Riverhead Books Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern
Riverhead Books Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern

Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern

By Jing Tsu

$18.00

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

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What does it take to reinvent a language?

After a meteoric rise, China today is one of the world’s most powerful nations. Just a century ago, it was a crumbling empire with literacy reserved for the elite few, as the world underwent a massive technological transformation that threatened to leave them behind. In Kingdom of Characters, Jing Tsu argues that China’s most daunting challenge was a linguistic one: the century-long fight to make the formidable Chinese language accessible to the modern world of global trade and digital technology.

 Kingdom of Characters follows the bold innovators who reinvented the Chinese language, among them an exiled reformer who risked a death sentence to advocate for Mandarin as a national language, a Chinese-Muslim poet who laid the groundwork for Chairman Mao's phonetic writing system, and a computer engineer who devised input codes for Chinese characters on the lid of a teacup from the floor of a jail cell. Without their advances, China might never have become the dominating force we know today.

    With larger-than-life characters and an unexpected perspective on the major events of China’s tumultuous twentieth century, Tsu reveals how language is both a technology to be perfected and a subtle, yet potent, power to be exercised and expanded.

About the Author

Jing Tsu is the John M. Schiff Professor of East Asian Languages and the Comparative Literature Chair of the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale, specializing in modern Chinese literature and culture from the 19th century to the present. She received her doctorate in Chinese Studies from Harvard. Tsu was a Guggenheim fellow in 2016 and has held fellowships at Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton institutes.

Author Residence: New Haven, CT and New York, NY

Format: Trade Paperback

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

ISBN: 9780735214736

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