The Info List - Zhou Youguang

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Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
(Chinese: 周有光; pinyin: Zhōu Yǒuguāng; 13 January 1906 – 14 January 2017) was a Chinese economist, banker, linguist, sinologist, publisher, and supercentenarian, known as the "father of Pinyin",[1][2][3] a system for the writing of Mandarin Chinese in Roman script, or romanization, which was officially adopted by the government of the People's Republic of China
in 1958, the International Organization for Standardization
International Organization for Standardization
(ISO) in 1982, and the United Nations
United Nations
in 1986.[3][4]


1 Early life and career 2 Designing Pinyin 3 Later activities 4 Books 5 Gallery 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Early life and career[edit]

Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
and wife Zhang Yunhe in 1938

Zhou was born Zhou Yaoping in Changzhou, Jiangsu
Province, on 13 January 1906 to a Qing Dynasty official.[1][5] At the age of ten, he and his family moved to Suzhou, Jiangsu
Province. In 1918, he entered Changzhou
High School, during which time he first took an interest in linguistics. He graduated in 1923 with honours.[6] Zhou enrolled that same year in St. John's University, Shanghai
St. John's University, Shanghai
where he majored in economics and took supplementary coursework in linguistics.[5] He was almost unable to attend due to his family's poverty, but friends and relatives raised 200 yuan for the admission fee, and also helped him pay for tuition.[6] He left during the May Thirtieth Movement of 1925 and transferred to Guanghua University, from which he graduated in 1927.[5] On 30 April 1933, Zhou married Zhang Yunhe (张允和). The couple went to Japan for Zhou's studies.[5] Zhou started as an exchange student at the University of Tokyo, later transferring to Kyoto University due to his admiration of the Japanese Marxist economist Hajime Kawakami, who was a professor there at the time. Kawakami's arrest for joining the outlawed Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party
in January 1933 meant that Zhou could not be his student. Zhou's son, Zhou Xiaoping (周晓平), was born in 1934. The couple also had a daughter, Zhou Xiaohe (周小禾).[6] In 1937, due to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Zhou and his family moved to the wartime capital Chongqing, and his daughter died.[3] He worked for Sin Hua Bank
Sin Hua Bank
before entering public service as a deputy director at the National Government's Ministry of Economic Affairs, agricultural policy bureau (经济部农本局). After the 1945 Japanese defeat in World War II, Zhou went back to work for Sin Hua where he was stationed overseas: first in New York City and then in London. During his time in the United States, he met Albert Einstein[5] twice.[4] Zhou participated for a time in the China
Democratic National Construction Association, but when the People's Republic was established in 1949 he returned to Shanghai,[5][1][2] where he taught economics at Fudan University
Fudan University
for several years.[3] Designing Pinyin[edit] In 1955, the Chinese government
Chinese government
placed Zhou at the head of a committee to reform the Chinese language
Chinese language
to increase literacy. While other committees oversaw the tasks of promulgating Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin Chinese
as the national language and creating simplified Chinese characters, Zhou's committee was charged with developing a romanization to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters.[1] Zhou said the task took about three years, and was a full-time job.[1] Pinyin
was made the official romanization in 1958, although (as now) it was only a pronunciation guide, not a substitute writing system.[7] Zhou based Pinyin
on several preexisting systems: the phonemes were inspired by Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928 and Latinxua Sin Wenz
Latinxua Sin Wenz
of 1931, while the diacritic markings representing tones were inspired by zhuyin.[8] In April 1979, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Warsaw
held a technology conference. Speaking on behalf of the People's Republic of China, Zhou proposed the use of the "Hanyu Pinyin
System" as the international standard for the spelling of Chinese. Following a vote in 1982 the scheme became ISO 7098. In the modern era Pinyin
has largely replaced older romanization systems such as Wade-Giles.[3] It is the principal vehicle for most Chinese language
Chinese language
computer input. Later activities[edit]

Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
in 2012

During the Cultural Revolution, Zhou was sent to live in the countryside and to be "re-educated", as were many other intellectuals at that time.[1][2] He spent two years at a labour camp.[9] After 1980, Zhou worked with Liu Zunqi and Chien Wei-zang
Chien Wei-zang
on translating the Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
into Chinese, earning him the nickname "Encyclopedia Zhou".[5] Zhou continued writing and publishing after the creation of Pinyin; for example, his book 中国语文的时代演进 (Zhōngguó yǔwén de shídài yǎnjìn), translated into English by Zhang Liqing, was published in 2003 as The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts.[10] From 2000, he wrote ten books, of which some have been banned in China.[citation needed] In 2011, during an interview with NPR, Zhou said that he hoped to see the day China
changed its position on the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989, an event he said had ruined Deng Xiaoping's reputation as a reformer.[9] He became an advocate of political reform, and was critical of the Communist Party of China's attacks on traditional Chinese culture
Chinese culture
when it came into power.[9] In early 2013, both Zhou and his son were interviewed by Dr. Adeline Yen Mah at their residence in Beijing. Mah documented the visit in a video and presented Zhou with a Pinyin
game she created for the iPad.[11] Zhou became a supercentenarian on 13 January 2016 when he reached the age of 110.[12] He was one of the few supercentenarians, along with Herman Smith-Johannsen and Leopold Vietoris, known for reasons other than their longevity. Zhou died on 14 January 2017 at his home in Beijing, the day after his 111th birthday; no cause was given.[3] His wife had died in 2002, and his son had died in 2015.[3] At the time, he was the seventh-oldest known living man and the oldest known living person in China. He is one of the 100 world's verified oldest men in history. Google honored what would have been his 112th birthday with an animated version of its logo in Mandarin.[13] Books[edit]

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This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it. Zhou was the author of more than 40 books, some of them banned in China
and over 10 of them published after he turned 100 in 2005.[3]

Title (Simplified Chinese) Pinyin English title Publication year

新中国的金融问题 Xīn zhōngguó de jīnróng wèntí New China's financial problems 1949

汉语拼音词汇 Hànyǔ pīnyīn cíhuì Chinese phonetic alphabet glossary 1950

中国拼音文字研究 Zhōngguó pīnyīn wénzì yánjiū A study of Chinese phonetic alphabets 1953

资本的原始积累 Zīběn de yuánshǐ jīlěi Primitive accumulation of capital 1954

字母的故事 Zìmǔ de gùshi The alphabet's story 1954

汉字改革概论 Hànzì gǎigé gài lùn On the reform of Chinese characters 1961

电报拼音化 Diànbào pīnyīn huà Telegraph romanization 1965

汉语手指字母论集 Hànyǔ shǒuzhǐ zìmǔ lùn jí Essays on Chinese Sign Language 1965

汉字声旁读音便查 Hànzì shēngpáng dúyīn biàn chá Phonetic components of Chinese characters: a sound dictionary 1980

拼音化问题 Pīnyīn huà wèntí Problems with Pinyin 1980

语文风云 Yǔwén fēngyún The tempest of language 1981

中国语文的现代化 Zhōngguó yǔwén de xiàndàihuà Modernization of the Chinese language 1986

世界字母简史 Shìjiè zìmǔ jiǎn shǐ A brief history of the world's alphabets 1990

新语文的建设 Xīn yǔwén de jiànshè Constructing new languages 1992

中国语文纵横谈 Zhōngguó yǔwén zònghéng tán Features of the Chinese language 1992

汉语拼音方案基础知识 Hànyǔ pīnyīn fāng'àn jīchǔ zhīshì Fundamentals of Pinyin 1993

语文闲谈 Yǔwén xiántán Language Chat 1995

文化畅想曲 Wénhuà chàngxiǎng qǔ Capriccio on culture or Cultural fantasia 1997

世界文字发展史 Shìjiè wénzì fāzhǎn shǐ History of the worldwide development of writing 1997

中国语文的时代演进 Zhōngguó yǔwén de shídài yǎnjìn The historical evolution of Chinese languages and scripts 1997

比较文字学初探 Bǐjiào wénzì xué chūtàn A tentative study of comparative philology 1998

多情人不老 Duō qíngrén bùlǎo Passionate people don't age 1998

汉字和文化问题 Hànzì hé wénhuà wèntí Chinese characters and the question of culture 1999

新时代的新语文 Xīn shídài de xīn yǔwén The new language of the new era 1999

人类文字浅说 Rénlèi wénzì qiǎnshuō An introduction to human (written) language 2000

现代文化的冲击波 Xiàndài wénhuà de chōngjíbō The shock wave of modern culture 2000

21世纪的华语和华文 21 Shìjì de huáyǔ hé huáwén Written and spoken Chinese of 21st century 2002

周有光语文论集 Zhōu Yǒuguāng yǔwén lùn jí Collection of essays by Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
on the Chinese language 2002

百岁新稿 Bǎi suì xīn gǎo Centenarian's essay 2005

朝闻道集 Zhāo wén dào jí Essay collection 2010

拾贝集 Shi bèi jí Selected essays 2011

今日花开又一年 Jīnrì huā kāi yòu yī nián Today a new year blooms 2011

我的人生故事 Wǒ de rénshēng gùshi My life story 2013

逝年如水 - 周有光百年口述 Shì nián rúshuǐ - Zhōu Yǒuguāng bǎinián kǒushù "The years passed like water" - Zhou Youguang's oral recounting of his life 2015


Zhou Youguang's former Changzhou
residence, now a historical site

An early photo of Zhou and his family

Zhou (right) posing with writer Shen Congwen
Shen Congwen
(center) and Gu Chuanjie (顧傳玠) (left) in 1946

Zhou in 1947

Zhou and wife in 1953

Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
at his home in Beijing
in 2012, aged 106

See also[edit]

Yuen Ren Chao List of centenarians (educators, school administrators, social scientists and linguists)


^ a b c d e f "Father of pinyin". China
Daily. 26 March 2009. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2009.  Reprinted in part as Simon, Alan (21–27 Jan 2011). "Father of Pinyin". China
Daily Asia Weekly. Hong Kong. Xinhua News Agency. p. 20.  ^ a b c Branigan, Tania (21 February 2008). "Sound Principles". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2009.  ^ a b c d e f g h Margalit Fox (14 January 2017). "Zhou Youguang, Who Made Writing Chinese as Simple as ABC, Dies at 111". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 January 2017.  ^ a b Bristow, Michael (22 March 2012). "The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese". BBC News. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2017.  ^ a b c d e f g 李怀宇 (8 December 2005). "周有光:与时俱进文章里 百年风云笑谈中·南方社区·南方网" [Zhou Youguang: A lifetime of unstable situations and being laughed at]. 南方网 (in Chinese). Retrieved 15 January 2017.  ^ a b c 金玉良 (2003). "苏州杂志2003第2期-周有光忆学生时代" [Zhou Youguang's Time as a Student]. Journal of Suzhou
University (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.  ^ Ramsey, S. Robert (1989). The Languages of China. Princeton University Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-691-01468-5.  ^ Rohsenow, John S. 1989. Fifty years of script and written language reform in the PRC: the genesis of the language law of 2001. In Zhou Minglang and Sun Hongkai, eds. Language Policy In The People's Republic Of China: Theory And Practice Since 1949, p. 23 ^ a b c Lim, Louisa (19 October 2011). "At 105, Chinese Linguist
Now A Government Critic". NPR. Retrieved 19 October 2011.  ^ Youguang Zhou 周有光. The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts; 中国语文的时代演进, translated by Zhang Liqing 张立青. Ohio State University National East Asian Language Resource Center. 2003. ^ "Dr. Adeline Yen Mah meets the founder of Pin Yin Youguang Zhou". chinesecharacteraday.com. 14 March 2013.  ^ Lai, Kitty (15 January 2016). "Zhu ni shengri kuaile! Father of Pinyin
turns 110 years old, celebrates with a strawberry-topped cake". Shanghaiist. Retrieved 16 January 2016.  ^ Jazeera, Al. "Zhou Youguang: Why Google honours him today". www.aljazeera.com. Al Jazeera Media Network. Retrieved 13 January 2018. 

Further reading[edit]

Bristow, Michael (22 March 2012). "The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese". BBC News.  LaFraniere, Sharon (2 March 2012). "A Chinese Voice of Dissent That Took Its Time". The New York Times.  Mair, Victor H. (2017). " Zhou Youguang
Zhou Youguang
周有光: (January 13, 1906 – January 14, 2017)". Memoriam. Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 45 (2): 500–507. doi:10.1353/jcl.2017.0024. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Zhou Youguang.

Centenarian scholar Zhou Youguang's blog (百岁学人周有光的博客) (in Chinese)

Biography portal China
portal Linguistics
portal Writing portal

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 67781026 LCCN: n81028872 ISNI: 0000 0001 0983 1052 GND: 172473209 SUDOC: 085191221 BNF: cb169958731 (data) NLA: 36604068 NDL: 00533822 NKC: jo2011617486