Lee (b. 1958) is a New York-based painter, illustrator, scholar, and historic restorer. He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. in 1987. He was homeschooled by a Sinologist father who nurtured him with the ancient literati arts and philosophies. He has different master's degrees in visual education, art history, and visual art. His paintings have appeared in books, magazines, and advertising campaigns. An avid historian and environmentalist, he has illustrated a book on the Parthenon and designed and illustrated two sets of postage stamps on environmental topics for the United Nations. His works to help preserve endangered species and bring more humanity to Nabisco Animal Cracker packaging were used by millions between 1997 and 2018.
Lee has worked and lived through the evolution of computers and has growing concerns about how the A.I., internet, and predatory capitalism have eroded American Individualism and American con-senses about self-evident truth. He also worried that the United States and China could fall into the "Thucydides Trap" when the Chinese government determined to pursue technological and military power. Lee found solace by studying the works of the system thinkers inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson's thoughts, founded American Landscape architecture, and later established the environmental art and preservation movement. He studied the environmental designs of N.Y.C., Hudson Valley, and places like Central Park, Prospect Park, and Innisfree Garden in Millbrook. He concluded that the traditional Chinese environmental philosophy was analogous to the Hudson Valley Transcendentalists'. These aesthetics and approaches to seeking harmony between nature and human environments had balanced the relentless industrialization, even though they spanned different times and places. Since 2005 Yuan Lee has narrowed down his research and refocused on the ancient roots of modern Minimalism. He has revived the research on the "key to Chinese" termed Gottfried Leibniz, who tried to develop universal characteristics by deciphering the origins of Chinese civilization as manifested by its earliest texts and the I Ching, the ancient graphical classic.
In 2006, after living in Manhattan for twenty years and being invited to tour the massive urbanizations in China, Yuan Lee felt the need to establish a home in the U.S. that aligns with his environmental beliefs. He became a targeted buyer for Chrystie House since some of his friends joined Beacon's artistic/commercial developments. Yuan Lee spent a whole winter researching and discovering the long-forgotten histories of Chrystie House. He also learned that the riverfront part of Beacon historically housed Fishkill Landing. The village had strong ties to the United States' early history and was the birthplace of American landscape architecture. Being victimized by scorched earth capitalism, it merged with the industrial village of Matteawan in 1913 and became the city of Beacon. The city has not been preserving its early history since. It would be risky to restore a dilapidated historic property in a city in such a developing mode, but the property embodied Yuan Lee's main interests in New York. He made an above-market bid, closed the deal in July 2007, and started working on securing the house. To finance the restoration project, he sold the loft in midtown Manhattan, where he had lived and worked for 20 years.
In 2005 and 2006, the United Nations and the City of San Francisco honored Yuan Lee for his Endangered Species works and his works in helping San Francisco Zoo. For Lee, that's the world he has lived and worked for thirty years. The Chrystie House should be just another project on that path, but it has become a project of survival and reflection with unexpected physical, political, legal, and financial challenges emerging. It was an identity crisis for both person and the property. While urging Yuan Lee to give up the right of way on the historic driveway, the mayor of Beacon (2008-2011) said the following: "You came from a country, the people there are so used to sharing things with others, you don't understand the sensitivity of American's private ownership." A high-profile land-use attorney privately commended Lee's position in Beacon: "It is one of the worst cases demonstrated by American democracy... because there are no Asian votes there, you are much worse than a black.". These statements and many other sobering ones had compelled him to re-assess his ideas about home, country, and the world as an American. Eventually, he realized what happened has made what he does matter more.
With the landscapes of Mount Beacon and the Hudson River as the backdrop, Yuan Lee and Chrystie House survived 12 years of hardships. Being regretted that the Chrystie House lost its historic entrance and its presentations, Lee is doing his best to make the new entrance and the driveway agreeable to the visions of Downing, Sargent, Vaux, and Dr. C J Slocum. Nonetheless, he has done the most needed restoration works on the house and retraced its history over nearly three centuries. The four rooms bed and breakfast operated in his home since 2011 has become a success among people seeking a historical, scenic stay; some of them later bought properties in Beacon. The business has brought tens of thousands of wanted customers to the local business.
Yuan Lee has been using all the resources to sustain the Chrystie House project; still, with limited time for his life project, he has deciphered the methodologies used to create I Ching and Oracle Bone Scrips. Lee is preparing to publish them in 2022, together with the works he did for Chrystie House. The schedule has been pushed back for 12 years, but he has kept faith in his ideas on home, country, and the world.