Deaf People and Community in China

Great Wall of China
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In Chinese Sign Language (CSL), the signs are like written Chinese characters. (This is not much different from the way the sign language alphabet resembles written English letters). Just as ASL can have regional variations, Chinese Sign Language comes in many dialects, with the most commonly used one being the Shanghai version.

The International Bibliography of Sign Language has a good listing of articles and resources on sign language in China.


China has many schools for the deaf. A small sampling: Fourth school for the deaf (Beijing), Nanjing deaf school, Shanghai Deaf School, Chengdu School for Blind and Deaf Children, Kunming School for Blind and Deaf Children, and Chefoo School for the Deaf. Additional deaf schools are in Hong Kong, such as the Lutheran School for the Deaf, Chun Tok School (Hong Kong School for the Deaf), and the Caritas Magdalene School.

A 2001 China People's Daily news article reported that Zhou Tingting was China's "first deaf college graduate" and that she had been accepted to Gallaudet University. While attending China's Liaoning Normal University she had written a paper, "The Way Deaf People Adapt Themselves to Mainstream Society."

For deaf college students in China, the Tianjin Technical College for the Deaf (TTCD) of the Tianjin University of Technology (TUT) is the first technical college for deaf Chinese students. Begun in 1991, this college focuses on computer technology education and also has a degree in costume design.

Tibet is part of China and has its own school for the deaf in Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

History of Deaf Education in China

Yale University has a China Records Project, Miscellaneous Papers Collection that includes a paper on the life of Annetta Thompson Mills, who founded the Chefoo School for the Deaf. The Library of Congress AG Bell Papers collection has a Letter from William H. Rose to Alexander Graham Bell, March 27, 1903, about the need to raise funds to help schools for the deaf in Chefoo, China.

The Entrez PubMed database yielded an abstract of an "Intelligence Study of 1758 deaf children in China," from 1995.

Resources on Deafness in China

  • Callaway, Alison. (2000). Deaf Children in China Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. The book is reviewed online along with a sample chapter describes life for deaf children, particularly the educational situation, in China, circa 1994.
  • Carter, Anita E. (1911). The School for Chinese Deaf: The story of our deaf girls. ASIN: B00086EC7S. - Appears to be an out of print book about the Chefoo School for the Deaf.
  • Chan LM, Lui B. (1990). Self-concept among hearing Chinese children of deaf parents. American Annals of the Deaf,135(4),299-305. - Summary is on the Entrez PubMed website.
  • Martin, David S, Hussey, Leslie, Sicoli, Debbie, Sheng, Zhang Ning. Removing barriers and building bridges: American deaf interns teaching Chinese deaf children. American Annals of the Deaf, Jul 1999 - article about the experience of Gallaudet interns in deaf education in china.
  • Yang, J.H. (2002): An Introduction to CSL/Chinese bilingual education for the deaf in China. Chinese Journal of Special Education, 1, 33-37.

In addition, Gallaudet University's catalog yields many riches related to China. There are both archival/historic items (pre-1980s) and regular (modern) items, plus periodicals. Here is a selection from the WRLC catalog:


  • Acupuncture in treatment of deaf-mutism / Eleventh People's Hospital, Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai
  • China through a car-window : observations on the modern China, made in the course of a four months' jouney in behalf of the Chinese deaf: with some account of the school at Chefoo / by Annetta T. Mills
  • The story of the Chifu School / by Sara Entrican

Regular (Modern)

  • Blind and the deaf-mute in Shanghai / [compiled by the Shanghai BDM Association]
  • Blind and the deaf of China / China Association for the Blind and the Deaf
  • History and development of deaf education and sign language in Taiwan
  • History and development of deaf education and sign language in Taiwan
  • Listing of schools and programs for the deaf in the People's Republic of China / prepared by: Wayne H. Smith
  • Overview of China's current deaf situations and recommendations for ELI / by William J. Lauck
  • Speaking with signs; a sign language manual for Hongkong's deaf Illustrations [by] Patrick Wong Pak-chuen and Fung Kin-kwok
  • Taipei Theatre of the Deaf
  • Well-being of the deaf-blind in China / by Wu Houde and Tian Sansong


There are four deaf Chinese periodicals in the Gallaudet library.

  • Chung kuo lung jen
  • Long ren zhuan kan
  • Mang lung chih ying / Chung Kuo Mang Jeng Lung Ya Jeng Hsieh Hsui
  • Te' shu chiao yu / Te' Shu Chiao Yu Pien Chi Pu

Numbers of Deaf in China

According to the China Disabled Persons' Federation website, China has approximately 21 million people with hearing loss out of 60 million disabled.

China is doing its own research into hearing loss. The Entrez PubMed database turned up the following sample results of a search on deaf China (some articles are in Chinese):

  • Mutations in the connexin 26 gene in patients with nonsyndromic hearing impairment - study done at Hunan University in Changsha.
  • Chinese tonal language rehabilitation following cochlear implantation in children - Hong Kong study of prelingually deaf implanted children.
  • Cochlear implants in China - 1995 study by the House Ear Institute of Los Angeles.
  • Prevalence and genetic aspects of deaf mutism in Shanghai - 1987 article.
  • An investigation on the developmental and health status of deaf-mute students - 1985 article.


Expatriate deaf Chinese have their own organization, the Chinese National Association of the Deaf, ROC.

In China itself, there is the China Association of the Deaf.

Additional deaf Chinese organizations are the China Sports Association of the Deaf, and the China Deaf and Blind Association.

Hong Kong, part of China, also has deaf organizations such as the Hong Kong Society for the Deaf. There also seems to be a similar organization, the Hong Kong Association of the Deaf (website is in Chinese). The difference seems to be that the Society is more social-services oriented while the Association is more socially-oriented.

Social and Rehabilitative Services for the Deaf

China has seen an increase in services for deaf people, particularly children. There is a medical center focused on hearing loss and oral communication is jointly run by the Shanghai Health Bureau and Fudan University. A branch of the Special Education Institute for the Disabled under Beijing United University is a Hearing and Language Ability Rehabilitation College. This college works with the China Rehabilitation Research Center for Deaf Children.

There are also charitable ventures to aid deaf people in China. One such venture is the China Children Hearing Aid Foundation, which seeks to provide hearing aids to Chinese children. In addition, the Amity Foundation provides scholarships to deaf students in China and has a program to support deaf school libraries.

Deaf Characters in Chinese Movies

There are at least five Chinese movies that have included deaf characters:

  • Breaking the Silence (2001) - about a deaf boy and his hearing mother
  • To Live (1994) - family with deaf daughter
  • Silent River (2000) - hearing teacher in school for the deaf
  • Sky Lovers (2002) - movie adaptation of Dong Xi's novel "Living Without Words," features young deaf man in a love story

Deaf Tours of China

The Deaf Counseling Advocacy & Referral Agency was offering a tour of China at the time this article was written.

Chinese Deaf Culture

If you had attended the Deaf Way II, you might have had the chance to see the "Masters of Chinese Watercolor" exhibit by four Chinese artists. Or, you might have watched the "My Dream" Chinese dancers during the Folk Life Festival in Washington, DC.

Deaf Chinese Youth

The web/print publication Deaf Friends International has a couple of items from deaf Chinese youth:

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