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
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
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.