David Kidd (1926–1996) was born in Corbin, Kentucky to a coal-mining community. He later grew up in Detroit, where his father became an executive in the automotive industry. In 1946, at age nineteen, Kidd made his first trip to Peking as a University of Michigan exchange student with one idea in mind: to get as far away from home as possible. He spent the next four years teaching English in the Peking suburbs. During this time, he married the daughter of a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, moving into her family’s 101-room palace, where he had a uniquely intimate view of the Communist takeover. His account of his experiences was serialized in The New Yorker and published in book-form as All the Emperor’s Horses in 1960, later retitled Peking Story: The Last Days of Old China. He returned to the US in 1950 and taught at the Asia Institute until 1956, when he moved to Japan. There he continued to work as a lecturer, became a devoted collector of Chinese and Japanese art and antiquities, and, in 1976, founded the Oomoto School of Traditional Japanese Arts in Kyoto. He lived in Kyoto until his death of cancer at age sixty-nine.
“Kidd’s pieces are simple, graceful, comic, mournful miniatures of an ominous catastrophe, the unprecedently swift death of a uniquely ancient civilization.” —John Updike