Wu Yuzhang

Name in Chinese
Name in Wade-Giles
Wu Yü-chang
Related People

Biography in English

Wu Yü-chang (1878-14 December 1966), republican revolutionary and educator who later became a Chinese Communist official. He was known for his leadership of the movement to romanize the Chinese written language. Born in Yunghsien, Szechwan, Wu Yü-chang was the second of three sons born into a well-todo gentry family. After receiving his early education in the Chinese classics, in 1903 he went to Japan to enroll at the Shimbu Gakko [military preparatory academy]. He joined the T'ung-meng-hui when it was established in 1905, and two years later he began publishing a journal, Szechwan. The Japanese authorities banned the journal in 1908 and sentenced Wu to six months in jail. He avoided imprisonment because of his student status. In 1910 Wu was associated with the attempt made by Wang Ching-wei (q.v.) to assassinate the Manchu prince regent. After the plot went awry and Wang was arrested, Wu went to Peking in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Wang. Early in 1911 Wu was in Canton working with Huang Hsing (q.v.) on plans for the 27 April revolt which became known as the "Three Twentynine Revolution" or the Huang-hua-kang uprising. When it failed, Wu escaped to Japan, where he tried to secure arms for revolutionaries. He returned to his native Szechwan in May to head a group of young revolutionaries which proclaimed its independence of Manchu rule in September. When the revolution began in October, he joined the forces of Hsiung K'o-wu (q.v.).

With the establishment of the republic, Wu Yü-chang became a secretary in the presidential office of Sun Yat-sen and a Szechwan delegate to Sun's headquarters. He later returned to Szechwan to assist in the reorganization of the provincial government. After the so-called second revolution of 1913 (see Li Lieh-chün), he fled to France. In 1915 he helped establish the Societe Franco-Chinois d'Education and the Societe Rationelle des Etudiants-Travailleurs Chinois en France, or Ch'in-kung chienhsueh hui (for details, see Li Shih-tseng). In 1916 he returned to China with another leader of the work-study movement, Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei (q-v-). From 1917 to 1922 Wu worked in the military government at Canton as a representative of Szechwan. He then became principal of a higher normal school inChengtu, thepredecessor of Szechwan University. By this time, his political sympathies must have moved far to the left, for in 1923 he helped organize the Chungkuo ch'ing-nien kung-ch'an-tang, an independent Communist youth group in Szechwan. At the First National Congress of the Kuomintang, held at Canton in January 1924, Wu Yuchang served as secretary to Sun Yat-sen. In 1925, at the behest of the Szechwanese Communist Chao Shih-yen (q.v.), Wu and his independent Communist group formally joined the Chinese Communist party. For the next two years, Wu was active in Szechwan as head of the province's branch of the Kuomintang and as the founder of a Sino-French school for revolutionary workers who wanted to study in France. In 1926 he served as secretary general of the Second National Congress of the Kuomintang, at which he was elected to the Central Executive Committee. He also taught at the Peasant Movement Training Institute, of which Mao Tse-tung was principal. In July, when the Northern Expedition began, he went to Canton, and late in 1926 he accompanied the leftist leaders of the National Government to Wuhan. After participating in the short-lived Communist takeover of Nanchang (see Ho Lung; Yeh T'ing) in August 1927, he fled to the Soviet Union.

From 1928 to 1930 Wu Yu-chang studied in Moscow at the Communist University for Toilers of the East. He soon became interested in the work being done on the romanization of the Chinese language by Ch'ü Ch'iu-pai (q.v.) and the Russian Sinologist Kolokolov, a teacher at the university (for details, see Ch'ü Ch'iu-pai). In 1930 Wu went to Vladivostok to teach at the Far Eastern Workers School of Leninism. He wrote an essay on "The Principles and Regulations of the Chinese Latinized New Written Language" which was used as the opening declaration at the First Conference on the Romanization of Chinese, held at Vladivostok in September 1931. By the time the conference opened, Wu was in Moscow launching the Chiu-kuo shih-pao [national salvation times], a Chinese Communist newspaper which was published in Moscow from 1931 to 1935 and in Paris from 1935 to 1937. In the 1931-35 period Wu seems to have divided his time between Paris and Moscow. He is known to have attended the 1935 Comintern congress in Moscow, and in 1936 he taught at Far Eastern University in the Russian capital.

After the Sino-Japanese war began in July 1937, Wu Yu-chang was sent to Paris to do propaganda work on behalf of the Kuomintang- Communist united front against Japan. After attending the Anti-Aggression Conference at London in February 1938, he made his way back to China, where he became a member of the People's Political Council. Soon after the council's first meeting, he went to Yenan to recuperate from an illness. From 1941 to 1945 he served at Yenan as president of the Lu Hsün Academy of Arts, the School for the New Written Language, and Northwest Associated University. He also chaired the Yenan branch of the Sino-Soviet Cultural Association and the cultural association of the Shensi- Kansu-Ninghsia Border Region. In addition, he helped found the Sin Wenz Society in 1940 to promote the new alphabetized Chinese system of writing, and he published an edition of the Chinese Communist party's official organ, the Chieh-fangjih-pao [liberation daily]. In 1945 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party.

In September 1949 Wu Yu-chang was a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which prepared the way for the formal establishment ofthe People's Republic of China. When the Central People's Government was inaugurated in October, he received membership in the Government Council, the political and legal affairs committee of the Government Administration Council, and the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association. With the governmental reorganization in 1954, he became a member of the administrative committee of the Central School of Administrative and Legal Cadres and a Standing Committee member of the National People's Congress. Throughout this period, Wu's greatest usefulness to the Chinese Communist party was in the areas of education and culture. He was president of North China University in 1948-49 and president of the Chinese People's University from 1950 until his death. In addition, he was honorary president of the All-China Federation of Scientific Societies and the Chinese Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology. In 1954 he became a member of the philosophy and social sciences department of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He chaired the All-China Educational Workers Trade Union and served on the executive committee of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Wu maintained his interest in the romanization of the Chinese language, serving as vice chairman of the Government Administration Council's committee for the reform of the Chinese written language in 1951-54. Wu participated in the 1961 celebrations in Peking that marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Wuchang revolt of October 1911. An English-language version of his short book, The Revolution of 1911: A Great Democratic Revolution ofChina, was published by the Foreign Languages Press at Peking in 1962. Wu died in Peking on 14 December 1966, at the age of 88 sui.

Little is known about Wu Yu-chang's private life except that he married in 1896 and had two children.

Biography in Chinese

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