Qian Xuantong

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Qian Xuantong

Qian Xuantong (Chinese:钱玄同) (originally named Qian Xia) was born on September 12, 1887 in Wuxing, Zhejiang Province. He studied at Waseda University in Japan in 1906 and majored in literature. Qian Xuantong and Lu Xun both studied the philology of Zhang Taiyan (1869-1936) and wrote articles in Present Talk on Education, a magazine sponsored by Zhang Taiyan. In 1907, Qian joined the Alliance Society. In 1910, he returned to China, working as a high school teacher in Haining and Jiaxing in his home province. In the wake of the Revolution of 1911 led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Qian worked on the staff of the Education Section of the Zhejiang Education Administrative Bureau.

Qian arrived in Beijing in September 1913 and taught Chinese at the high school attached to Beijing Higher Normal School. Later on, he became a professor at the school. In 1915, he served as a professor of Chinese at Peking University. Two years later, his articles entitled “To Chen Duxiu” and “To Hui Shizhi” appeared in the magazine New Youth. He actively promoted a revolution in literature and opposed feudal culture. About the same time, Qian joined the Research Society on Chinese Language sponsored by the Ministry of Education. In 1918, he did editorial work for the magazine New Youth. On numerous occasions he invited Lu Xun to write articles for his magazine. His “Preface to Hu Shi’s Experiments” was written in everyday Chinese instead of the classical style, helping to promote the use of the vernacular language in serous writing.

In 1919, he became a standing member of the Preparatory Commission on the Unification of the National Chinese Language. From that time on, he devoted himself to the study of phonology and philology, making great achievements in both. In 1923, he helped found the Romanization of Chinese National Language Commission. In 1928, he served as the head of the Chinese language department and professor of Chinese at Beijing Normal University.

Qian died of illness on January 17, 1939.


“To Chen Duxiu” (1917)

“To Hu Shizhi” (1917)

“New Literature and the Problem of Rhyme” (1917)

“Preface to Hu Shi’s Experiments” (1918)