Zhou Youguang, who developed the Pinyin system that Romanises characters in the Chinese language, died in Beijing on Saturday. He was 111 years old.HE was born on January 13 in Changzhou, in the eastern part of the country.

The system that turns Chinese characters into words using the Roman alphabet was developed in the 1950s. Zhou worked with a Communist party committee for three years to develop the system, which is still in use as the international standard. International Organization for Standardization adopted the system in 1982 and the United Nations recognised it in 1986. It was after the system was put to use that Beijing replaced Peking, Chongqing replaced Chungking, the communist leader Mao Zedong stopped being referred to as Mao Tse-tung.

Zhou was a vocal critic of the Chinese government. He was born to an official working with the Qing dynasty. He lived in the United States during his youth and worked as a Wall Street banker. He returned to his country in 1949 and started working on the writing system. “We spent three years developing Pinyin. People made fun of us, joking that it had taken us a long time to deal with just 26 letters,” he told BBC in 2012. The Pinyin system helped improve the literacy rate in the country significantly. Pinyin can be translated as “spelled sounds”, according to The New York Times.