Zhou youguang


January 27, 2022

Zhou Youguang (Chinese: 周有光; born Zhou Yaoping; January 13, 1906 – January 14, 2017) was a Chinese linguist, sinologist and supercentenarian, credited as the "father of the (Hanyu) Pinyin", the romanization Mandarin official in the People's Republic of China.

Beginning and training

Zhou was born in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, on January 13, 1906. He enrolled at St. John's University, Shanghai in 1923, where he earned a degree in economics and a supplementary course in linguistics. He left the institution when the May 13, 1925 Movement broke out, transferring to Guanghua University, where he completed his education in 1927. Zhou spent some time as an exchange student in Japan, and the beginning of his professional career took place. working in banks as an economist, mainly in New York, returning to Shanghai in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was created.

The creation of Pinyin

In 1955, the government offered Zhou the leadership of a committee to reform the Chinese language in order to increase the literacy rate of the population. While other committees had tasks such as decreeing Mandarin as the national language and creating the characters now used in simplified Chinese, the committee chaired by Zhou was tasked with developing a romanization system to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters. Zhou said his assignment took about three years, in a full-time job. Pinyin was made the official romanization system in 1958, though then - and still today - as a pronunciation guide, not a replacement writing system.

Later activities

During the Cultural Revolution Zhou was sent to the interior of the country to be "re-educated", like many intellectuals of the time. He spent two years in a labor camp. After 1980, Zhou worked with Liu Zunqi and Chien Wei-zang on translating the Encyclopædia Britannica into Chinese, which gave him the nickname "Zhou Encyclopedia." Zhou continued to write and publish works after the creation of Pinyin; for example, his book Zhongguo Yuwen by Shidai Yanjin 中國語文的時代演進, translated into English by Zhang Liqing, was published in 2003 as The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages ​​and Writings. In total, he has written 10 books since 2000, some of which have been censored and banned by the Chinese government. As an elderly man, Zhou became an advocate of political reform and criticized the Chinese Communist Party's attacks on the country's traditional culture since taking power. Zhou became a supercentenarian on January 13, 2016, upon reaching the age of 110. years old.

Personal life

Zhou was married to Zhang Yunhe from April 30, 1933 until her death on August 14, 2002; the marriage lasted 69 years and 106 days and produced two children: Zhou Xiaohe, born in 1935 and died in 1941 at age 6, and Zhou Xiaoping, born in 1934, who died at age 80 on January 26, 2015. In 2013, Zhou and his son were interviewed by Dr. Adeline Yen Mah at their home in Beijing. Doctor Mah documented the visit on video and presented Zhou with a game with Pinyin romanization that she had created for the iPad. Zhou died on January 14, 2017 at his home in Beijing, the day after his 111th birthday.

Additional content

Bristow, Michael (March 22, 2012). «The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese». BBC News Online (in English) LaFraniere, Sharon (March 2, 2012). "The Chinese Voice of Dissent That Took Its Time". New York Times (in English)


External links

«Blog maintained by Zhou Youguang (百岁学人周有光的博客)» (in Chinese)

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