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58 Responses to “Guest Book”

  1. Edie Angelo said

    What a beautiful memorial; what a beautiful life!
    You’ve been blessed and have a remarkable legacy to live up to. You are very lucky. I am sorry for your loss of an amazing person. To leave behind such an impressive history is truly legendary. You must be very proud and very sad. I am sorry for the latter.

  2. Uncle Johnny married my mother’s sister, Kay, and soon became a beloved member of our family, as she already was. We were awed by his scholarly achievements and dedication to his field of endeavor. His devotion to Aunt Kay was matched only by her devotion to him. She would have been so happy to have shared the last two years with Chuck and him–three best friends.

    His serious side brought him worldwide acclaim; his zest for life and empathy for the less fortunate made him a favorite and much loved relative, friend, and colleague.

    He paid me the supreme compliment of liking my poetry, an area in which (he said) he had previously experienced no appreciation or understanding. Thank you, Uncle Johnny.



  3. Ms. Tamula Drumm said

    The passing of John DeFrancis affects so many of us because he introduced us to the study of Chinese through his wonderful books. Back when I was studying “Beginning Chinese” in 1989, I thought he was the greatest Chinese professor ever (though I had never met him)and a model to those of us non-Chinese who weren’t completely confident we could master the language. Once I met his son when we were briefly working in the same health food store in Akron, Ohio. He humbly mentioned that his father had written Chinese textbooks and I might have heard of him! Professor DeFrancis’ legacy will live on for many generations to come.
    Tamula Drumm
    Chinese Teacher
    Rootstown High School

  4. Raymond Lum said

    I taught beginning Chinese in the Harvard Extension School for 33 years and in each of those years I recommended Prof. DeFrancis’s books to my students, particularly Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, by far the best introduction to the language for those who don’t know Chinese. We have lost a towering and generous man.

    Raymond Lum
    Asian Bibliographer, Harvard College Library
    Harvard University

  5. Beijing Sounds is heavily indebted to and inspired by this man whose influence has reached so far. From the ideas in “Fact and Fantasy” to deep research and clear language samples in the ABC Dictionary, the originality and thoroughness of his scholarship inform many of my study hours every week.

    To give back to the world a small fraction of what he gave would be a great accomplishment indeed.

  6. Ian Welch said

    The De Francis influence reached Australia where his work on Chinese language was well known and respected. He was one of a number who shaped national thinking on Chinese language curriculum in Australian schools during the short life of the Asian Studies Coordinating Committee in the 1970s.

  7. Whoever wrote this memorial: Thank you so much!

    I never would have been a linguist without John DeFrancis. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy completely rocked my world. Thanks to this beautiful memorial, I now I know so much more about what “Sinology” used to be like, and so much more about this wonderful man. Wow. Thank you, John DeFrancis!

  8. Leon A Serafim said

    I feel it an honor to have known this great scholar and wonderful human being. His life stands as an example to all of us of just how productive a scholar can be, even long after retirement!

  9. Paul Jean-Ortiz said

    Thank you for this beautiful memorial! I started to learn chinese language 35 years ago in Aix en Provence, France, with the manuals written by John DeFrancis – probably the only english-written textbook used in french universities at this time. Those hours, months and years passed with his work have led me to feel a great admiration and affection for his author and his work, full of freshness ans so inducive to to keep on studying. I think honestly that without the ‘Defrancis’, and his supporter in France, the regretted Patrick Destenay, professor in Aix en Provence, my life would have been totally different. So I am very glad to have the oppurtunity, in this memorial, to pay him my respects.
    paul jean-ortiz
    french diplomat.

  10. Harsh Bhasin said

    As someone who learnt all his Chinese through De Francis’ excellent Mandarin textbooks in the late 1960s, I owe an incalculable, and now unrepayable, debt of gratitude to John DeFrancis. His contribution to the teaching of the language to English-speakers is invaluable. I have enormous respect and admiration for his work and teaching methodologies and am grateful for this opportunity to pay my respects to him through this memorial.

    May his soul Rest in Peace

    Harsh Bhasin
    Department of Asian & Asian-American Studies
    State University of New York at Stony Brook
    New York, USA

  11. De Zhang said

    As a Chinese, I feel deeply honored to know about John and his long career in teaching Chinese. It has been a great pleasure reading the vivid and touching memorial again and again. What a great person and scholar!


  12. Stephen Uhalley, Jr. said

    We all shall miss John DeFrancis. He was a true, dedicated scholar who accomplished works of great value and distinction in an interesting and full lifetime that had overcome many discouraging obstacles. He was a good, honorable, and generous man. He remains in our memories a most esteemed, inspiring, and valued colleague. May he rest well in God’s good hands.

    Stephen Uhalley, Jr.
    Professor of History Emeritus
    University of Hawaii

  13. truettblack said

    John’s texts were my constant companions as I trudged through the first year of learning Chinese. He was known among the Chinese learners of my generation (late 80s, early 90s) as the master when it came to Chinese texts and readers. I still recommend him to everyone who expresses an interest in learning Chinese.

    It is good to learn a little about the man behind the marvelous texts.

  14. James Leibold said

    What a loss! A true scholar and a gentlemen. I owe my interest in China and Chinese to this amazing man.

  15. Tony A. Mugavin (AU) said

    His life was long but somehow he had the capacity of many lifetimes.

    I am truly sorry of his passing and am forever grateful for the gifts he has left behind.

  16. I was very sad to hear this news of the passing of a scholar I very much respected.
    Long ago, I started studying Chinese using John DeFrancis’ eminent, effective language textbooks on the recommendation of my teacher, Kristina Lindell, and I keep recommending his books to friends and students, including The Chinese language: Fact and fantasy, which is both rewarding and fun. (Where else do you find this kind of scholarly books, with hidden jokes built into the text?)
    I was a fan, but met him only once, while still a student, when I recognized him in his colorful Hawaii shirt at a corner of the AAS meeting in Honolulu in 1996, and resolved to approach him impromptu and THANK him for his textbooks. He was amused, and we had a brief chat. He seemed a very warm person, somehow just as I had imagined from using his language textbooks, and reading his other books.
    Magnus Fiskesjö
    Cornell University

  17. Matthew Marcucci said

    I am a university student in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I read three of John’s books in the Fall for a research paper on the development of writing in Vietnam and China. In the process, I came to know his indefatigable adherence to accuracy and truth, a quality rare not only among scholars but also among people. I hope that I may lead a life as valuable as John’s clearly was. I am saddened at his loss.

  18. Jim Unger said

    Like Studs Terkel, another infinitely curious, open-minded writer of the same generation who died recently, John worked his way from working-class beginnings through a top-flight university only to get blacklisted, but seldom dwelt on the past. Instead, he kept his eyes on the future and was generous with his knowledge and help to both students and colleagues: as true an embodiment of the aloha spirit as anyone settling in Hawai’i could be.

  19. Ben Kerkvliet said

    Shortly after I began teaching at the Univ. of Hawaii in 1971, I met John at a meeting about some administrative matters. I didn’t know then who he was but was tremendously impressed by his collegiality and commitment to enhancing Asian studies at UH. Later I learned, too, how highly respected he was among Sinologists around the world.

  20. Jo said

    I am ever grateful to the Vietnam Studies Group for posting this narrative of John de Francis on their list. He was a true hero of scholars and of academia because he refused to buckle under the bullying of Sen. McCarthy’s infamous fantod about commies in the USA, and so was blacklisted by the sheep of academe. Although I never met him, and my area of specialty is not Sinology but S. Asia studies, I’ve learned what a warm and generous human being and scholar he was. Inspired by his example, I offer my pranams.

    Joanna Kirkpatrick
    Bennington College, retd.

  21. Brad Jones said

    I did not have the good fortune to meet John during his amazing life. I have, though, been blessed to call Chuck my good friend. Chuck is a loving, warm, creative and humble man. In any situation, he looks for ways to help the other guy, not to turn it to his advantage.

    In addition to his incredible career achievements, John accomplished a most difficult task: he raised a good son.

    May you rest peacefully, John. You’ve left the world a better place.

    Chuck, I’m saddened by your loss.

    Love, Brad

  22. Su-Chong Lim said

    As an overseas Chinese growing up in Singapore I was educated primarily in English. My Chinese studies in school, whether from my own poor attitude, or from the traditional rote learning of the Chinese teaching system, suffered. I studied in Medicine in Canada, and returned to Singapore ashamed of my near illiteracy in Chinese. I started studying Chinese again, practically from scratch, and was fortunate to find the DeFrancis textbooks to use as my roadmap; they were a beacon of clarity and insight. I returned to Canada to live and to practice Medicine, and became rusty in Chinese again. However I still have my DeFrancis texts which I am beginning to use again in my twilight years. Life is so full of ironies and this is one: that a waiguoren would travel to China, then become so knowledgeable and scholarly as to teach and inspire a zhongguoren living in Canada in the language and culture of China! I am sure that my experience is shared by many other foreign-born Chinese around the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  23. TZ said

    I have recently found out about this man and I would just like to show some admiration of his great work and great life. Thank you and rest in peace.

  24. Not only was John’s Beginning Chinese a model for language teaching textbooks, this memorial is a model for paying tribute to a great life. Prior to reading this tribute, which I literally stumbled upon while searching for a term of specialized Chinese medical jargon, I knew nothing of the life of the man who wrote that text that introduced me, my classmates, and countless others to the study of Mandarin. If only we could all write three textbooks between doctor visits in our late 80s!

  25. I am saddened to learn of the passing of a great scholar of the Chinese language. He was a great influence on me as a Chinese language student at Beijing Teachers College and later as a student in Taipei Teachers College. His insights encouraged me to start teaching Chinese and show it is possible to learn this language. He and his insight on the Chinese language will be dearly missed.

    James Thomas
    World Learner Chinese

  26. Christine Lu said

    I have never seen anyone so devoted to help foreigners to learn Chinese like Professor John. John tried to include every single new phrase into his dictionary in order to help people who want to study Chinese. Whenever he read some new terms from Chinese newspaper, he would note it down to a piece of paper and came all the way to the office and said to me: “Christine, add this new phrase.” I wish all those who write dictionaries can be so thoughtful as John so that more people are helped. I thank you for giving me the honor to work for your dictionary. May peace be with you, dear Professor John.

    Christine Lu

  27. Yihua Wang said

    I was deeply saddened to learn of Professor DeFrancis’ passing.

    John passionately devoted all his life to the course of Chinese language teaching, never allowing himself to really retire. On my desk sits his New Year letter, dated a week before he was hospitalized, in which he was talking about proofreading the ABC dictionary and revising his Beginning Chinese Reader.

    In addition to being a world-famous scholar, a respected author of numerous books and articles on Sinology and linguistic research, John was also an inspiring, warm-hearted, gentle, caring, and generous human being. In 1980, when I came from China to the University of Hawaii as a graduate student, John was one of the first professors I met. Although he was already retired, he soon became my mentor, guiding me in every step of my study. We had many interesting discussions about China’s language policy and language reform, and the possibility of a Pinyin system becoming the written form of the Chinese language. He also took care that I should not work and study all the time, and he took me and my 4-year old daughter to beach outings, and hosted a birthday party for me at his house. After I started my teaching career, I continued to talk to him about my work, and his encouraging words meant a great deal to me. John was my role model, and I tried my best to take care of my students with the same spirit of generosity and kindness that he had shown.

    John, I am forever grateful to you for your guidance and friendship. You will be missed. May you rest in peace.

    With love and gratitude,
    Eva Yihua Wang

    University of California, Los Angeles

  28. Lisa Haoran Wang said

    Professor John DeFrancis was one of the first people I met when I moved from Shanghai to Honolulu, at the age of 4. At that time, my mom was a graduate student from Mainland China at the University of Hawaii, and John was one of her friends and mentors. I have fond memories of spending some afternoons on Waikiki beach with my mom, John, and other UH folks. At the time I didn’t know John was an eminent China scholar but I did notice he was a cheerful playmate, a good swimmer and an adept builder of sand castles. He even provided some critical tools to help me assimilate to my new life in Hawaii, namely a bright red sand bucket and a yellow sand shovel! 27 years later, my mom and I had a chance to visit John and his son, Chuck, at their home in Manoa Valley. John was 95 at the time and exuded health and joyfulness. He and I swapped travel tales and he told me about his trips to remote corners of China, including the Gobi Desert, during the warlord periods! I was impressed by how adventurous and creative he was during a time when few people even knew about the Gobi Desert much less imagined traveling there. I remember telling my mom after our visit that I was struck by John’s positive energy and his passion for life and work, even well into his nineties. I felt grateful to have the chance to see him again and was moved by his personality – a special blend of serenity and joyfulness. John, you will be dearly missed, and your personality and kindness will always continue to inspire.

  29. David Pai said

    I was an undergraduate research assistant working with John on the ABC dictionary in the early 90s. He never mentioned what a rich personal history he had, but I always suspected as much. John was one of those unique individuals who inspired by example and touched everyone he met by his generosity, kindness, and eternal optimism.

  30. Scott McGinnis said

    Over 20 years ago, I cut my teaching teeth (and began my passion for pedagogy) as a graduate teaching assistant for first year Chinese at Ohio State University using (as we always referred to it) “BC”. Nearly ten years later, I had my first of far too few but always fulfilling conversations with Professor DeFrancis during the AAS meeting in Honolulu. It was and will always be one of the genuine thrills of my professional life.

    In my last series of e-mail exchanges with John during the spring of 2008, he remained a consummate authority and one of the most graciously humble people I have ever known. While assisting me with some suggestions for sources for my research on the early history of CLTA, he commented on the role played by John B. Tsu, the head of Chinese studies at Seton Hall who brought John back to the Chinese language teaching profession. Quoting Professor DeFrancis,

    “I’m writing to make sure that John Tsu gets credit for something that some people, I think, credit me for. That is the use of Pinyin in writing the textbooks that he invited me to do (and got the money to finance the work) at a time when Pinyin was hardly used by American academics…In writing the textbooks I had expected to use the George A. Kennedy system of trancription that he created during the war and I used in the first edition of Beginning Chinese Reader…I’m glad [John Tsu] persuaded me to change to Pinyin.”

    That’s exactly what one would expect of John DeFrancis: attention to detail, commitment to accuracy, and an utter lack of selfishness. I am honored to have known him, and grateful for all he has given us. We are all better learners and teachers of Chinese because of John.

    Scott McGinnis
    Defense Language Institute-Washington Office

  31. Bob Huey said

    Beyond his impressive contributions to scholarship and language learning, he was one of the warmest, most sincere people I have ever met. He always made me feel like we shared some bond from many years ago (though we didn’t). A model of dignity with warmth.

    Bob Huey, Director
    Center for Japanese Studies
    University of Hawai’i at Manoa

  32. Drew Dillon said

    It was a great gift to have known John and a bit of a wonderment that my own time as a student and teacher of Chinese intersected with his in so many far-flung places: Seton Hall, Connecticut, Aix-en-Provence (where we first met) and Uluwehi Place, where my wife and I visited him on numerous occasions. We remember his delight when, once after a long flight from Connecticut, we showed up on his Honolulu doorstep with dinner from Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven. Such a smile! In matters both academic and un-, John’s incisiveness and enthusiasm were joys that endure. We miss him.

  33. Bruce Douglass said

    Professor DeFrancis was my advisor when I studied under him earning my MA forty years ago. He was a wonderful man who made enormous contributions to further the West’s understanding of China. He will be sorely missed.

  34. paul dworak said

    Dear Chuck, So sad about the passing of your dad. He was such a fine man and I have many fine memories of Summer Hill. If you are ever in the area please call. It’s been way too long. Paul Dworak

  35. Edward said

    Thank you for this wonderful story on a great man, great not only in the field of Chinese language education but also in being a pioneer in globalisation and mutual understanding across the world. What rests is my deepest respect for this man.

    Edward K.
    from The Netherlands

  36. Leslie Cunningham said

    Who wrote this biography so well and so lovingly? Thank you so much.

    Uncle John is my great uncle, my grandmother Ann Roberti’s “baby brother.” My clearest youthful memories of him are from after he lost the Johns Hopkins job, when we visited him and Aunt Kay and Chuck in Connecticut. (Chuck and I are exactly the same age.) Aunt Kay was one of the most gentle people I had ever met, and the love between them was manifest. Later on, when Aunt Kay was ill, I was moved and humbled by Uncle John’s devotion to his beloved wife.

    Before I knew my husband Howard, he had heard of Uncle John. After his return from Vietnam and discharge from the Air Force, Howard studied briefly at the University of Hawaii. He had friends who told him about this wonderful professor, John DeFrancis. Howard met Aunt Kay in 1969 when they were both involved in a servicemen’s sanctuary at a Honolulu church (supporting U.S. military personnel who were refusing to fight in Vietnam). Howard reminds me that Uncle John contributed money to his (Howard’s) legal defense when he got in trouble for some on-the-job activism in Los Angeles.

    We last saw Uncle John 10 years ago, when he put us up for a week in Hawaii. He took us on a tour of Chinese and Japanese cultural attractions, cooked special Chinese dishes for us, and took us to terrific Chinese restaurants.

    Over the years, I have bragged on my famous Uncle to friends, colleagues, and political activists here in Texas. I have also told the story of his experiences during the McCarthy period. I very much appreciate the writer(s) of the biography for recounting the details of Uncle John’s ethical commitment and subsequent blacklisting during that dark time. This is some history that we must not forget.

    My mother, V. Roberta Lincoln, Uncle John’s niece, expresses her sadness at his passing. (She is 9 years younger than he and does not have internet access.) She had the delightful experience of assisting him with one of his “non-scholarly” books, “Things Japanese in Hawaii” (1973). She and I both received his last holiday letter and agreed that he sounded especially positive–still working on revisions of his books!

    Chuck–I was so pleased a few years ago when I learned you were joining your father in Hawaii. I knew he would love to have your companionship and could use your help. Just as I expected, I could tell from his letters how happy he was to have you there.

    Uncle John lived such a long life; it seemed he would just keep going on and on and on. But we can none of us live forever. We can only hope and strive to live so decently and so fully and so productively.

  37. Much later than everyone who has shared valuable remembrances thus far, I was privileged to meet Professor John DeFrancis. The occasion was a chance Friday night conversation in a chance car-pool ride returning from a Chinese New Year’s banquet.

    As we got into the car that evening, John was in the front seat, and I was in the rear. So, we introduced ourselves. Somehow, John raised a question over which he had been puzzling over for many decades — during Mao Zedong’s visit to the Soviet Union (December 1949 – February 1950): Precisely how did Josef Stalin influence China’s national language policy? Of course, that politically sensitive question was closely related to a long-term research interest of John’s.

    Even though we only had chance conversations in the following few years, from the start I was struck by John’s warm and generous humanity, his humility, his intellectual drive, and his honesty.

  38. Jorma K. A. Räty said

    Most unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet this great man in person. Through his work, though, he was always motivationally and inspirationally present in my endeavor to delve into the intriguing intricacies of our beloved Chinese language.

    Goodbye, John. We shall meet at the Jade Mountain…

    J.K.A. Räty


  39. Charles Gross said

    I just read the obit in the NY Times and followed the link to this memorial page. Thank you for creating the opportunity to leave a message. I used the DeFrancis texts in the 60’s; I still have them. My library has the DeFrancis book on Genghis Khan and I just reserved a copy of it. What a life he created. Is someone going to write a biography? Is there a collection of letters? I just shared his obit with a friend and she said that it reminded her of Barak Obama’s and Michelle Obama’s life. And the blacklist right in the middle. I am sure there was dispair and then he climbed out of it. Thank you for mentioning the ongoing projects at Yale and work on the new dictionaries. Thanks again for creating this website.

  40. H.Ross Howell said

    What a wonderful scholar and contributor to the world of Chinese culture and language.I salute John DeFrancis, a great human, and I thank him for his gifts.

  41. Bob Kasten said

    The passing of Prof. DeFrancis is very saddening to me. Knowing his time with us was becoming limited, for the past few years, I had been meaning to send a brief personal letter thanking him for what a deeply profound effect his work had upon my life. The last seven years or so, my use of his texts and learning materials brought me into a culture with which I not only became fascinated, but one in which I have literally adopted as my own.

    Over the years, as I used his materials daily, I began to realize how amazingly and painstakingly (lovingly?) well done these works truly were. I then became more and more interested in the author, and learned that the individual responsible for writing these texts so many decades ago was still hard at work–harder than ever, in fact. I was amazed.

    As I started my Chinese studies back in 2001-2002, I can recall reading and hearing from people in forums and in college language departments that DeFrancis texts are hopelessly outdated, and that one needed to look elsewhere. This initially provided a distraction as to which set of texts and language lab materials to use. It was not until I finally realized that in nearly all aspects of the language that truly matter, the texts are not outdated at all–far from it.

    And indeed, in the last few years many of the texts started to become available in the UK in the form of sanctioned reproductions. And, lo and behold, in the last year or so, ALL of the books are now back in print and available from Yale University Press. Why? Because they are the finest set of Chinese language textbooks ever written–possibly the finest in any language. And they should have never gone out of print as the relatively minor ways in which they were outdated could have been easily rectified.

    There is no question in my mind that it was Professor DeFrancis that taught me Chinese, and more importantly continued to motivate me to fluency–all through his materials…materials written nearly 4 decades ago.

    Thank you Prof. DeFrancis. My gratitude is beyond words.

  42. John taught mathametics at Quinnipiac College now Quinnipiac University in the 1950’s.I remember a project comparing math textbooks of the lower grades in the US and China with the conclusion that chinese students were more advanced at the same grade level. I believe the National Science Foundation funded his scholarship. We were colleagues and personal friends.
    Stanley S. Katz, Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Sciences and former Dean, School of Allied Health and Natural Sciences, retired in 2006 as the University Historian.

  43. Dennis Lie-Hap-Po said

    Through his works he touched the lives of many.
    May he rest in peace.

    Dennis Lie-Hap-Po

  44. Mr. Shao Wang said

    My late father, Professor Fred Fang Yu Wang, and Professor DeFrancis were colleagues together with the late Dr. Tsu at Seton Hall University. Those were heady times. At its peak, that Chinese studies department was, broadly, recognized, as the best in the United States. I recall Professor DeFrancis as a kind and humble man who was quite popular with his students. The wonderful thing of being a professor is that the legacy left behind is truly precious and long lived.

    My condolences,

  45. Derek Lee said

    His Chinese Readers were wonderful and incidently, perhaps, revealed his good humour and good nature. His books are on a shelf before me now — by chance I was re-reading some passages from one over the Christmas period. I am saddened by news of his death.

  46. Colin Spencer said

    A great scholar and unique thinker about Chinese language and culture. I’d love to have studied under him

  47. Anne Phan said

    He seems like someone remarkable. I would have enjoyed to learn under him. So very sad to hear about his death,but I believe that he still lives in our hearts.

  48. Lonnie Wiig said

    I took a Chinese course under Dr. DeFrancis at the University of Hawai’i in 1966. Over the ensuing decades, Professor DeFrancis’s remarkable abilities in Chinese — and his dedication to unflagging scholarship in the field of Asian Languages — helped inspire me to become moderately serious about studying the Japanese language and the history of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945.

    Xiexie nin, De Xiansheng. I continue to be inspired by your example.

    Lonnie Wiig
    University of Hawaii – Manoa, Professional Diploma (teaching Japanese), 1978
    Hiroshima University, M.A., Asian Studies, 1990

  49. David Huang said

    I started my study of Chinese with the DeFrancis readers in the 80’s. These superb books helped keep a difficult subject interesting. I have been interested in Chinese culture and language since that time, and I thank John DeFrancis for helping get me started on that road. These books, brought alive by a wonderful professor, sparked and nurtured that interest. I am grateful to John DeFrancis for all his hard work. These books will always hold a place of honor on my bookshelves.

  50. Drake Pike said

    I started with the DeFrancis reader in 1967 at a Missouri summer school for high school students with Chinese teachers from Washington U. I well remember being surprised a few years later that I was one of the few Chinese language students who know pinyin, which has always stood me in good stead. And, as I recall, one of the first characters was 啊 as in 你好啊, what a great way to start! Written Chinese holds no fears when you dive like that right into the deep end of the pool I loved that book and still have it here somewhere. Thank you, Professor DeFrancis, and God Bless.

  51. David McCully said

    Although I worked on several languages in high school adn college, it was the great books of john that got me reading in Chinese, and the yale romanization system that enabled me to speak it while I lived in Taiwan. Currently, I am improving myself all too slowly due to physical setbacks, but what I remember most of his books was the fun I got out of seeing what bit of humor came next! Thanks John, and for helping me keep this mind of mine active and ever learning, and giving me easy resources for teaching my growing son. David

  52. Yuk-lin Ong said

    I bought John’s ABC dictionary from Amazon to be shipped to Singapore in 2005 when my 4 year-old son started his Mandarin studies, learning Zijing in Yuquan Language School. Looked up Amazon star ratings and user comments to find a super-comprehensive dictionary. I had learnt Mandarin only up to second grade level, when I was in sixth grade.

    The ABC dictionary was a lifesaver, letting me find easily phrases or clauses of four characters easily through Hanyu Pinyin. This helped so very much in trying to learn the characters that constituted zijing and chengyu in my son’s textbooks.

    John will be sorely missed. I could feel the passion in his work. And now I look forward to his posthumous work when it comes out.

  53. I just read about John DeFrancis on, but the story of his life is definitely an inspiration for me. I wish, I had known him in person.

  54. Andrew Wyatt said

    Some people touch and influence your life by close proximity, others like John DeFrancis impact your life in a might way from afar.
    The acquisition of the ABC Dictionary and subsequently his Book “Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy” opened my eyes to a new world and thus permitted an ever growing passion to enter into my life. Scholarship last forever as it reaches out person by person to the whole world – John’s scholarship has that timeless quality – his work stands alongside of that of Joseph Needham in how China can be brought to the understanding of the West but the rigors of academic pursuit.

    Thank you Professor DeFrancis for opening my eyes.

  55. Steve Arthur said

    John DeFrancis will forever be my inspiration for learning Chinese. I had all but given up studies until I came across a seemingly odd text book which stood out from all the rest. Although located on the other side of the world, John Defrancis is with me, teaching me. Thanks Professor John for the gift you have given me.

  56. John DeFrancis Beginning Chinese was my introduction to Chinese and those reel-to-reel practice tapes that sounded like they were recorded by Beijing Opera stars. His presentations we so so thoughtful and effective. I bought and used all of his books and continued to use them for self-study years after first year Chinese. He has without a doubt made a huge impact on the world will have influenced indirectly many generations to come. Now that was a life worth living!!! John DeFrancis, I hope you enjoy your “gongfu” in heaven. You made good use of it here.

  57. Wally G. Astor, Ph.D. said

    I was most saddened to read, this evening, of the death of Dr. DeFrancis in January. Although we exchanged Christmas letters for decades, I still found it difficult to call him “John.” We was and will always remain Dr. DeFrancis. Thank you Dr. DeFrancis for introducing me to Pinyin. John was my mentor when I was a graduate student in Chinese at the U of H from 1967 to 1969. I had previously studied Chinese at Yale from 1956 to 1961 as an Air Force student. I knew of John’s background prior to my studying at the U of H, and although I was an active duty Captain just returning from Vietnam, John treated me and my wife graciously and with the utmost professionalism. For that brief period John and Kay treated my wife and me as family. I recall that John was stranded in Czechoslovakia during “Prague Spring” 1968. As a graduate student I briefly handled the proofreading and pre-publication of several volumes of the character texts of John’s pinyin series. What a scholar and what a gentleman! The world of Chinese language pedagogy has lost a true gem.

  58. Jincao said


    I am so sad when I heard the news this morning. It’s almost after a whole year I got to know it.

    Words can not express my sorrow and I just want to let you know that I was so lucky to stay with you in Uluwehi, and you are more than a care-reciever. You are my teacher, friend, and my grandpa.

    Wish you a happy stay in Heaven—you deserve it.

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