James Dyer Ball

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James Dyer Ball (波乃耶) (4 December 1847 in Canton, China – 22 February 1919 in London, England) was a Hong Kong scholar and author born in Canton. He is noted for his works on Chinese culture and for contributing to the development of the system of Cantonese Romanisation.

Early life[edit]

Ball was the son of the Reverend Dyer Ball of Massachusetts, United States, and his much younger second wife, Scottish missionary Isabella Robertson. Apart from preaching, his father ran a dispensary and opened a school in Canton, Guangzhou. At age 7, Ball's family began three years of travel in Britain and the United States, returning to Canton in November 1858 where he received his secondary education before going on to King's College, London, and University College, Liverpool.[1]

Hong Kong career[edit]

Ball began his career in Hong Kong with a brief stint as a school teacher at the Government Central School. In March 1875, he took up the post of assistant Chinese interpreter and clerk at the Magistrates' Courts. Six years later, he had risen to First Interpreter at the Supreme Court, Sheriff and Marshall of the Vice-Admiralty Court. He retired in 1909 and died in 1919 in Enfield, Middlesex, England[1]


Ball was considered the most capable and knowledgeable European speaker of Cantonese of his time.

Mr Ball is one of the most accomplished linguists in Hongkong ... and no more able pen could be found for the work of simplifying and popularizing the Chinese tongue.[2]


Ball authored many pamphlets and books, including


  1. ^ a b Hamilton, Peter E (2012). Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. Hong Kong University Press. p. 14.
  2. ^ "Online Library". Retford and Gainsborough Times, Worksop and Newark Weekly News. 24 December 1886. Retrieved 8 April 2016.

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