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Home >> China
UPDATED: 11:29, February 20, 2006
Feature: Farewell to Chinese IT expert Wang Xuan
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Thousands of people in mourning dress moved slowly in a long queue and waited silently to bid farewell to the remains of Wang Xuan, inventor of the laser photo typesetting system for Chinese characters.

At the mourning hall filled with wreaths and cypress, Wang Xuan slept serenely forever with a national flag covered on his body.

Wang died of illness on Feb. 13 in Beijing at the age of 70. He was cremated Sunday at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing.

Known nationally as the "Modern Bi Sheng", Wang invented computerized laser photocomposition system for Chinese character typesetting, telling the world that Chinese people could independently realize the historic change from letterpress printing to electronic publishing.

His invention is also described as the "second invention of the printing system for Chinese character after Bi Sheng's invention of movable clay type in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), which ushered in a revolution in the history of printing.

"As long as you have read books and newspapers, you should express appreciation to him, just as you should thank Thomas Edison for his invention of electric light," a netizen said through Internet in his way of paying respect to Wang, stressing "Your name has been 'printed' in people's hearts."

On the day of Wang's cremation, senior Chinese leaders, including Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin and Zeng Qinghong, joined people from all walks of life to pay their last respects to Wang Xuan.

Tearful mourners bowed solemnly in front of Wang's remains. Wiping their tears, they stepped out of the hall unwillingly.

"He is much thinner," some senior people who had worked with Wang Xuan sighed after seeing Wang's emaciated face. In fact, Wang was not physically strong even when he was young. But he devoted himself to scientific research and never give it up even during his illness. China's new printing technology recorded many stories of his struggle against illness.

In August 1974, China launched the "748 project" to boost the development of Chinese character processing. Wang was in charge of the project.

Due to backward computer technologies and poor research conditions at that time, Wang and his colleagues faced many difficulties in developing the photo-typesetting system. Since 1985, the laser photo typesetting computer has been widely used in China's printing.

The elegiac couplets wrote by Wang's wife read "You spent half of your life in hard work and felt at ease for your whole life."

"I have full confidence in our country's future, and China will become a strong country in mid 21st century. I' go with no regret because I have made due contributions to our country in my life," Wang's last words were quoted by his wife as saying.

In the picture of the deceased, the old man still wore the same kindly look as being alive. "Though we never saw professor Wang Xuan before with our own eyes, we came here not only for his invention and contribution but for our admiration for his personality," a young teacher from Beijing University said.

Wang was unassuming and amicable and helped young people with a noble heart. In 2002, Wang spent his 9 million yuan (more than one million U.S. dollars) of bonus on building the "Wang Xuan Science Research Fund" to support the research of the Computer Institute of Beijing University.

"The younger generation should surpass Wang Xuan and make a big step forward," Wang said in his last words.

Mao Dexing, both classmate and colleague of Wang Xuan in Beijing University, came to pay last respect to his close friend. Mao was choked with sobs and his tears rolled down from his wrinkled face. He said "I believe Wang Xuan will continue his scientific research even in another world."

Source: Xinhua

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