Zhou Youguang in the 1920s
13 January 1906
(age 110 years, 195 days)
Changzhou, Jiangsu, Qing Empire
|Alma mater||Saint John's University; Guanghua University|
|Known for||"Father of Pinyin"; supercentenarian|
|Notable work||The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts|
|Political party||China Democratic National Construction Association|
|Spouse(s)||Zhang Yunhe (m. 1933–2002)|
|Children||Zhou Xiaoping (1934–2015)
Zhou Xiaohe (1935–1941)
|Relatives||Granddaughter: Zhou Hexin (b. 1959)
Great grandson: Andy Zhou (b. 1993)
Zhou Youguang (Chinese: 周有光; born Zhou Yaoping, 13 January 1906) is a Chinese supercentenarian, linguist and sinologist, often credited as the "father of (Hanyu) Pinyin", the official romanization for Mandarin in the People's Republic of China.
Education and early career
Zhou was born in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province on 13 January 1906. Zhou enrolled in St. John's University, Shanghai, in 1923, where he majored in economics and took supplementary coursework in linguistics. He left during the May Thirtieth Movement of 1925 and transferred to Guanghua University, from which he graduated in 1927. Zhou spent time as an exchange student in Japan, and spent his early career working as a banker and economist overseas (mainly in New York City), but returned to Shanghai in 1949 when the People's Republic was established.
In 1955, the government placed Zhou at the head of a committee to reform the Chinese language in order 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 says the task took about three years, and was a full-time job. Pinyin was made the official romanization in 1958, although then (as now) it was only a pronunciation guide, not a substitute writing system.
After 1980, Zhou worked with Liu Zunqi and Chien Wei-zang on translating the Encyclopædia Britannica into Chinese, earning him the nickname "Encyclopedia Zhou". Zhou has continued writing and publishing since the creation of Pinyin; for example, his book Zhongguo Yuwen de 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 Scripts. In total he wrote ten books since 2000, some of which have been banned in China. In his old age he has become an advocate for 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, Zhou and his son were interviewed by Dr. Adeline Yen Mah at their residence in Beijing. Dr. Mah documented the visit in a video and presented Zhou with a Pinyin game she created on iPad.
- Bristow, Michael (22 March 2012). "The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese". BBC News Online.
- LaFraniere, Sharon (2 March 2012). "A Chinese Voice of Dissent That Took Its Time". New York Times.
- 偉坤, 牛; 宋宇晟 (26 January 2015). 周有光之子、氣象學家周曉平遺體告別式舉行 (in Chinese). China: Beijing Evening News. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- "Father of pinyin". China Daily. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2009. Reprinted in part as Simon, Alan (21–27 Jan 2011). "Father of Pinyin". China Daily Asia Weekly (Hong Kong). Xinhua. p. 20.
- Branigan, Tania (21 February 2008). "Sound Principles". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- 李怀宇 (Li Huaining) (8 December 2005). 周有光：与时俱进文章里 百年风云笑谈中 (in Chinese). 南方网 (Southcn.com). Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- Ramsey, S. Robert (1989). The Languages of China. Princeton University Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-691-01468-5.
- Lim, Louisa (19 October 2011). "At 105, Chinese Linguist Now A Government Critic". National Public Radio. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Zhou Youguang 周有光. The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts; 中國語文的時代演進, translated by Zhang Liqing 張立青. Ohio State University National East Asian Language Resource Center. 2003.
- 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.
- "Dr. Adeline Yen Mah meets the founder of Pin Yin Zhou Youguang". chinesecharacteraday.com. 2013. Retrieved 2013.