By Hongbing Yu
Dr. Hongwei Jia, a linguist-turned Chinese semiotician and translator, died on May 24 in Harbin, China. He was 44 and lived in Beijing. The cause of his passing was complications from severe pneumonia due to overfatigue, according to his brother Hongtao Jia.
At his death, Dr. Jia was Associate Professor of Linguistics and Translation Semiotics at Capital Normal University in Beijing and Permanent Professor at the Center for Semiotics and Cultural Studies at Shinawatra University in Bangkok, among his many other appointments in universities, research institutes, and academic associations inside and outside China. Notably, he was the Founding Chair of the Center for Semiotics and Cultural Studies at Shinawatra University in Bangkok and was in charge of the PhD Program in Semiotics and Cultural Studies offered at the Center.
For his young age, Dr. Jia was extraordinarily prolific, with five monographs, five edited volumes, two translated books, and over 90 papers in academic journals, including Chinese Semiotic Studies, Semiotica, and The American Journal of Semiotics. His academic net was exceptionally wide. The fields which he so fruitfully mined included but were not limited to philosophy of language, history of modern Chinese linguistics, language policies in ancient China, translation semiotics, semiotics of traditional Chinese medicine, translation of legal discourses, sinology, history of modern semantics, and Chinese history of translation.
There is a broad consensus in intellectual circles that Dr. Jia was a warm-hearted, sincere, larger-than-life, and refreshingly candid character, highly respected, and now sadly missed, by a large number of colleagues and students who share a passion for serious scholarship and intellectual quests for truth. In our times, it is not often that someone comes along who, already at his age, has gained the genuine admiration of so many people in the humanities. The reasons are many, but the most important one should be that he was always accessible and readily supportive. Despite his own financial struggles, he selflessly and tirelessly helped numerous scholars, especially early-career researchers, in both their work and life, creating for them much-needed and meaningful academic connections. He had a good name for being strict with students, who respected and loved him for the meticulous guidance and inspiration they received from him.
Hongwei Jia was born on August 26, 1977, in Harbin. Battling against the odds all his life, Dr. Jia forged on in his academic pursuit and professional career. Before joining Capital Normal University, Dr. Jia taught linguistics and English at multiple universities while working on his MA degree at Heilongjiang University and later his PhD degree at Beijing Foreign Studies University. A known workaholic, Dr. Jia was a promising talent who left us all too soon. He was never married and had no children. He channeled all his energy into teaching and research, as well as looking after others. He is survived by his parents and brother, and countless like-minded semioticians, linguists, translators, and friends.
Rest in peace, Hongwei. You shall not be forgotten.