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The world-renowned American architect I.M. Pei passed away last week at the age of 102. He left behind many iconic designs, such as the glass pyramid at the Louvre Museum and the geometric John F. Kennedy presidential library.
Many tributes to him since his passing emphasize his Chinese roots. But his long and productive life is a shining example of American exceptionalism.
Ieoh - Ming - Pei - China - Pei
Ieoh Ming Pei was born in 1917 in China. The Pei family was a wealthy family in Suzhou, a city known for its delicate waterways and canals, and exquisite gardens. But the early 20th century saw China fall from a great power into a war-torn nation. Decades of failed wars against foreign powers not only ruined the country’s economy, but also severely wounded national pride.
Led by Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese people overthrew the last emperor of the Qing dynasty in 1911, officially replacing the more than 2,000-year-old imperial system with a republic. Instead of a rebirth, however, China fell into deeper turmoil. A once-united country was divided among foreign powers, domestic politic factions, and authoritarian military generals. The majority of Chinese people lived in poverty and misery.
Family - Wealth - Pei - Life - Teenager
Because of his family’s wealth, Pei lived a relatively sheltered life as a teenager. In 1934, when he was 17, he left China for the United States. He first went to the University of Pennsylvania, later transferring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After getting his bachelor’s degree in architecture from MIT, Pei decided to stay in the United States due to the ongoing Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945).
His timing was good. Since China and the United States were allies during World War II, Americans’ attitude towards Chinese immigrants changed from antagonism to friendship. Not only did Americans offer China financial aid and military assistance to fight Japan, but the American government also changed the United...
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"Tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." C.S. Lewis