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'Uncle Hanzi' and his 'Hanzi Life', story of an American Sinologist

People's Daily Online)  14:05, December 04, 2012

Richard Sears introduces his website during an job interview in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 12, 2012.(Xinhua Photo)

Richard Sears prepares to leave his single-room apartment and go to the airport in Tianjin, north China, Aug. 15, 2012. He plans to go to South Korea and reapplys a tourist visa to return China soon.

But for the help from tens of thousands of netizens, Richard Sears would be soon forced to leave China, where he has devoted 20 years and every penny studying the origins of Chinese characters, or Hanzi.

Struggling to operate a free website recording the history of around 6,500 contemporary Hanzi in the northern Tianjin City, the American, nicknamed "Uncle Hanzi", was in need of a permanent job to renew his visa, which is due to expire this month.

Sears felt hopeless until a user of his website revealed his plight on Weibo, a popular Chinese Twitter-like microblog. "He's given everything to Hanzi...down-and-out...He hopes to find a regular job as an English teacher or translator, so as to continue his life and research on Hanzi in China. Please forward this post!" said the post, written by "Dixin Yan".

The message was forwarded more than 40,000 times, bringing Sears fame, donations and job opportunities.

"I've got many offers. I think the visa problem will be solved soon," he said on his Weibo account.

However, he has not stopped searching for better jobs, and had five interviews in Beijing.

Now an Internet sensation, Sears has to deal with hundreds of emails each day. "I've taken China as my home. I hope to stay here forever," he told a group of reporters in his single-room apartment in Tianjin.

In 2002, the Sinophile launched the advertising-free website (www. chineseetymology. org), which is devoted to the etymology of Chinese characters. Now, it racks up a maximum of 600,000 clicks a day.

After typing a character into the database on the website, a user will see how the character was evolved from its ancient forms.

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