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Reviews

  • Enchanting... [Tsu's] love for the enigma and beauty of Chinese shines through in this delightful mix of history and linguistics... A pleasure to read

    Michael Sheridan, Sunday Times
  • Erudite and beautifully written

    Rana Mitter, TLS
  • Incredibly fascinating... Chinese is the oldest written language in the world, and this book is very much an aperture book. Look through its linguistic premise and a whole panorama of politics, technology and aesthetics springs into life... Remarkable

    Stuart Kelly, Scotsman
  • Impressive... A well-told story about those who created modern China not through the barrel of a gun or a little red book but through dictionaries, libraries and printing presses. As the Chinese say, heroes are born out of turbulent times, and what China has undergone has been nothing if not turbulent

    Cindy Yu, Spectator
  • [Tsu] brings to life the individuals who gave their all to solve China's problems with language technology, even as political and social turmoil was raging around them

    Gaston Dorren, Guardian
  • How to permit what Joseph Needham admiringly called "the glittering, crystalline world" of China's ancient ideographic script to run along the western-made telegraph wires, to be typewritten instead of brush-stroked, to make full use of Silicon Valley's internet and the iPhone, is a story of both dazzling technical and political fascination and an ever-swelling global importance. Jing Tsu has crafted a tale of this achievement with flair, originality and extraordinary narrative power: seldom have I read a book about modern China so informative, revelatory and enjoyable

    Simon Winchester
  • An absolute joy to read. This stunning, meticulously researched book is the detective story of Chinese characters. Jing Tsu has seamlessly fused the craft of the linguistic historian with the artistry of the storyteller - including cliff-hangers

    David Crystal, author of THE STORIES OF ENGLISH and HOW LANGUAGE WORKS
  • An amazing story! How Chinese speech and script go to be standardized and made fit for the age of printing, data-processing and the internet is a true adventure story, told with brio and passion in this eye-opening book. It's a complicated tale, to be sure, and the solutions found verge on the miraculous. But the false starts, forgotten heroes, the rejections of the past and returns to tradition that are clearly laid out in this book also map out a cultural history of modern China. Immensely instructive and thoroughly enjoyable

    David Bellos, author of IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR?
  • Writing about writing is hard; writing about Chinese writing in English is devilish. Strokes, logographs, ideographs - even the basic terminology can cloud the mind like a calligraphy brush loaded with too much ink. Jing Tsu's brilliant solution is to focus on characters - not the ones written from left to right, top to bottom, but the actual living, breathing, thinking individuals who, since the start of the twentieth century, did everything they could to adapt the Chinese language and writing system to the modern world. In Kingdom of Characters, Tsu introduces us to a cast of unforgettable figures: the wanted fugitive who pushes for Mandarin as China's national tongue; the engineer and bamboo expert who develops a Chinese typewriter; the railway administrator who tries to figure out how to send telegrams in a language without an alphabet. Along the way, Tsu tells an essential story of modern China: a country at once transformed and yet deeply traditional

    Peter Hessler
  • Kingdom of Characters is an eye-opener. It approaches a central topic in modern and contemporary Chinese culture through a unique perspective, combining scholarship with vivid historical narrative. Jing Tsu wears her erudition lightly and gives us a fascinating and moving story. It shows the passionate struggle of generations of pioneers, who tried to find ways of reshaping and preserving the Chinese written script. It's a story of desperate strife, unflagging dedication, and ultimately, triumph

    Ha Jin

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