‘Flower Drum Song’ Author C.Y. Lee Dies at 102


“Flower Drum Song” author C.Y. Lee with his son Jay and daughter Angela on opening night of the “Flower Drum Song” Broadway revival in 2002. (Photo by Lia Chang)


C.Y. Lee, whose novel “The Flower Drum Song” became a best-seller and the basis of a popular stage musical and Oscar-nominated film, has died at the age of 102.

His son, Jay Lee, told The Los Angeles Times that his father died on Nov. 8 in Los Angeles, but that the family decided not to make his death public at that time.

Born in Hunan, China, Chin Yang Lee received a B.A. degree from Southwest Associated University in Kunming and an M.F.A. with a major in playwriting from Yale University.

Before his American education, Lee worked during World War II as secretary to the Sawba of Mangshih, a small principality on the China-Burma border. The experience resulted in a series of articles published in the New Yorker magazine and, later, a book entitled “The Sawba and His Secretary” (British edition: “A Corner of Heaven”). A television series based on the book was made and aired in Taiwan.