Jao Tsung-I or Rao Zongyi (Chinese: 饒宗頤; 9 August 1917 – 6 February 2018)[1] was a Hong Kong sinologist, calligrapher, historian and painter. A versatile and prolific scholar, he contributed to many fields of humanities, including history, archaeology, epigraphy, folklores, religion, art history, musicology, literature, and Near Eastern Studies. He published more than 100 books and about 1,000 academic articles over a career spanning more than 80 years.

Jao Tsung-I

Jao Tsung-I.jpg
Born(1917-08-09)9 August 1917
Died6 February 2018(2018-02-06) (aged 100)
Resting placeHong Kong
NationalityHong Konger
Other namesRao Gu'an (饒固庵)
CitizenshipHong Kong
OccupationSinologist, historian, palaeographer, calligrapher, painter
TitleProfessor of the University of Hong Kong, University of Singapore, Yale University, Academia Sinica, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Spouse(s)Chen Ruonong
Parent(s)Rao E (饒鍔)
Awards1982: D.Litt (HKU)
1997: Life Achievement Award (HKADC)
2000: GBM
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese饒宗頤
Simplified Chinese饶宗颐

Jao and Ji Xianlin were considered China's two greatest humanities academics by their contemporaries. Called the "pride of Hong Kong" by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang,[2] Jao has won many awards including the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest honour bestowed by the Hong Kong government. The Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole of the University of Hong Kong, the Jao Studies Foundation, and the Jao Tsung-I Academy in Kowloon have been founded in his name.[3]

Early life and educationEdit

Jao was a native of Meixian, Guangdong. He was born in 1917 in Chao'an County (now Xiangqiao District, Chaozhou), Guangdong,[4][3] into a scholarly Hakka family of Jiaying county, Guangdong ancestry.[5] Jao grew up in Shantou, Guangdong.

He also used the courtesy names Gu'an and Bolian, and the art name Xuantang.[4] Largely home-schooled and self-taught, he wrote The Scholastic Journals of Gu Tinglin at the age of 14.[3]


Jao taught at several colleges in mainland China before moving to Hong Kong in 1949. In the following years, he taught at the University of Hong Kong, the National University of Singapore, Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica in Taiwan, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, École française d'Extrême-Orient, École pratique des hautes études of Paris, and Yale University in the US. He was also honorary professor at several prestigious Chinese universities including Peking University, Fudan University, Nanjing University, and Zhejiang University.[3]

Academic researchEdit

Jao was a highly versatile and prolific scholar. His research covered a vast range of humanities, including oracle bones, archaeology, epigraphy, folklores, religion, art history, musicology, literature, and Near Eastern Studies.[3] Over his 80-year-long career, he published more than 100 books and about 1,000 scholarly papers. Under the influence of the French Assyriologist Jean Bottéro,[6] he learnt cuneiform and spent ten years translating the Akkadian epic Enūma Eliš into Chinese, filling a major gap in Chinese knowledge of ancient Babylon.[3]

In 1959, he published Yindai zhenbu renwu tongkao (殷代貞卜人物通考; '"Oracle Bone Diviners of the Yin Dynasty"'), which earned him the Prix Stanislas Julien from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1962.[7] In 2000, he was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Hong Kong government.[3]


In addition to his academic pursuits, Jao was also a renowned calligrapher, painter, and musician. He created his own calligraphic style called Jao's Clerical Script. His calligraphic art installation, "The Wisdom Path", has become a landmark in Ngong Ping, Hong Kong. He was a master performer of the ancient Chinese instrument guqin.[3]

In August 2017, the Hongkong Post issued a set of six special stamps featuring Jao's paintings and calligraphy.[8]


He died on 6 February 2018, at the age of 100 (101 by East Asian age reckoning).[1]


  1. ^ a b "Renowned Sinologist Jao Tsung-I dies at 101". China Daily. 6 February 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Scholar Jao Tsung-i, the 'pride of Hong Kong', dies at age 100". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Jao Tsung-I". Hong Kong Baptist University. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b 饒宗頤教授學藝年表 (in Chinese). Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole, Hong Kong University. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  5. ^ 汉学泰斗饶宗颐确认为客家后裔 祖籍梅县铜琶村. China News (in Chinese). 21 September 2002.
  6. ^ Chen, Hanxi (2016). 饒宗頤——東方文化坐標 [Jao Tsung-I: Cultural Beacon of the East] (in Traditional Chinese). Hong Kong: Open Page Publishing. pp. 176–177. ISBN 9789888369300.
  7. ^ "Palmarès des prix et des récompenses décernés en 1962". Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. 106 (106). 8 February 1962.
  8. ^ "Special Stamp Issue – "Paintings and Calligraphy of Professor JAO Tsung-i"". Hongkong Post. August 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.