In conversation: 2016 Guggenheim Fellow Jing Tsu on researching 400 years of the Chinese script

Professor Jing Tsu shown here teaching her course on "China and the World."

Jing Tsu, professor of East Asian languages and literatures and of comparative literature, was recently honored as a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow.

A literary scholar and an expert on the cultural history of China, Tsu is the author of “Sound and Script in Chinese Diaspora,” which is currently being translated into Chinese. In 2011, she was awarded a multi-year New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to pursue a project on the Chinese script in the age of the western alphabet. Her forthcoming book, titled “The Kingdom of Characters: How China Won the Language Wars and Rose to Global Power,” will be published by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Random House.

Tsu met with YaleNews to discuss how the discovery of the first Chinese typewriter user’s manual was akin to winning the lottery for her, how the concept of “sympathy” plays a significant role in her teaching, and what she learned from working with scientists.

The following is an edited version of that conversation.