Yale’s Jing Tsu on the characters who modernized Chinese characters


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Jing Tsu, John M. Schiff Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures & Comparative Literature at Yale University, about her wonderful new book Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern. Jing talks about her role as culture commentator for NBC during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, about how the written Chinese language has helped shape China, and about the fascinating individuals who worked to bring a writing system so deeply rooted in history and tradition into the modern world.

Link to Jing and Kaiser interviewed for the Radio Opensource Podcast here.

4:59 – Jing’s role as cultural commentator for NBC during the Winter Games

10:43 – The impetus for writing Kingdom of Characters

16:09 – Why the critics of the Chinese writing system called for its destruction

18:57 – What the defenders of the Chinese writing system love so much about it

25:51 – The challenge of writing about the technology of Chinese writing

29:05 – The Chinese writing system as a metaphor for China

32:46 – The next technological frontiers for Chinese

35:48 – Language and how it shapes thinking in China

A complete transcript of this podcast is available at SupChina.com.


Jing: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Kaiser: The Pattern of the Chinese Past by Mark Elvin; and Closure/Continuation, a new album by the British progressive rock band Porcupine Tree.