Zhou Youguang: A 111-Year-Old’s Secrets to Longevity

Zhou Youguang sitting at his desk.

Known as the 'Father of Pinyin' who developed the Romanization of Mandarin Chinese characters, Zhou Youguang was born in Changzhou, China on January 13, 1906. (Image: via Wikipedia)

Zhou Youguang passed away on January 14, 2017, just one day after his 111th birthday. In his younger days, he was a professor of economics and a finance expert.

After turning 50, Zhou Youguang turned his focus to linguistics. In three years, he invented pinyin, the official Romanization standard of the Chinese written language. Zhou Youguang is known as the father of the Chinese phonetic alphabet. He also met with Albert Einstein on two separate occasions.

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Compared to his achievements, Zhou Youguang’s longevity is even more impressive. He authored published books after he was 100 years old and right up to the end, his mind was clear.

During an interview, just before his death, he summed up how to live a long life.

5 things to help you live over 100 years

1. Most people do not die from starvation, but from overeating

I spoke to a medical consultant in Shanghai, and he told me that most people are not starved to death but stuffed to death. As the saying goes: “Diseases come through the mouth.”

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are good examples. My diet consists of fresh eggs, vegetables, some dairy, tofu, and two cups of tea, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Zhou Youguang and his wife standing on rocks.
Zhou Youguang and his wife Zhang Yunhe in 1938. (Image: via Wikipedia)

2. Stay calm and don’t get angry

I am not interested in worldly possessions and take everything lightly. Material possessions bring suffering. Many years ago, I had insomnia and could not sleep. During the Cultural Revolution, I was sent to the countryside, and that experience cured my insomnia for good.

So my wife and I both believe in blessings in disguise. We stay calm and never get angry or lose sleep over it no matter what happens.

3. Live a simple life

My life is simple: I sleep, eat, read, and write. Every month, I publish an article in the newspaper. I wear simple clothes, and I do not travel. I write at home, drink tea, read, and practice self-cultivation.

I was not very healthy in my younger days: I had TB and suffered from depression. When I got married, my mother consulted a fortune teller, and he said we would only live to be 35. I think the fortune teller was correct, but since we had changed our lives, our destiny had changed too.

I live a very regular life, don’t eat too much, don’t smoke, or drink hard liquor. Let little things slide, so you can easily deal with them when tough times come.

Zhou Youguang sitting at a desk in his office reading.
Zhou Youguang passed away on January 14, 2017, just one day after his 111th birthday. (Image: via Wikipedia)

4. In old age, say no to three things

The three things to say no to are: No will, no birthday parties, and no New Year celebrations. Without a will, the whole family will stay harmonious; without a birthday party, I can forget my age; and not celebrating the New Year keeps life calm and peaceful. Daily life should be as simple as possible, only requiring one’s daily needs.

5. Foster love and respect between spouses

When my wife was alive, she liked to drink tea, and I wanted coffee. So every time we drank tea and coffee, we would raise our cups and make a toast to each other.

Such a simple act can foster respect between couples; it adds peace and stability to the family. When a couple is harmonious, their hearts stay joyful and healthy.

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