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Mr Ping-cheng T’ung 佟秉正

Ping-cheng T'ung

Mr Ping-cheng T’ung 佟秉正 was a dedicated teacher who made valuable contributions in the field of Chinese language teaching. 

Born in Beijing in 1938,Mr T’ung’s early schooling was disrupted by the turmoil affecting China in the 1940s. It was not until he moved to Taiwan in 1950 with his uncle’s family that he received an uninterrupted good education.

While still an undergraduate reading History and Geography at Taiwan Normal University, he was recruited as a part-time teaching assistant to coach American postgraduates at the University’s newly established Mandarin Chinese Training Center. He soon proved himself a gifted teacher and was very popular with his students; hence after graduation in 1959 he was appointed as a full-time instructor at the Center and set his mind on a language teaching career.

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Mr Ping-cheng T’ung 佟秉正, Honorary Doctorate, 2014 Graduation

In 1963 Mr T’ung was offered an overseas lectureship by SOAS. He soon settled down in London and adapted to a new academic life in the Chinese Section of the School, where he remained for 35 happy years. In 1985 he was promoted to Senior Lecturer, a position he held until his retirement in 1998.

At SOAS, he was instrumental in transforming the teaching of spoken Chinese, enthusing his students with warmth, wit, interest and humour. Together with Professor David Pollard, he developed a new beginner’s textbook Colloquial Chinese (1982), which received excellent reviews and was adopted by many universities around the world.

Mr T’ung also taught intensive short courses for SOAS External Services. In collaboration with Professor Hugh Baker, he produced a self-learning course Chinese in Three Months (1993). An updated and enlarged version was later published under a new title Speak Chinese with Millions (2010).

He was a regular contributor to international conferences on teaching Chinese as a second language, and the importance of his work in this field and the respect in which he was held by colleagues throughout the world were recognised when he was elected Vice-President of the International Society for Chinese Language Teaching 1990-2005.

He passed away on 19 March 2020 in London after battling cancer. He was a well-respected figure, being an outstanding Modern Chinese language teacher, scholar, mentor and producer of teaching materials. His students can be found in every corner of the globe and he will be greatly missed by all those who knew him. His spirit will continue to encourage future generations.

An international 'virtual commemoration' of Dr T'ung was held on 2 May 2020, with over 70 scholars, colleagues and admirers attending. Professor Hugh Baker, the former head of the SOAS Department of East Asia, was the key speaker at the event, which was organised by the BCLTS (The British Chinese Language Teaching Society).