Described as „the father of Pinyin”, or Chinese phonetic language, and hailed as the man who simplified Chinese, Zhou Youguang would have been 112 this Saturday.
In his honour, Google is changing its logo in 12 countries to a doodle, or illustration, of him and his contribution to Chinese language.
This is his story:
Love for China
„Bring light to the world”. Born in Changzhou in 1906, Zhou Youguang showed interest in linguistics at the early age of 12; he graduated from high-school with honours.
- Named Zhou Yaoping, he adopted the pen name „Yougang” because he wanted to „bring light” to the world.
- Hard road to university. In 1923, Zhou enrolled the university of St. John’s University, Shanghai. He was not able to attend because of financial woes, but friends and relatives raised the admission fee and helped him pay for tuition.
- He graduated in 1927, majored in economics and took supplementary coursework in linguistics.
- Sino-Japanese war. In 1933, he married Zhang Yunhe. He moved to Japan to continue his studies, but returned in 1937, at the start of the Sino-Japanese war.
- After the Japanese were defeated in 1945 at the end of World War Two, Zhou worked in Sin Hua bank where he was stationed overseas, first in New York City and then in London.
- „Modern, resurgent China”. In 1949, he returned after the establishment of Communist China, excited to take part in a resurgent country. „We all thought that China had a very good opportunity to develop; we didn’t expect the later turmoil. History misled us,” Zhou told the Guardian.
- Back in China, he taught economics at Fudan University in Shanghai. However, his path did not lead him to remain as an economist.