By: Prof. Thomas Mullaney, Stanford University
During China’s Republican period (1911-1949), two Chinese inventors produced the first commercially manufactured Chinese typewriter: Zhou Houkun (Chow Hou-Kun) 周厚坤 and Shu Changyu 舒昌愈. It was during his time in the United States when Zhou became intrigued by the possibility of Chinese typewriting technology. After learning of Zhou Houkun’s work in the mid-1910s, executives at Commercial Press in Shanghai promptly offered him a position in the company, and supported his efforts to design a marketable device. After Zhou departed Commercial Press, his work was built upon by Shu Zhendong, who went on to develop the “Shu-Style Chinese Typewriter” (Shu shi Huawen daziji 舒式華文打字 機), China’s first commercially produced Chinese typewriter. The machine featured a rectangular tray bed (zipan 字盤) on which approximately 2500 characters were arranged according to the 214 radical-stroke system.
Prof. Mullaney's book, The Chinese Typewriter: A Global History of the Information Age, Part I is forthcoming from MIT Press in 2017.
See also this story.