Happy 110th birthday, Father of Pinyin!


Mr. Zhou spends his 110th birthday at his house in Beijing.

Mr. Zhou Youguang, the man who helped invent the Pinyin system used for writing Chinese worldwide turned 110 on January13,2016. Mr. Zhou is an alumnus of Saint John's University and Kwang Hua University. Ren Youqun, Vice Council Chairman and Vice President of ECNU, visited Mr. Zhou in Beijing to send him regards from the ECNU staff and students on January 12.

Mr. Zhou met Ren in the study of his Beijing home. Ren sent Mr. Zhou a birthday card and five books recording the history of ECNU. He also showed Ren the articles and pictures related to Mr. Zhou and his wife, Zhang Yunhe. He expressed his great respect for Mr. Zhou and wished him a happy and healthy life.

On behalf of ECNU, Ren Youqun visits Zhou at his house in Beijing.

With white hair and ruddy complexion, Mr. Zhou was in full spirit. He communicated with visitors through writing, due to his damaged hearing. He wrote a piece of calligraphy “Da Xia Kwang Hua”,meaning brilliant China, for ECNU.

The birthday card was signed by ECNU University Council Chairman Tong Shijun and ECNU President Chen Qun. Congratulatory  words on the card were written by Zhu Guoping, a calligraphy postgraduate student of ECNU. The ECNU seal on the card was made by Prof. Zhang Suo.

Zhou writes a piece of calligraphy “Da Xia Kwang Hua” for ECNU.

Mr. Zhou was born in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province in 1906. He moved to Suzhou at the age of 10, where he received education at a modern school. He later studied at Changzhou High School, and was the classmate of Lv Shuxiang, who later became a famous linguist. In 1923, He was enrolled by Saint John University, one of the predecessors of ECNU,  to study economics and linguistics.

A family photo of Zhou. (L1 at the back row, Zhang Yunhe; L2 at the back row, Zhou Youguang.)

Zhou is commonly known as the father of Pinyin, a system for transliterating Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet introduced in the 1950s and now used by hundreds of millions of language learners in China, as well as around the world. He played a key role in the Pinyin standardization program in the 1950s, which was approved by the National People’s Congress in 1958. In 1979 and 1982, Zhou took part in the ISO meetings and pushed ISO to approve China’s Pinyin program. He continued to study Pinyin vocabulary and made rules for Pinyin vocabularies, which were published in 1988. Pinyin Vocabulary, a book he compiled, became the basis of Chinese language vocabulary used in computers around the globe.

Mr. Zhou studied at Saint John University for two years, and entered Kwang Hua University, another predecessor of ECNU, in 1925. His wife, well-known kunqu researcher Zhang Yunhe, also studied at Kwang Hua University.


East China Normal University