Sinologist: Herbert Giles

【Sinologist】Time:2024-02-10      Source:Wikipedia      Views:134


Herbert Allen Giles (/dʒaɪlz/, 8 December 1845 – 13 February 1935) was a British diplomat and sinologist who was the professor of Chinese at the University of Cambridge for 35 years. Giles was educated at Charterhouse School before becoming a British diplomat in China. He modified a Mandarin Chinese romanization system established by Thomas Wade, resulting in the widely known Wade–Giles Chinese romanization system. Among his many works were translations of the Analects of Confucius, the Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching), the Chuang Tzu, and, in 1892, the widely published A Chinese–English Dictionary.


Herbert Allen Giles was the fourth son of John Allen Giles (1808–1884), an Anglican clergyman. After studying at Charterhouse, Herbert became a British diplomat to Qing China, serving from 1867 to 1892. He also spent several years (1885–1888) at Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui, northern Taiwan. Giles' great-grandson, Giles Pickford, stated in an address at the opening of the Fort San Domingo Museum – 8 November 2005, that his great-grandfather, Herbert A Giles, was Her Britannic Majesty's Consul in Tamsui, Fort San Domingo from 1885 until 1891. Prior to that time, in 1869, Giles was based at Kaoshiung. He married Catherine Maria (Kate) Fenn in 1870 and was the father of Bertram, Valentine, Lancelot, Edith, Mable, and Lionel Giles.


In 1897 Herbert Giles became only the second professor of Chinese language appointed at the University of Cambridge, succeeding Thomas Wade. At the time of his appointment, there were no other sinologists at Cambridge. Giles was therefore free to spend most of his time among the ancient Chinese texts earlier donated by Wade, publishing what he chose to translate from his eclectic reading in Chinese literature. Giles published over sixty books, lectures, pamphlets, journal articles, book reviews, and newspaper articles. During his long life he completed a comprehensive Chinese-English Dictionary which took over fifteen years to compile and became a standard reference for many years. Giles also published the first history of Chinese literature and art, which also became a reference work. Some of his translations have stood the test of time and are still among the best available. Giles was not afraid to be controversial and outspoken on numerous topics. To quote his great-grandson, "Most of his enemies were people whose work he had criticized. Such people included E H Parker, a sinologist at Manchester University; Sir Walter Hillier a sinologist from London; and Sir Thomas Wade, Minister to China (1870-76 and 1880-82) and therefore Giles's superior in the Consular Service. Wade was later Professor of Chinese at the University of Cambridge (1888-95). Giles was to succeed him in this position in 1897." Giles was also outspoken on the work of Christian Missionaries and British traders because of the overcrowding of Chinese emigrants on British ships. Yet as Charles Aylmer wrote, in his Memoirs of H. A. Giles, "Notwithstanding his reputation for abrasiveness, he would speak to anyone in the street from the Vice-Chancellor to a crossing-sweeper and was remembered by acquaintances as a man of great personal charm. " Giles wrote some of his works in conjunction with his son, Dr. Lionel Giles, also an expert on China, who was employed as the Deputy Keeper of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts at the British Museum.


His later works include a history of the Chinese Pictorial Art in 1905 and his 1914 Hibbert Lectures on Confucianism which was published in 1915 by Williams and Norgate. He dedicated the third edition of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1916) to his seven grandchildren, but at the end of his life was on speaking terms with only one of his surviving children. An ardent agnostic, he was also an enthusiastic freemason. He never became a Fellow at one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, despite being a university professor for 35 years. Dr. Giles was married twice. His first wife was Miss Catherine Maria Fenn and his second wife was Miss Elise Williamina Edersheim, who died in 1921. On her death, Giles wrote, "In all those 38 years not a syllable came from my pen which was not examined by her and approved before publication." Elise was herself an author, her best known work being China Coast Tales, which she wrote during her time in Tamsui (1885-1888) and which she published under the pseudonym Lise Boehm. On 4 July 1922, the Royal Asiatic Society awarded Giles their Triennial Gold Medal. His friend L. C. Hopkins, was reported to say the following. "If he were asked to formulate in a sentence the special mark and merit of Professor Giles's lifelong labours, he would say that beyond all other living scholars he had humanized Chinese studies. He had by his writings made more readers know more things about China, things that were material, things that were vital – he had diffused a better and a truer understanding of Chinese intellect, its capabilities and achievements, than any other scholar." Giles finally retired in 1932, and died at Cambridge on 13 February 1935, aged 89.