Event Details

WHAT: Author Jing Tsu discusses "Kingdom of Characters: the language revolution that modernised China" with moderator David Moser, an online conversation jointly organized by RASBJ and the Yale Center Beijing.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 18 from 7:30-8:30 PM Beijing Time

MORE ABOUT THE EVENT: China today, after a meteoric rise, 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 rest of 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 linguistic: the century-long fight to make the formidable Chinese language accessible to the modern world of global trade and digital technology. The author follows the bold innovators who adapted the Chinese language to a world designed for the Roman alphabet and requiring standardization, from an exiled reformer who risked a death sentence to an advocate for Mandarin as a national language to the imprisoned computer engineer who devised input codes for Chinese characters on the lid of a teacup. 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, Jing Tsu reveals how language is both a technology to be perfected and a subtle, yet potent, power to be exercised and expanded. Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Characters-Language-Revolution-Modern/dp/0735214727 (Riverhead, Penguin Random House, January 18, 2022)

BY INVITATION ONLY: This event is free and exclusively for members of RASBJ and partner RAS branches, and for alumni and invitees of the Yale Center Beijing.

HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT: If you are an RASBJ member, please click "Register" or "I Will Attend" at least 48 hours before the event, and follow the instructions. After successful registration, you'll receive a confirmation email with a link to join the event. If you seem not to have received it, please check your spam folder.

Members of partner RAS branches and alumni and invitees of the Yale Center Beijing: Please register at least 48 hours in advance. You will receive two emails in response, the first confirming receipt of your registration request and the second confirming your registration, with a link to join the event. Please check your spam folder to ensure you see all RASBJ emails.


  • Jing Tsu (Speaker)

    Jing Tsu


    Jing Tsu is the John M. Schiff Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at Yale. She specializes in Chinese literature, history, culture, science and technology, and politics. She is a Senior Fellow at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and an affiliate faculty member at the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and Yale Law School. A Guggenheim Fellow, she has held fellowships and distinctions from Harvard, Stanford and Princeton.

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  • David Moser (Moderator)

    David Moser


    David Moser holds a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan, with a major in Chinese Linguistics and Philosophy. He has been visiting professor at several Beijing universities, and was Associate Dean of the Yenching Academy at Peking University from 2017-2019. He is currently Associate Professor at Beijing Capital Normal University. Moser is author of "A Billion Voices: China's Search for a Common Language", published by Penguin.

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