, I think summer vacation will be almost over. I urge you to proceed as soon as possible. (1) I have heard that the American Consulate has no right to issue visas to foreigners to enter America now. And Britain, due to concerns over foreign exchange, does not permit non-Americans to go to America. It is therefore necessary that the organizing institution engage an enthusiastic and smart person to purchase two first-class tickets in New York for me and Mr. Zheng Zhenwen (I have told you in my previous letter) to go from Singapore or Hong Kong to America by sea and to inform the American Express in Singapore of this matter by telegram, including all kinds of legal procedures which I cannot know in detail here such as visa for entry. (2) In the meanwhile, the entry of paintings must not be delayed. Please ask Consul General Yu to find out how to proceed as soon as possible. These two matters are the most crucial. In addition, [Zhang] Daqian went to Dunhuang two months ago. His disciple, Mr. Sun, went along. As a result, the exhibition of Shitao's works has to be postponed. Asia sent me thirty dollars for my article, but I haven't seen this magazine yet. Could you purchase ten copies for me and send them to Zhonghua Publishing Company in Singapore or the Chinese Consulate in Kuala Lumpur? I mentioned this request before and wonder if they have been sent. There is one more thing. At the time I wrote you about this matter, Deputy Consul Sun in Kuala Lumpur also wrote to Mr. Hu on my behalf. (He generously offered to do it. It was not my idea.) Mr. Hu has replied, saying he could not help. I inform you of this lest you or other caring friends should get snubbed too. May you have a happy journey. Beihong, your junior.
I have a most precious treasure, which is worth thirty works by Shitao. When you come to Penang this time, I will come to meet you in person and tell you all in detail. August 14 in Penang.
Péon 16 Lorong 35 Gaylang, Singapore.

附相片四紙。語堂尊兄,得七月廿五日手教欣慰。尊意另組發起委員會,邀請藝界及博物院人物參加,囗為扼要。又假近代美術館為他日會所,亦合乎理想。至于所得成分絕對無問題,因他人熱忱援救吾人災難,焉有反因以為利者。兄固知我,如談及時,請告諸友不必考慮如何辦法,弟盡能同意也。弟已籌備就緒,惟以最急問題詳為兄告,計書到時暑假將盡,懇急為進行。( 1 )聞美領館此時無權簽照允許人往赴美國,而英國方面以外匯故,亦不許非美國人往美國,故必須由發起機關委託一熱心而精明之人,為弟與鄭振文先生(前函已詳告)在紐約購好由星加坡或香港赴美頭等船票兩張,電告星加坡 American Express ,其當然包括入口簽照等等一切在此所不能詳知之各種合法手續。( 2 )同時畫件入口必不容緩,請速告紐約于總領事如何設法。此兩點為最主要。再者大千于兩月前去燉煌,門人孫君同行,故石濤作品展覽祇能從緩。 Asia 寄來稿費卅元,可惜尚未見到本誌,請代購十冊寄星加坡中華書局或 Kuala Lumpur 中國領館,前曾請求,未知寄出否。再者隆孫副領事曾為弟函胡—弟函兄談此事同時—(是彼盛意,並非鄙懷),已复書言不能幫忙,所以奉告,恐兄或其他熱心好友又去碰一無聊的釘子。敬祝旅福。弟悲鴻頓首。

Péon 16 Lorong 35 Gaylang, Singapore.

Letter 9 [August 22, 1941]

To Yutang, my senior,
I just met with the American Consul in Penang. According to him, entries to America have to be approved by the State Department lately, so he advised you to proceed. He gave me a copy of Form B and asked me to fill in each blank in detail. He said there was also a Form D, which has to be filled in the United States. It is probably related to insurance. I will send you detailed resumés of me and Mr. Zheng and two photographs of each of us by airmail. Please engage someone to do it for us as soon as possible. Once it is done, please ask the State Department to telegraph the American Consulate in [Penang]. Please pay the fees on my behalf for now. (My former request to telegraph American Express can be dropped.) Hopefully we can make the trip by the end of September. The sooner, the better.
Mr. Zheng is a bosom friend of mine. He is fluent in the [English] language and has already begun making plans for me here. It is my great fortune that he is willing to accompany me on this trip. If he does not come, it will be very difficult for me, so I earnestly urge you to take care of the procedures for his admission. Mr. Zheng's father is the most powerful wine-maker in Malaya - owner of the Dongya and the Zheng Mianfa Wineries. He himself is particularly upright and pure, so I hope you could trust him as you have trusted me.
I am on friendly terms with the manager of a local ocean-liner company. With his help, I will have no problem purchasing tickets. You can ignore my previous letter, in which I asked you to purchase tickets for me. As to the invitation, I think it will come in a few days.
The most important thing at this point is to urge the Consulate to discuss with the Customs regarding the artworks' entry. I am unable to buy the July issue of Asia here. Please notify that magazine to reserve at least ten copies for me. I cannot thank you enough. May you have a happy journey. Beihong, your junior. August 22 in Panang.

語堂尊兄,頃晤檳城美領,據言近赴美必須由華盛頓國務院決定,故彼屬請先生進行。因與 Form B 一紙,令詳填各項,告以尚有 Form D 一種,須在美國填寫,大概係擔保之類。茲將弟與鄭兄詳歷及照片各兩紙航寄,懇速託人代辦,辦好請國務院電囗城美領館。囗費請代弟墊付至禱。(前請電 American Express 者取消。)則囗等九月底或可成行,愈速愈好。
此時第一要事,乃請領館交涉海關畫件入口。七月份 Asia 此間買不到,請電該誌至少為留十冊。拜感不盡,敬頌旅福。弟悲鴻頓首。八月廿二日檳城

Letter 10 [September 13, 1941]

To Yutang, my senior,
Thank you for your detailed instructions on various items and the sample provided by Mr. Yao. In enforcing customs taxes, no nation is so strict as India. When I went to India two yeas ago, the Consulate made all the arrangements in advance and the Santiniketan provided insurance. I registered everything in my luggage with estimated value (claimed by me) and left the list with the Customs. When I left India, they checked [my luggage] against the list. If anything was missing (for any reason), I had to pay fifty percent of the estimated value for tax. Although I sold several paintings during the past year, they were all painted in India, and consequently not taxed at the Customs. This time I have about three hundred of my own works of varying sizes, about two hundred paintings done a hundred years ago, and at least two hundred contemporary works. As Mr. Yao has shown, it is just a matter of complicated procedures. The bottom values [of the paintings] in my estimation are as follows: large ones are a hundred dollars apiece, the next are fifty, still the next are twenty, and small ones are ten. I will certainly pay tax if anything is sold. To avoid trouble, arrangements regarding this still have to be made with the Customs in advance.
Mr. Zheng and I will embark as soon as we receive the telegraph of approval. I will definitely send you a telegram before we leave. Once you receive it, you can proceed with the arrangements. I think the paintings will be sent to New York directly. My companion and I will arrive in San Francisco or Los Angeles by sea, which is most likely a cargo ship because it is very difficult to get foreign exchange. I have two cases of printed reproductions in Hong Kong (my collected works and those by [Qi] Baishi and others. There are also some sent from Shanghai.) (Among them are a dozen paintings by [Wang] Yachen.) All these will be forwarded through the [Chinese] Consulate in New York. Please tell Mr. Yu to pick them up when he receives the notice. If tax is required, there is nothing I can do. I don't think it will be much. Could you pay it for me first? I am gradually getting anxious now. With your assistance, the promotion should be no problem. And there are many powerful friends who will give me plenty of moral support. Friends in the museum field are the most important. I hope you would start taking note of them even at this moment. I keep your letters in my heart and do everything according to your instructions. Mr. Walsh is probably the man who sent a letter to Santiniketan asking for my works last year. Please keep his contact for me. Since he is a good friend of yours, I am sure he will help me. Take good care of yourself. Beihong, your junior. September 13.
Please start looking around for a place for us to stay. We have lots of stuff. It must not be too small.

語堂尊兄,承詳示各節及姚先生書例,謝謝。關稅壁壘天下以印度為第一。弟前年去印,先由領館接洽好,并由國際大學擔保,將弟攜物各件點明登記估價(由弟自報),存一 list 于關上,離印度時照樣點過。如缺少一件(不論任何理由)須照估價納稅百分之五十。弟去年一年雖亦賣掉些畫,皆是在印所寫,故未在關上稅。今次拙作大小約三百件,一百年以前之畫約二百件,時人之作最少約兩伯件。照姚先生所示,祇是手續之繁而已。估一底價大幅百元,次五十元,再次二十元,小者十元。如賣去當然納稅。此節仍須與關上先接洽,方減麻煩。

弟與鄭君一得准電便將動身,行前必電告兄,得電便可接洽。大約畫件直寄紐約,弟等乘舟將在三藩市或 Los Angeles 登岸。以貨船份數為多,因外匯極難請到也。弟在香港有兩箱印刷品(拙作畫集及白石等畫集,又上海亦有寄來)(其中有亞塵畫十餘幅),皆由紐約領館轉,懇告余先生如接得請提取。如需納稅,亦是無法,想不甚多,請兄代付。此時漸漸有些心焦。宣傳有兄為力,必無問題,且有許多有力朋友,當得精神上極大聲援。博物院朋友最要緊,幸兄此時即注意,至禱。弟存兄書于懷,一切照示去做。 Walsh 先生或者即是去年函國際大學要弟作品的這位先生,請為弟先容。既是兄之好友,定能為弟助也。伏維安養。弟悲鴻頓首。九月十三日


Letter 11 [November 17, 1941]

To Yutang, my senior,
The entire procedure for our trip to America, which has taken six people's efforts, two full months' time, and seven and a half jin of human flesh, barely allows us to board the ship. It may take sixty thousand characters for a thorough account, which has not included the long story of yours in America yet. In short, if one part of any major work of yours had taken so much energy to complete, you wouldn't have been acclaimed a genius. As for me, my life is like the Old Fool's moving mountains at the unfinished stage. It cost me as much sweat, but mush less trouble, and not even the tiniest amount of prayer. The abilities of Britons and Americans are indeed pretty good. I can't help admiring them.
I went with Mr. Zheng to visit Yu Dafu yesterday. I was told that the Chinese translation of your Moment in Peking would be around 300,000 characters. He has done a tenth of it. The part published in the Overseas Chinese Weekly (Huaqiao zhoukan) here contains about twenty thousand characters. I heard that the translation would be completed by next May. I then gave him your address. He will write you shortly to explain everything. He will also send you his translation directly. He is currently the editor of the literature section of the Singapore Daily (Xingzhou ribao) and also the editor of the Overseas Chinese Weekly. He is very busy. In my judgment, [the translation] cannot be completed by next May. We have all read the original book with three thousand notes and admired your energy greatly. Sharp is a cargo-ship company. Its manager in Penang is a friend of mine. His wife is a loyal fan of yours. He said I did not need American dollars to purchase tickets to take its ship, but the trip would take fifty odd days. I would have to rely on it for my trip back to Singapore. But who could have foreseen, having completed the procedures for reservation on the ship, we heard that the company had no right to book for customers. Only the captain had the right, but there was no seat available on the ship during this period. Consequently, I entrusted them four cases of paintings to ship to New York - The fee has to be paid in the United States, so I sent my request by telegram. And we will board the ship "Pres. Harison" to leave on December 6. We should arrive in San Francisco around January first or second next year and meet you and your friends in New York on the fifth or the sixth. I list my requests as follows: (1) Please calculate the trivial expenses such as telegram fees that you have spent for our sake. We will cover them all. (2) Please start looking for people who can assist me. Even though Mr. Zheng's English is adequate, we are not familiar with the people and the places. (3) Please discuss with your friends on the ways to establish contact with major museum figures in each city. This is a most important matter because I can then leave part of the important works at safe places to engender some actual cultural impact. (4) The problem of lodging has also to be taken care of in advance. (5) I left four cases of paintings - three wooden cases and a metal one - to the Sharp Company to be sent directly to the Chinese Consulate in New York in its latest shipment. The four cases are marked A, B, C, and F. In them are 323 Chinese paintings and 12 rolled-up oil paintings. I will bring the rest myself. Please inform Consul General Feng Zhizheng of this. The two ships will arrive only a little time apart. This is a last-minute change of plan. Please inform Consul General Yu of it. I will send a detailed list to the Consulate shortly and will certainly prepare a legal invoice. (6) We have decided to land in San Francisco. I will write to tell Mr. Feng in advance. I have known him before. I think he will do his best to help. If convenient, could you tell him too? Once we arrive, you will definitely get very busy because you are the only person I can depend on. That is why I urge you to make arrangements as early as possible. I will report the rest later. May your writing go well. Beihong, your junior, November 17 in Singapore.
It would be great if you could send two hundred dollars to Consul General Feng. The two cases of printed reproductions in Hong Kong have been sent to the Chinese Consulate in New York to be forwarded.


昨日特與鄭兄往訪郁達夫兄。據說尊著《瞬息京華》譯完大約三十萬字,彼已有十分之一,發表于此間華僑週刊者殆兩萬字。聞至來年五月可以全部譯成。弟乃以尊址與之,彼日內將有書致兄說明一切,譯文亦由彼直接郵寄左右。彼今任星洲日報副刊編輯,兼編華僑週刊,甚為忙碌。以弟觀之,明年五月必不能完工也。三千條注之原書弟等皆閱覽,良佩兄之精力。 Sharp 貨船公司者,其檳城經理係一友好,其夫人亦兄忠實讀者之一,言乘該舟可以不用美金購票,惟航程須五十餘天。弟返星仍倚賴之。詎至手續辦妥定船,乃悉公司無權應客,祇船長有權,而此期又無船位,故弟以畫四箱交之運紐約—必須美國付款故電懇—而弟等將乘十二月六日開出之總統船 Pres. Harison,大約新年一月一二日抵三藩市,五日或六日可到紐約與兄等晤面也。茲將請求諸事列后﹕
( 1 )凡兄為弟等所耗零星如電費之類,請皆計數,概由弟等負擔。( 2 )請即留能為弟助力之人。鄭兄之英文即夠應用,而人地生疏也。( 3 )請與諸友好詳商著力各城博物院要人,此節最重要。因如此吾人便將留一部分重要作品于安全所在,能產生文化上實際效率。( 4 )住所問題亦須未雨綢繆。( 5 )弟留畫四箱—三木箱一鐵箱—交 Sharp 公司由此次開之船直寄紐約中國領館,四箱記號為 A, B, C, F 。中有中國畫共三百二十三幅,油畫分卷共十二幅,其餘由弟自帶,當告知馮總領事執正。兩船到達之時相差不遠,此乃臨時變更之計劃,懇兄告知于總領事,弟日內即將詳單寄奉至 Consular invoice 弟自當依法做好。( 6 )弟等已定在三藩市上陸,當先函告馮先生。弟與之相識,以度之,彼將能盡力照拂也。如兄有便,亦祈告之。弟等到後,兄必大忙。因弟所依惟兄一人。此則必懇兄早為安排者也,餘俟續報。敬祝文祺。弟悲鴻,十一月十七日星洲


Letter 12 [September 6, 1942?][2]

To Yutang, my senior,
I sent you a letter the other day, asking you to withdraw the fifteen hundred dollars I deposited in America for me. I have written Mr. Zheng to bring it as a check, which I will probably use here in China. My former request, therefore, can be dropped. Mr. Han Kuaizhun from the South Sea would like to ask you for a piece of calligraphy. Would you grant his wish? I hope you and your wife are well. Please give my best regards to your wife. Beihong, your junior, September 6.


東總布胡同十號 (written in pencil, probably by Lin Yutang)

Letter 13 [November 5, 1942]

To Yutang, my senior,
I haven't heard from you for almost a year. I just received a letter from Ms. Wang and am glad to know from afar that your family are well. On September 18th there was an international art exhibition in Chongqing [in memory of the 1931 incident], which was organized by several of my students and some officials. Five of my works were also on display. A white gentleman - meaning American - felt greatly interested and suggested to exhibit them in the United States. The paintings were entrusted to Mr. Walsh to be carried over. Since the selection was based on war-related subjects, the works of many important artists were not included. I tried to ask him to bring five of my works to you, but he did not want to be responsible. (I therefore entrusted them to Asia.) These five works have been mounted with frames. They are very light without wooden support. You can present them to your friends as gifts. I cannot carry them myself. Since it was not a big pile, I was concerned that they might get crushed. Please keep fifty copies of my collected paintings and twenty copies of [reproductions of] the Eighty-seven Immortals for me. If someone is coming, could you ask him or her to bring me five, six, seven, or eight copies if convenient because I don't have any myself. Mr. Zheng's money was transferred to someone, which I have told you in a letter. Could you write me a letter and mention this as evidence that I did not take it. If possible, I will definitely go to America after the war. Lately I have been working to found an art institute with the returned compensation fee from Britain for the 1900 war. With best regards to you and your wife and children. Your junior, Beihong, at the Central University at Shapingba, Chongqing, November 5.

語堂尊兄,不奉明教幾及一年,頃得王女士書,欣知闔府清吉,實慰遠懷。九一八重慶曾舉行一聯合國藝展,由門人多人及一部分官員主持。弟亦有五作陳列。有一白君—譯意美國人—極感覺興趣,遂建議運美展覽,畫交威尒基先生帶往,皆選戰事攸關題材,以是重要作家皆未出品。弟曾欲託帶拙作五幅與兄,彼言不負責,(因託交 Asia ),該五幅已裱成匡,無上下支木,甚輕,以備贈兄友人者。茲已不能帶,因非大批,慮壓匾也。 弟之畫冊請留五十冊, 又八十七神仙卷二十冊。倘有便人請攜弟五六七八冊,因自己反無之也。鄭兄款轉讓于人,曾有信告兄,乞來函一提以作證明,并非取用。戰後倘可能,弟必來美。近為中英庚款董事會辦一美術研究所。敬請儷安,夫人群公子萬福。弟悲鴻,重慶沙坪壩中央大學,十一月五日

Letter 14 [November 16, 1947]

To Yutang, my senior,
It has been over four years since we last met. I read in the newspaper last year that you succeeded in inventing a typewriter. My sincere congratulations! My close friend and renowned painter Wang Yachen is visiting America for a general survey. He will also hold exhibitions of modern Chinese paintings. He has a rich collection. Please help him with your advice. I will be grateful as if I were him. Also, regarding the two cases [of reproductions] that I sent to America before the Pacific war, please make good use of them. I cannot thank you enough. With best regards to you and your wife. Your junior, Beihong, November 16.

I prepared a small chicken-blood seal and an album for you to bring to your daughter, Ms. Wushuang, as a gift at that time, but you left in such haste that I did not give them to you in time. I tried to ask Yachen to bring the seal and the album this time, but somehow couldn't find them. I will make it up next time.



Letter 15 [February 4, 1948]

To Yutang, my senior,
Before Mr. Wang Yachen embarked on his current trip to America, I had asked him to bring your daughter, Ms. Wushuang, a chicken-blood seal. Mr. Wang brought with him a large quantity of select works by contemporary artists to promote Chinese art. Please help him in his endeavor. I cannot thank you enough. In addition, regarding the two wooden cases [of reproductions] that I sent to America five years ago, I at first asked Mr. Wang to discuss with you to take them out for present use, but you may drop this plan now because I may be able to go to America myself this winter. Please ask Consul Lu Zhengyu to keep them properly in the consulate until I come to take them out in person. My intent to go to America was initiated by a plan to exhibit the works of mine and my students that Mr. Xie Shoukang proposed to Mr. Allan Priest, Curator of Oriental Art at the Metropolitan Museum. By that time, if my health permits, I will definitely come to visit the New World and talk with you at length. (I have been inflicted with high blood pressure for three years. I am taking Rutin, an American medicine, and already feel slightly better.) You may tell Ms. Wang Ying about this because I don't have her address. I have taken charge of the National Art Academy in Beiping since August two years ago. Fortunately everything is going quite smoothly, to my great relief. I still hope you could give me your advice every now and then so that I may amend my shortcomings. With best regards to you and your wife and children. Your junior, Beihong, February 4.
Your gracious response may be sent to: 16 East Shoulu Street, District 0, Beiping.

語堂老兄,此次汪亞塵兄來美,弟曾託致令愛無雙小姐雞血印一方。汪兄為宣揚中國藝術,攜來大批近人精作,請兄為之鼓吹,感禱不盡。再者,弟在五年前寄美國之兩木箱,原請汪兄商同吾兄取出應用,茲因弟或于今冬亦能來美,故暫作罷。仍請商于盧領事正畬妥存領館內,待弟親來取出也。弟來美動機,乃因謝壽康兄商于 Metropolitan Museum 之東方部主任 Mr. Allan [sic] Priest 擬請弟為弟及門人之展。弟屆時倘健康許可(弟三年來皆患血壓高,今服美國藥 Rutin 已略見效),必將來新大陸一游,訪吾兄暢談。此消息可告王瑩女士,因弟不知其住址也。弟來北平長國立藝專,自前年八月始,幸一切尚佳,堪以告慰。尚望時賜教言,以匡不逮。敬祝儷福,夫人諸郎安篤。弟悲鴻頓首。二月四日


Letter 16 [April 27, 1948]

To Wushuang, my kind young friend,
I am so glad to receive your letter. Despite having been living abroad since childhood, you still have such good command of the Chinese language, which shows how well you are disciplined at home. I heard, from newspaper, that your father lost lots of money in making the Chinese typewriter. Is it so? I also heard that he published a book on Su Dongpo [Su Shi]. Those things are always on my mind. I was hospitalized for many days due to high blood pressure, and apologize for the delayed reply. May your writing go well. Please give my regards to your parents. Beihong, April 27.


Letter 17 [October 22, 1948]

To Wushuang my kind young friend,
I am greatly delighted to know from my friend's letter that you have followed your father to Paris. I sent your father a letter last week, in which I asked him to write to Mr. Yao, a Chinese businessman in New York, to hand over the cases I sent to New York seven years ago to Mr. Wang Shaoling. I hope to take advantage of Mr. Wang Yachen's visit to America to sort them out. Could you remind your father to do it at your convenience? I cannot thank you enough. May you have a happy journey. Please give my regards to your father. Beihong, October 22.

[A short paragraph written in blue ink with a pen on top of Xu Beihong’s letter is not signed; probably written by Lin Yutang]

The two cases of painting reproductions are in the China House now. Please notify Mr. Wang Shaoling (at 100 West 57 St., Phone: C6-5-8931) to contact Mr. Meng Zhi and to forward my letter to Beihong to Beiping at 16 East Shoulu Street, Beiping.


兩箱畫冊現在 China House 。請通知王少陵 100 West 57 St. ,電 C6-5-8931 ,與孟治先生接洽,並將余與悲鴻兄函請其轉寄北平,北平東受祿街十六號。


Chin Hsiao-yi 秦孝儀 (1921–2007), 14 columns in standard script, dated 1987, 3 seals:

Snowy Field[3]
This handscroll is a collection of Mr. Xu Beihong's letters to Mr. Lin Yutang. During the Sino-Japanese war, Mr. Xu planned to exhibit his paintings in America in order to purchase American medicine for soldiers injured in the war with the money from the sale. He therefore enlisted the help of Mr. Lin to promote and make arrangements for his plan in America. The meticulous details in the letters revealed the genuine compassion and patriotism of the two men. Now both of them are gone. Though the trace of the handwriting looks as fresh as new, the goose has flown out of sight. That's why I brushed xue ni (a layer of fresh snow) in seal script at the beginning to express my nostalgic admiration. On the first day of the first autumnal month in the dingmao year [1987], Qin Xiaoyi, Xinbo.

手卷為徐悲鴻先生與林語堂先生手扎之綴集。蓋徐先生於對日戰爭之頃, 望以其自作畫運美展出, 以所得強半購美藥物救濟戰時傷患官兵,因懇林先生在美為之經營呼應。扎中苦心細節尚概可想見二先生憂國憫人之純忱。今二先生往矣,雖手墨如新,顧鴻飛渺然。因為篆雪泥於端,用寄感慕云尒。丁卯新秋之朔秦孝儀心波 [印]:夏璋商璧周圭漢琮與世同、秦孝儀、心波

Collectors’ seals

Li Ming 黎明 (Richard Lai, b. 1920) and Lin Taiyi 林太乙 (Taiyi Lin Lai, 1926–2003)
Li Lin 黎林 [on Chin Hsiao-yi’s prologue, Letter 1, and Letter 17]

Lin Taiyi 林太乙 (1926–2003)
Wushuang 無雙 [on Letter 16]

[1] Documentation from Shi-yee Liu, Straddling East and West: Lin Yutang, A Modern Literatus: The Lin Yutang Family Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 7, pp. 44-51.

[2] The address written in pencil, probably by Lin Yutang, is that of the National Academy of Art of Beiping. Xu Beihong was appointed its director in August 1946, and remained on the post until his death in 1953. There is a possibility that this letter was written in 1946. The two seals on the letter are part of the printed decorative design on the stationary. The one at the lower right corner reads “manufactured by the Rongbao Studio” (Rongbao zao 榮寶造). The other, near the left edge of the letter, is a seal of Qi Baishi (Lao Qi 老齊), whose painting of frogs was reproduced on the stationary as a decorative design.

[3] This title, as Qin Xiaoyi explains, was inspired by Xu’s first name, “Beihong,” which means “sad wild goose.” It alludes to Su Shi’s famous poem to his brother titled “Reminiscent of Minchi in the Rhyme of Ziyou’s Poem” (He Ziyou Minchi huaijiu), in which Su likens man’s vagrant and transient existence to “geese tracks in a snowy field” (xue ni hong zhao 雪泥鴻爪).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bridging East and West: The Chinese Diaspora and Lin Yutang," September 15, 2007–February 10, 2008.

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