About Renwen Society


Lecture Schedule


Upcoming Lecture



Speaker: Richard VanNess Simmons
Date: Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, 3:00 pm-4:45 pm


Guānhuà and Mandarin—

Views of China’s Informal Language Standard in the Late Qīng

Dr. Richard Simmons

Jointly with the Chinese Language Teachers Association of Greater New York and the Confucius Institute at Pace University, the Renwen Society presents a lecture on Oct. 3 by Prof. Richard VanNess Simmons, Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at Rutgers University on Guānhuà and Mandarin in the late Qing period. His talk will look at various versions of Mandarin that were prevalent in the Qīng dynasty. He will describe how northern and southern forms of Mandarin were widely accepted in China in the 18th and 19th centuries, with both considered to be equally valid and both widely spoken. For example, the scholar Lǐ Rǔzhēn 李汝珍 (c. 1763–1830) a native of Běijīng and author of the novel Jìng huā yuán (鏡花緣) even played the role of advocate for embracing both kinds of Mandarin. This situation created the backdrop for the mixed standard for the first version of the National Pronunciation (Guóyīn 國音) established in 1913 that came to be known as Lánqīng Guānhuà 藍青官話. It is a state of affairs that is largely forgotten today with the general acceptance of a single Mandarin standard throughout the Chinese-speaking world. But the historical embrace of linguistic diversity is fascinating and well worth remembering.


Dr. Richard VanNess Simmons currently teaches Chinese language, linguistics, and literature at Rutgers University. He holds a Master’s degree in Chinese literature, and a Ph.D. in Chinese linguistics from the University of Washington, Seattle. Simmons’ research activities include extensive fieldwork experience investigating and mapping the dialects of Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces in China. He has received numerous grants and awards to support his scholarship, including a multi-year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation U.S. China Cooperative Research Program.


In 2005 he received the Jiangsu Friendship Award in recognition of his scholarly contributions to the Province of Jiangsu in China. This is a competitive award that was conferred by the provincial government to Simmons as for his cooperative research with of Nanjing University. Since Summer 2002 Simmons has directed the Rutgers Summer Chinese study abroad language program in China, a program he developed and initiated. This past Spring 2015 Simmons was the Starr Foundation East Asian Studies Endowment Fund Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. His current research project is to compile a comprehensive history of Mandarin. Simmons’ publications include Chinese Dialect Classification -- A Comparative Approach to Harngjou, Old Jintarn, and Common Northern Wu (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1999; revision and translation in Chinese–Beijing: Zhonghua, 2010), Issues in Chinese Dialect Description and Classification (Journal of Chinese Linguistics Monograph Series, Number 15, 1999), Chinese Dialect Geography: Distinguishing Mandarin and Wu in Their Boundary Region (Shanghai: Shanghai Education, 2006), Handbook for Lexicon Based Dialect Fieldwork (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2006), Shanghainese Dictionary And Phrasebook (New York: Hippocrene, 2011) and Studies in Chinese and Sino-Tibetan Linguistics: Dialect, Phonology, Transcription and Text (2014).


For more info about Dr. Simmons, please visit http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~rsimmon/ and



Date and time: Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015

Lecture: 3:00-4:45 pm

Coffee reception: 2:40-3:00 pm


Location: Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza, New York, NY 10038 (CIVIC W612)


Prior to Dr. Simmons' lecture, there is another talk by Dr. Yang Juan of the Confucius Institute at Pace University on Chinese characters from 1:00 to 2:40 pm. You are welcome to attend that lecture as well. See details here.


Free. Space is LIMITED and advanced registration is required.

Click here to register for this lecture

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