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Father of Chinese stenography dies

By Xu Lin  (China Daily)

14:36, December 20, 2012

Tang Yawei has made great contributions to Chinese stenography in his lifetime. (Zou Xian / China News Service)

For decades, Tang Yawei's name has been considered synonymous with stenography in China.

"Stenographers are history recorders. My biggest wish is to make shorthand a booming industry in China," he said in an earlier interview with China Daily.

The leading authority in the industry that created the era of new shorthand in China passed away this week. Tang died at the age of 97 on Tuesday afternoon in a hospital in Beijing.

He had made a great contribution to Chinese stenography in his lifetime, and founded the ubiquitous Yawei Steno Schools and popular Yawei shorthand method.

In 2004, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Federation for Information Processing, the only Chinese to have won the honor.

One of his most remarkable inventions is the Yawei Chinese steno machine, with an average speed of more than 200 words per minute, while the speed of pen stenography is only about 120 words.

It is widely used in courts, government departments, diplomatic occasions, conferences and business negotiations.

Tang's passion for shorthand never faded. He even asked his son Tang Kewei, to follow his footsteps.

Tang Kewei later established a company to promote his father's ideas and steno machines.

"My father only did one thing in his life - shorthand. He never forgets it, even when he's ill," Tang Kewei says.

"He's widely respected in the steno circle due to his deep knowledge and open-minded character. He didn't care for wealth or fame and likes to do research. He's a strict father, too," he recalls.

The son says it's very meaningful to inherit his father's steno industry, and he's put all his efforts in it for 30 years. After his father's death, he received many messages of condolences from students and shorthand associations.

Tang Yawei started exploring the possibility of a shorthand machine as early as the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), and he invented a set of symbols based on the keyboard of English typewriter at that time. It failed due to its complicated rules and noise.

"Pen stenography is convenient as one can take notes as long as one has pen and paper. But it is tedious to translate these symbols into words. It may take six hours to translate an hour's steno note," he said.

In the 1990s, inspired by a piano performance, Tang designed an exclusive keyboard that allows stenographers to press the keys with both hands at the same time, one for initial consonants and another for compound vowels.

The new steno keyboard saves a lot of time compared with traditional typing.

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