Father of China's Pinyin System Zhou Youguang Dies at Age 111

By | Jan 14, 2017 09:24 AM EST
Linguist Zhou Youguang Passes away.

China’s famous linguist Zhou Youguang died at the age 111 on Saturday in Beijing. He was credited for revolutionizing the Pinyin writing system that helped simplify the Chinese language. (Photo : Getty Images)

China's famous linguist Zhou Youguang, hailed as the father of Pinyin writing system, passed away at age the 111 on Saturday in Beijing. He is credited for converting Chinese language into simplified Roman alphabets that helped in increasing literacy rate across the country.

Zhou was born in 1906, when the powerful Qing Dynasty was ruling over Mainland China. He moved to New York in 1946 but returned back to his home country within a few years.

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Zhou was soon appointed as chairman of the committee that spent three years during the 1950s in developing the Pinyin writing system.

"We spent three years developing Pinyin. People made fun of us, joking that it had taken us a long time to deal with just 26 letters," Zhou told the BBC in 2012.     

The system eventually proved to be a watershed moment in China's linguistic history, as it oversimplified the once complicated language and helped Chinese language in reaching to the masses.

Today, many educational experts claimed that if not for Zhou's gigantic efforts, most Chinese masses would have remained illiterate. As per a rough estimate, before the Pinyin system was developed, nearly 85 percent of the Chinese population could not read their own language, but today, almost every one can.       

The Pinyin system also helped in simplifying the Chinese language for foreigners, who in the past has equally found the Chinese language too tough to understand and learn. In fact, today, Zhou's Pinyin system is globally adopted including high-profile institutions like the United Nations.

However, there are many who are open critics of Zhou's uniquely simple language system, claiming that it will one day completely replace China's native language, which is almost 2,000 years old.   

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