Lin Huiyin (Chinese: 林徽因, born 林徽音; pinyin: Lín Huīyīn; known as Phyllis Lin or Lin Whei-yin when in the United States; 10 June 1904 – 1 April 1955) was a noted 20th-century Chinese architect and writer.
She is known to be the first female architect in modern China and her husband the famed "Father of Modern Chinese Architecture" Liang Sicheng, both of whom worked as founders and faculty in the newly formed Architecture Department of Northeastern University in 1928 and, after 1949, as professors in Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Liang and Lin began restoration work on cultural heritage sites of China in the post-imperial Republican Era of China; a passion which she would pursue to the end of her life. The American artist Maya Lin is her niece.
Lin was born in Hangzhou though her family was from Minhou (闽侯县), Fujian. She was the daughter of Lin Changmin (林長民) (16 September 1876 - Xinmin, Liaoning, 24 December 1925) and He Xueyuan (何雪媛) (1882–1972).
In a time when women had limited access to formal education, Lin was able to receive a formal education due to being part of a wealthy family. Because of her family's affluence she was able to travel extensively with her father. She obtained her degrees both in England and the United States. Lin first studied in London where she attended St Mary's College. It was there she became acquainted with the well known Chinese poet Xu Zhimo. Their relationship was a sensational part of Lin Huiyin's life and is referred to in romantic anecdotes. However, Lin's works are highly regarded. Lin wrote free verse, novels and prose. Lin's poems appeared in publications such as the Beijing Morning Post, Crescent Monthly, Poetry and the Dipper and the newspaper L'impartiale in Tianjin.
In 1924, Lin and Liang Sicheng both enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also worked as a part-time assistant in the architectural department. Although they both wanted to attend the School of Architecture, Lin was not admitted because she was a woman. She therefore enrolled in the School of Fine Arts. Later, she enrolled in stage design programs in Yale University as a graduate student, pursuing her longtime interest in drama. During her studies she pursued her passion for architecture by taking architectural classes. It was here that Lin along with Liang Sicheng, her future husband whom she had known since childhood, pursued their love of architecture.
In April 1924, the sixty-four-year old Indian poet Tagore visited China, Lin Huiyin and Xu Zhimo worked together to do the interpretation work for Tagore, during which Lin Huiyin distinguished herself with her fluent English and also won the admiration of the poet.
In the wake of the September 18th Incident, Lin left for Beijing, where she studied ancient Chinese architecture. Upon her return, she helped to establish the Architectural Department in Northeastern University in Shenyang, where she then taught architecture briefly. Meanwhile, in 1928, she designed a railway station in Jilin. This was one of the few buildings Lin designed. Throughout the 1930s, Lin and her husband lived in Beiping, as Beijing was then called, near both of their families. Close friends at the time were the Americans Wilma and John K. Fairbank, who admired her sense of living on a “kind of double cultural frontier,” and facing the problem of “the necessity to winnow the past and discriminate among things foreign, what to preserve and what to borrow.”
In 1936, in order to develop measurement records of the Chinese ancient architecture, Lin Huiyin and her husband climbed the roof of the Temple of Heaven; she became the first woman to attempt the walk on the emperor's palace roof. In 1937, she discovered the main hall of Foguang Temple near Doucun, Shanxi. The hall was the only remaining Tang dynasty timber structure known at the time.
As Japan's invasion loomed, Lin Huiyin and her husband had to cut-short their promising restoration work of Beijing's cultural heritage sites in 1937 and abandoned their now famous courtyard residence in Beijing to flee southward along with personnel and materials of the Architectural Department of Northeastern University; their exodus lead them and their children to temporary settlements in the cities of Tianjin, Kunming, and finally Lizhuang in 1940.
After 1949, Lin Huiyin became professor of architecture at Tsinghua University. Lin was involved in the design of the Chinese national flag, the National Emblem of the People's Republic of China and the Monument to the People's Heroes located in the Tiananmen Square. Lin designed the floral wreath patterns at the base of the Monument to the People's Heroes. Lin also took part in the standardization of Beijing city planning.
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