Famed English professor dies aged 99
Li Pei, a linguist and wife of Guo Yonghuai, one of the founding fathers of China’s atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and satellite, passed away in Beijing on Thursday, according to the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The university, where Li served as a professor of English, released an obituary on Thursday, saying that Li, 99, died of disease in the early morning.
Born in Jiangsu province on Dec 20, 1917, Li was admitted by Peking University to study economics in 1936. She then studied at Cornell University in the United States in 1947.
She married Guo in 1948 and returned to China together with her husband and only daughter in 1956.
After returning, Li worked in Zhongguancun, which has become a high-tech and innovation hub dubbed “the Silicon Valley of China”. Li participated in the establishment of hospitals and Western cookie shops, and was regarded as one of the most important inaugurators of Zhongguancun, the university said.
In 1961, Li started teaching English language at the University of Science and Technology of China and transferred to the university’s graduate school in 1978. The graduate school was renamed the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, where Li worked until she retired in 1987.
After retiring, Li established the Zhongguancun Forum and invited eminent scholars from many fields, including historian Zi Zhongyun and economist Li Yining, to give lectures.
Li helped to arrange a total of more than 600 forums from 1998 to 2011 at Zhongguancun, and she was given affectionate nicknames such as “the prettiest rose of the Chinese Academy of Sciences” and “a beacon of Zhongguancun”.
Li had a reputation for being mentally strong. She was isolated and inspected for more than six years during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76). Her husband died in an airplane crash in 1968, while her only daughter died of disease in 1997.
Li once said to students of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences: “Life still goes on whatever difficulties we have encountered. So we should continue to live with a positive attitude; we should learn to conquer difficulties, rather than be conquered”.
The obituary said Li devoted her life to education and nurtured groups of outstanding young people. “Her death is a big loss to education in China,” the university said in the obituary.
A farewell ceremony will be held at Beijing Babaoshan Cemetery on Jan 17.
Li Pei, linguist