Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts





First Advisor

Tao Wang


From 1949 to 1958, a language reform aimed to revolutionize Chinese writing was a popular topic in the People’s Republic of China. Intellectuals that proposed the reform believed they could replace Chinese characters with a letter-based alphabetic system. In theory it could help reduce education time and raise literacy rate. The reform lasted nine years and produced the notation Pinyin system, which is still in use today. This reform was overlooked by many historians. While the Chinese Communist government was officially in charge of the reform, the linguists were able to maintain their agency. And in the process, they influenced the Chinese public to work as momentum for the reform. These influenced heavily impacted the progress of the reform. Chinese linguist created the public discourse to encourage the reform when the government was reluctant to change Chinese language. They garnered enough support from the public to persuade the government to begin a language reform. Then they took suggestions from the public and debated about the correct path of the reform. The inside debate led to further divide among linguists when their arguments became public knowledge. Over time, the public grew wary and suspicion toward these intellectuals and the language reform as well. The chaotic Hundred Flower Campaign and the Anti-Rightist Movement antagonized the situation. And soon, the distrust turned into public outcry and protests. The Communist party eventually decided to shut down the reform, most likely due to the public objection, causing the reform to end without achieving full alphabetization.

Copyright Owner

Wansu Luo



File Format


File Size

43 pages

Included in

History Commons