Date
13 November 2018
Tributes have been pouring in for Professor Jao Tsung-i, who was considered one of two greatest sinologists in contemporary China. Jao died in Hong Kong on Tuesday at the age of 100. Photo: CNSA
Tributes have been pouring in for Professor Jao Tsung-i, who was considered one of two greatest sinologists in contemporary China. Jao died in Hong Kong on Tuesday at the age of 100. Photo: CNSA

Acclaimed Sinologist Jao Tsung-i dies at 100

Renowned scholar and Sinologist Professor Jao Tsung-i passed away peacefully in Hong Kong at the age of 100.

He died in his bed at an apartment building in Happy Valley. According to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, a daughter found him lying unconscious in the wee hours of Tuesday and called the police.

An ambulance took him to Ruttonjee Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He is believed to have died in his sleep.

Born in Chaozhou in Guangdong province in 1917, Jao came to Hong Kong in 1949. 

Known for high achievements in literature, art and academic studies, he was considered one of two greatest sinologists in contemporary China. The other one is Ji Xianlin, who died in 2009.

Jao is said to have suffered a mild stroke in 2003 but basically remained healthy during his old age.

He used to teach at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the University of Hong Kong, and also did some stints at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, and other universities abroad.

The foreign assignments included visiting professorship at the Graduate School of Yale University, and serving as the first chair professor and head of the Department of Chinese Studies of the National University of Singapore.

Jao taught Chinese Oracle Bone Script and conducted relevant studies at the University of Tokyo, among other work. 

A versatile scholar, who had many attainments such as poetry, writing and painting, he contributed to almost every field of humanities, including archaeology, literature, language, philology, and history of music and history of religion.

Jao received honorary doctorates from multiple universities, honored by academic institutions in France, Russia, Australia and Hong Kong.

In 2000, he was given the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest award under Hong Kong’s honours system, by the government to recognize his lifelong and highly significant contributions to the academic and art circles.

Following the news of Jao’s death, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor paid tribute, describing the professor as a “treasure in the academic and arts sectors of Hong Kong and the world”.

Lam said she had personally benefited a lot by bearing in mind the teachings of Jao.

In a message of condolence sent to Jao’s family, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong called the scholar’s death a great loss to the Chinese cultural circles.

Jao’s patriotism, scholarship, outstanding contributions and noble character will always be remembered by Chinese people, she said.

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TL/JC/RC

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