Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern – Jing Tsu
Thoughts: I found Kingdom of Characters to be an engaging mix of history of technology, political history, and linguistics. I found it interesting to think how in some ways, smaller sets of characters/tokens are easier to handle from an information-processing standpoint—Chinese’s thousands of characters are unwieldy at times, for machines and for humans learning them for the first time; the Latin alphabet is easier to learn and more practical to map onto technologies such as keyboards; while binary takes the principle to its not-particularly-human-friendly extreme—while in many other ways, the travails Tsu recounts stem mostly from the fact that Western countries arrived at certain technologies—telegraphs, computers—first, so they were initially set up to work efficiently with the Latin alphabet. Well written and informative, I enjoyed reading Kingdom of Characters.
Tsu, Jing. 2022. Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern. Riverhead Books.
Posted: Dec 27, 2022. Last updated: Aug 31, 2023.