Memories of Old Peking portrays the adult world in Peking of the 1930s as seen through the eyes of a little girl. The five sequential stories in the book are well constructed in terms of theme and character development and, as such, can be read as a novel.
The stories differ greatly from many other books on life in China, whether they are about the olden times or the present day, in that they do not dwell on politics, nor do they try to make any statements regarding set beliefs of any kind. The stories are simple and direct. Through the eyes and innocent mind of the child, we are let into her world and her feeling and cannot but be moved.
The author is well known for her perception and humor, and both these qualities inform her stories. The sense of loss and bewilderment which arouses the child's awareness of the uncertainties of human relationships, even of life itself, and which finally catapults the child away from childhood joys into the sorrows of the adult world is handled with great sensitivity and lyricism.
Lin Hai-yin is a prolific writer and was the editor of the literary page of United Daily News and The Literary Monthly before establishing her own publishing house. Nancy C. Ing has translated several collections of short stories and is presently editor of The Chinese PEN, the English quarterly of the Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N. Chi Pang-yuan is professor of English at National Taiwan University and chief editor of An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature.