Zhou Youguang, who simplified Chinese script, dead

Beijing , Jan 15 (IANS) Zhou Youguang, who simplified Chinese language by introducing Pinyin, died here on Saturday. He was 112.

Pinyin is the romanised form of Mandarin characters — one of the most complicated languages of the world — which makes it much easier to learn the ancient language, especially for foreigners.

Chinese is the world’s most spoken language, thanks to China’s booming population and its diaspora.

Mao Zedong is the Pinyin version of Mao Tse-tung.

Zhou and his colleagues began working on Pinyin in 1955 and took three years to develop it.

The most striking thing about Zhou’s involvement was that he was neither a linguist nor a lexicographer but an economist, who returned home to China from Wall Street, according to the New York Times.

But because of a fortuitous meeting in 1955, and a lifetime love of language, he was conscripted by the Chinese government to develop an accessible alphabetic writing system, the newspaper recalled.

Zhou’s father was an official of China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing, which endured continuously from the 17th century until 1912.

Zhou was born in Changzhou, in eastern China, on January 13, 1906.

In 1927, after studying at St. John’s University in Shanghai, he graduated from Guanghua University there with a degree in economics.