Richard Sears from the U.S. is known in China as the founder of a website about Chinese etymology. Amazed with his two decades of effort researching Chinese characters, Chinese netizens gave him the nickname Hanzi Shushu, or Uncle Hanzi.
A former programmer, Sears has already broken down 96,000 ancient characters and 8,000 commonly used Chinese characters through a computing algorithm and scanned them into his self-run chineseetymology.org.
Deeply drawn by Chinese characters, Sears, with expertise in physics, left his hometown in the U.S. state of Tennessee for China to learn Chinese at age 22.
Sears decided to establish a website about Chinese etymology in 1994 after he suffered a severe heart attack. In 2011, he rose to Internet fame and began receiving contributions to support the site from Chinese people.
His fame even got him a job as a physics teacher at a university in Beijing, but he later left the city because of the high living cost. Now he lives in Huangshan, east China’s Anhui province.
Sears claims to be the first man in the world to create a website about Chinese etymology. Now the website has become one of the most viewed sites of its kind across the world.
Not everyone has been supportive of his passion. Sears has remained single after his wife left him 20 years ago because she thought he was wasting too much time and money studying Chinese characters.
“I want to stay in China to learn more about Chinese characters,” Sears has been quoted as saying in numerous interviews.
Sears' website about Chinese characters
Sears hopes people talk more about his achievements than his life story. Although he is getting on in years, he isn’t letting his age keep him from his research. When he feels too tired to work, he will sleep for two to three hours, and then wake up and continue working.
Sears became more widely known in China this March, when he shared his story with Chinese on Readers, a TV program aired on China Central Television (CCTV).
“I work not to buy myself fancy cars or big houses,” Sears said. Though he has no savings, the 67-year-old said he will not consider publishing a book about his achievements to earn more money. Instead, he will feel happier seeing thousands of people visit his website every day.