His courtesy name was Jixuan, and pen name was Yuchu and also known as Juzhai. He also used Rensou in his later years as pen name. The Lao’s family belonged to an old clan in Qingzhen, and his grandfather was naturalized in Wuzhen when he lived in Suzhou. He was a phonologist and advocate of Chinese phonetic culture.
Tenth year of Tongzhi (1871) in Qing Dynasty, Lao Naixuan passed the imperial examination. He served as the editor of Baoding Tongzhi Bureau and successively served as County Governor of several counties in Hebei Province. Later he became Chief Education Officer of Jiangning. He had successively served as Premier of Imperial University of Peking (the predecessor of the Peking University), and Vice-Minister and Acting Minister of the Department of Education; Supervisor of Nanyang Public University (the predecessor of National Chiao Tung University) in Shanghai; Supervisor of Hangzhou Qiushi University (the predecessor of Zhejiang University). Lao Naixuan had been named in the history of the presidents of National Chiao Tung University, Zhejiang University and Peking University.
After the founding of Republic of China, he was determined to restoration and organized the people from the former dynasty to form the "Shi Lao Hui", but ultimately he could not save the fate of the Qing Dynasty. When all was said and done, Lao Naixuan chose to live in Laoshan Mountain, which shares the same sound as his family name "Lao". And he put his unrealistic political attempt into nature which he thought contained his blood origin. He took the initiative to help German missionary Wei Lixian (Richard Wilhelm) to translate the “Book of Changes” during his living in Laoshan, which caused a sensation after its publication in the West. Even the famous Western philosopher Jung said that the translator of the “Book of Changes” was one of the most influential people in his life. On July 21, 1921, Lao naixuan died of illness in Qingdao.
Lao Naixuan was an outstanding master of Equal Rhymes. The book "Understanding of Equal Rhyme" published in 1883 was the latest work of Equal Rhyme in the Qing Dynasty and also the only work of Equal Rhyme in the late Qing Dynasty. At the end of Ming Dynasty, there were two systems of Equal Rhyme, the northern system took “Zhongyuan Rhyme” as its main genre and deleted all 36 letters. The southern system regarded “Hongwu Rhyme” as its main genre and preserves all voiced sounds in 36 letters. "Understanding of Equal Rhyme" belongs to the southern system. The book is divided into internal and external chapters. The internal chapters are divided into three parts: initial, vowel, and four tones. The internal chapters include 10 notations such as alphabet notation, rhyme notation, four tones notation. The external chapters include 8 chapters, such as letters, rhyme notation, four tones, alliteration and vowel rhyme, fanqie, shezi, pronunciation and miscellaneous arguments. The book is well-organized and easy to understand, with exquisite sound classifications, most of which are in line with modern phonology.
Lao Naixuan was also an advocate of early Chinese phonetic. In 1905, Lao Naixuan added six initials, three vowels and an entry symbol to make up for Wang Zhao's inadequacy that the official colloquial alphabet can only spell Northern dialect. He spelled Xiajiang Mandarin, which is the Ning phonetic notation (later a single edition was published in Nanjing under the name of Renewal of the Simplified Character Notation of the Compound Sounds). On this basis, he added seven more initials, three vowels and one voiced symbol to spell Wu dialect, which is Wu's phonetic spectrum (then a single edition was published in Nanjing under the name of Revision of Simplified Character Notation of Compound Sounds). On the basis of Wu's phonetic notation, 20 more initials and 2 vowels were added to make Min-Guang phonetic notation (no single edition was published). The official letters of Wang Zhao were elaborated in Brief Description of Simplified Character of Jingyin established in 1907, and the four notations of Jing dialect, Ning dialect, Wu and Fujian-Guangdong dialect were included in the Whole Notations of Simplified Character published in the same year. In 1909, Lao Naixuan, together with a group of celebrities such as Zhao Binglin and Wang Rongbao, established one of the earliest mass organizations in Beijing to study the reform of Chinese characters, the “Research Society of Simplified Characters”. His simplified characters of compound sounds were widely spread in the southern of the China, which made him the first person to correctly solve the problem of the relationship between dialect and common language in the history of Chinese phonetic movement. His work had a great influence on the later development of phonetic alphabet scheme.
Lao Naixuan was an outstanding native of Wuzhen who cared about the country and the people. He was a local officer who was diligent and loved the people. He was also the president of three famous universities which were earliestly established in China and nurtured countless talents for the country. He was a real scholar with excellent talent and learning. As a survivor of the declining old dynasty, he once played a stubborn and conservative role, but his contribution to the promotion and inheritance of Chinese culture is praised by all people.
In his later years, although Lao Naixuan lived in other place, he always missed his homeland. In his poem Feeling at the Foot of the Kettle for Returning to Cultivation, he talked about Tongxiang, the county town where he was born:
Look at the mountain through clouds.
Put down plough and hoe and lean on the mountain.
Fisherman laughs at Chuze.
It is in Tongxiang that people love me.Keyword: