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", 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 in 1986.
1 Early life and career
2 Designing Pinyin
3 Later activities
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Early life and career
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. 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.
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. 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. He left during the May
Thirtieth Movement of 1925 and transferred to Guanghua University,
from which he graduated in 1927.
On 30 April 1933, Zhou married Zhang Yunhe (张允和). The couple
went to Japan for Zhou's studies. 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).
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. 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
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, where he taught
Fudan University for several years.
In 1955, the
Chinese government placed Zhou at the head of a committee
to reform the
Chinese language to increase literacy. While other
committees oversaw the tasks of promulgating
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. Zhou said the task took about
three years, and was a full-time job.
Pinyin was made the official
romanization in 1958, although (as now) it was only a pronunciation
guide, not a substitute writing system. Zhou based
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.
In April 1979, the International Organization for Standardization
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. It is the principal vehicle for most
Chinese language computer input.
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. He spent two years at a labour camp.
After 1980, Zhou worked with Liu Zunqi and
Chien Wei-zang on
Encyclopædia Britannica into Chinese, earning him the
nickname "Encyclopedia Zhou". 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. From 2000,
he wrote ten books, of which some have been banned in China.[citation
In 2011, during an interview with NPR, Zhou said that he hoped to see
China changed its position on the Tiananmen Square killings in
1989, an event he said had ruined Deng Xiaoping's reputation as a
reformer. He became an advocate of political reform, and was
critical of the Communist Party of China's attacks on traditional
Chinese culture when it came into power.
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. Zhou became a supercentenarian on 13 January 2016 when he
reached the age of 110. He was one of the few supercentenarians,
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. His wife had died in 2002, and
his son had died in 2015. 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.
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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.
Title (Simplified Chinese)
Xīn zhōngguó de jīnróng wèntí
New China's financial problems
Hànyǔ pīnyīn cíhuì
Chinese phonetic alphabet glossary
Zhōngguó pīnyīn wénzì yánjiū
A study of Chinese phonetic alphabets
Zīběn de yuánshǐ jīlěi
Primitive accumulation of capital
Zìmǔ de gùshi
The alphabet's story
Hànzì gǎigé gài lùn
On the reform of Chinese characters
Diànbào pīnyīn huà
Hànyǔ shǒuzhǐ zìmǔ lùn jí
Essays on Chinese Sign Language
Hànzì shēngpáng dúyīn biàn chá
Phonetic components of Chinese characters: a sound dictionary
Pīnyīn huà wèntí
Problems with Pinyin
The tempest of language
Zhōngguó yǔwén de xiàndàihuà
Modernization of the Chinese language
Shìjiè zìmǔ jiǎn shǐ
A brief history of the world's alphabets
Xīn yǔwén de jiànshè
Constructing new languages
Zhōngguó yǔwén zònghéng tán
Features of the Chinese language
Hànyǔ pīnyīn fāng'àn jīchǔ zhīshì
Fundamentals of Pinyin
Wénhuà chàngxiǎng qǔ
Capriccio on culture or Cultural fantasia
Shìjiè wénzì fāzhǎn shǐ
History of the worldwide development of writing
Zhōngguó yǔwén de shídài yǎnjìn
The historical evolution of Chinese languages and scripts
Bǐjiào wénzì xué chūtàn
A tentative study of comparative philology
Duō qíngrén bùlǎo
Passionate people don't age
Hànzì hé wénhuà wèntí
Chinese characters and the question of culture
Xīn shídài de xīn yǔwén
The new language of the new era
Rénlèi wénzì qiǎnshuō
An introduction to human (written) language
Xiàndài wénhuà de chōngjíbō
The shock wave of modern culture
21 Shìjì de huáyǔ hé huáwén
Written and spoken Chinese of 21st century
Zhōu Yǒuguāng yǔwén lùn jí
Collection of essays by
Zhou Youguang on the Chinese language
Bǎi suì xīn gǎo
Zhāo wén dào jí
Shi bèi jí
Jīnrì huā kāi yòu yī nián
Today a new year blooms
Wǒ de rénshēng gùshi
My life story
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
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 (center) and Gu Chuanjie
(顧傳玠) (left) in 1946
Zhou in 1947
Zhou and wife in 1953
Zhou Youguang at his home in
Beijing in 2012, aged 106
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
China Daily Asia Weekly. Hong Kong. Xinhua News Agency.
^ a b c Branigan, Tania (21 February 2008). "Sound Principles". The
Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 12
^ 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).
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
^ 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.
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
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 周有光: (January 13, 1906
– January 14, 2017)". Memoriam. Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 45
(2): 500–507. doi:10.1353/jcl.2017.0024.
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)
ISNI: 0000 0001 0983 1052
BNF: cb169958731 (data)