Jao Tsung-I is a scholar, poet, and painter. A versatile scholar, he contributes to every field of humanities, including archaeology, literature, philology, musicology and history. Currently he lives in Hong Kong. He has two daughters.
Born into a wealthy family in Chaozhou, he is largely an autodidact. He began to publish scholarly works at a young age. Later he was invited to work as lecturer and researcher at different colleges in . He moved to Hong Kong in 1949. During the following years, he taught in the University of Hong Kong, while learning Sanskrit from the Indian diplomat and China expert V. V. Paranjpe, who in turn learnt ancient Chinese from Jao. In 1959, he published ''Yindai zhenbu renwu tongkao'' , which later earned him the Prix Stanislas Julien from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.
From 1963 onwards, he travelled to different countries to research and teach, includiing India, France, Singapore, United States and Japan. Currently he is the Wei Lun Honorary Professor of Fine Arts and Emeritus Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Many of his works are pioneering. For instance, he is the first scholar to render the Babylonian epic ''En?ma Elish'' into , after learning the Akkadian language from Jean Bottéro while he was a visiting scholar in Paris , and the first one to make a comparative study of the oracle bone script and the Indus script .
Yu Qiuyu , a popular writer in mainland, once said publicly that "with the presence of Jao Tsung-I, Hong Kong would not be a cultural desert", reacting to the common opinion that the region is a utilitarian ''cultural desert'' . His remark has become a catchphrase in the Chinese intellectual circle .