Chapter 11 Utopian Language: from Esperanto to the Abolishment of Chinese Characters

In: Remembering May Fourth
  • 1 City University of Hong Kong
  • | 2 University of Pennsylvania

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This chapter explores the issue of Chinese language reform by focusing on a specific language reform in early twentieth century China—the Esperanto movement, which is commonly known in Chinese as the “world language movement” (Shijie yu yundong). This chapter traces the ways in which this artificial language, based primarily on European languages, was introduced to China and imagined by Chinese intellectuals as a convenient tool for bridging the gap between Chinese and Western civilizations. Among all the language reforms at the time that concerned with the Romanization of the Chinese language, the Esperanto movement was perhaps one of the most radical language reforms, as it sought to replace the entire Chinese writing system, a natural language system that has existed and evolved for centuries.

Remembering May Fourth

The Movement and its Centennial Legacy