Liu Bannong

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Liu.
Liu Bannong
Traditional Chinese 劉半農
Simplified Chinese 刘半农

Liu Bannong (1891–1934) or Liu Fu (劉復/刘复) was a Chinese linguist and poet.


A native of Jiangsu, he was an important contributor to the influential magazine New Youth (Xin Qingnian) during the May Fourth Movement. He began writing poetry in vernacular Chinese in 1917, and was credited with having coined the Chinese feminine pronoun ta (她), which only exists in writing and which he made use of in his poems. The usage was popularised by the song Jiao Wo Ruhe Bu Xiang Ta (教我如何不想她 "Tell me how to stop thinking of her"), a "pop hit" in the 1930s in China. The lyrics were written by him and the melody by Yuen Ren Chao.

In 1920, he left China to study linguistics abroad, first in London, then in Paris. He gained his PhD at the University of Paris, with research done on Chinese tones. During his time in Paris, he compiled Dunhuang Duosuo (敦煌掇瑣 "Miscellaneous works found in the Dunhuang Caves"), a pioneering work about the Dunhuang manuscripts.

Among his other achievements, Liu was a pioneer in Chinese photography. He called for a photographic style which would be technically advanced but rooted in Chinese tradition. This call was an inspiration to younger photographers such as Lang Jingshan, who established a style of photography which incorporated the aesthetic of Chinese landscape painting.[1]

Liu returned to China in 1925, and began teaching in colleges. He collaborated with Li Jiarui (李家瑞) to compile Songyuan Yilai Suzi Pu (宋元以來俗字譜 "The vernacular characters used from the Song and Yuan dynasties onwards"). Published in 1930, it was a key work in the standardisation of simplified Chinese characters.

In 1933 Liu Bannong conducted an interview with Sai Jinhua. He wrote The Wife of Zhuangyuan: Sai Jinhua, which he called her "true story".[2]

He died of an acute illness after a linguistic field-trip, at the age of 44. Lu Xun wrote a short memoir about Liu (憶劉半農君) after his death.

He was the elder brother of the musicologist Liu Tianhua.



  1. ^ Kent, Richard K. (2013). "Early Twentieth-Century Art Photography in China: Adopting, Domesticating, and Embracing the Foreign". Local Culture/Global Photography. 3 (2). 
  2. ^ Hu, Ying, p. 53.

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