Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-pmhlf Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-13T02:41:26.305Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

History of Pre-Modern Chinese Studies in Germany

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2022

Hans van Ess*
LMU Munich, Germany
*Corresponding Author. Email:
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


Research into traditional China at German universities began in the early nineteenth century. It took several decades, however—until after the unification of Germany in 1871—positions at the universities of first Leipzig and then Berlin and Hamburg to be established in order to professionalize traditional China studies. The third and fourth decades of the twentieth century saw a rapid expansion, but Nazi rule between 1933–1945 led to massive emigration of German sinologists. This article looks into the details of this development and the disastrous consequences it had for German sinology. It then proceeds to the new beginnings made after World War II when some emigrants returned to Germany from China. East Germany lost many sinologists, who left the GDR when the Berlin wall was built. The article finishes with the challenges that a politically important China presents to traditional sinology.

Research Article
Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

A history of premodern Chinese Studies in Germany has yet to be written.Footnote 1 Its author will have to make some difficult decisions first. Where should he begin and what is actually German? Pre-nineteenth century scholarship in Europe was always transnational. An encyclopedic work such as the China illustrata Footnote 2 by the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) was written in Rome but published in Amsterdam. Several men succeeded Kircher in Germany during the eighteenth century,Footnote 3 but the first German Orientalists concerned with China, such as Julius Klaproth (1783–1835) or Isaac Jacob Schmidt (1779–1847), did not actually work in what today is Germany. Klaproth studied Oriental languages in Halle but then became professor in Vilnius and travelled with a Russian expedition to the Russian–Chinese border, improving his Chinese with native speakers there. He became a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and then, instead of accepting the position of a Prussian professor in Bonn, went to Paris, where in 1822 he was involved in the foundation of the société asiatique. Isaac Jacob Schmidt was born in Amsterdam but grew up in Germany, he went to Russia and to the Kalmyks at the Volga where he learned Mongolian. He published mainly on Mongolian and Tibetan. With Klaproth he had a famous dispute about the term “Uiguren,” a people whom Klaproth thought existed at that time under this name in Xinjiang while Schmidt denied this.Footnote 4 A definitive answer to this question remains elusive to this today. Tibetans, Mongols, and Turkish speaking peoples lived at that time within the borders of the Qing empire, and the knowledge of at least some of these languages became an integral part of a Sinological education in nineteenth century Europe. In Germany this was to remain true until 1945.

One more question that a future writer of a history of Chinese Studies in Germany will have to address is: What is meant by Chinese Studies? As has been mentioned, before World War II Chinese Studies in Germany were inseparable from Manchu and often also Mongolian studies. A third, more general, question is: What is meant by the term “premodern”? Manchu studies were obviously not premodern in the nineteenth century. The separation was not a natural one until the fall of imperial China; it remains problematic.

Paris, where Klaproth chose to live, had established the first European chair for Chinese and Tatar-Manchu languages at the Collège de France in 1814. The first professor was Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat (1788–1832) who had two German students, Heinrich Kurz (1805–1873) and Karl Friedrich Neumann (1793–1870). From 1832 Kurz briefly taught at the University in Munich, but he worked mainly as a journalist and was thrown into prison for his liberal ideas. In prison he retranslated the Huajianji 華箋記, a novel in verse from the end of the Ming or the beginning of the Qing period.Footnote 5 He emigrated to Switzerland but after publishing the Blumenblatt, eine epische Dichtung der Chinesen, in St. Gall in 1836 he became a specialist in German literature and did not continue with Chinese. Neumann was given a professorship for Armenian and Chinese in Munich in exchange for a huge collection of Chinese books that he had bought during travel to China between 1829 and 1831 and then smuggled out of the country. Neumann had originally planned to sell all his 6,000 Chinese books—which was more than the 5,000 volumes that the library in Paris held at that time—to the Royal Prussian Library in Berlin. Berlin accepted only some 2,400 volumes, however, because of the high costs involved. Neumann had to step down from his position in Munich in 1852 because he had participated in revolutionary activities in 1848. He published several general works on China.Footnote 6

Johann Heinrich Plath (1802–1874), born in Hamburg, studied classics in Göttingen and discovered Chinese, which he learned on his own. The result of his studies was a book, Die Völker der Mandschurey (1830), for which he relied on the reports of travelers and of scholars such as Abel-Rémusat or Klaproth. The book described the peoples as they were seen by specialists of the time, but also described the entire dependence of Manchurian culture on the Chinese one. Contrary to those who in Europe had said that the Manchu language offered access to Chinese literature, Plath pointed out that in Manchu there was not even such a major work of Chinese history as the Shiji 史記 by Sima Qian 司馬遷.Footnote 7 Like many other intellectuals of his time Plath spent several years in prison for his collaboration with illegal forces in the thirties. In 1836 he was condemned to twelve years in prison, of which he had to serve eight years in the Celle penitentiary. He ended up working at the court library in Munich and became a member of the Bavarian Academy of Science in 1860.

The first major work of Chinese literature that was to be translated into German was the novel Jin Ping Mei 金瓶梅. Yet, as his base text the translator Hans Conon von der Gabelentz (1807–1874) used a version in Manchu. Von der Gabelentz had studied Oriental languages in Leipzig and written the Éléments de la grammaire mandchoue (Altenburg, 1833) and also worked on Mongolian grammar, although he was a politician and never taught at a university. Nevertheless, von der Gabelentz, who was one of the founding members of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, was the man to whom Sinology at German universities ultimately goes back—and the establishment of academic German traditional Sinology thus begins with a pornographic novel forbidden in China at that time. This is because all later German Sinological university traditions start with his son Georg von der Gabelentz (1840–1893). Georg studied Chinese with his father while he was still at the Gymnasium in Altenburg/Thuringia. In Leipzig he studied Chinese, Japanese, and Manchu, earning his doctorate for a translation of Zhou Dunyi's 周敦頤 (1017–1073) Taijitu 太極圖 with the commentary of Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200). The University of Leipzig created an extraordinary professorship for East Asian languages for him in 1878, which was the first such position in Germany. It is not clear what this professorship really entailed. Regular professors were paid well in Germany, but associate or “außerplanmäßig” professors often received a very low salary or even none at all.Footnote 8 They had the right to teach but not to be paid.

In 1881, Georg von der Gabelentz published his Chinesische Grammatik, an insightful work that was still recommended to this author when he studied classical Chinese in the 1980s and that was republished in Leipzig in 1960 because not much progress had been made on the subject during the almost eighty years since its first appearance. Among Georg von der Gabelentz’ students were Wilhelm Grube (b. 1855 in St. Petersburg; d. 1908 in Berlin), whose book on the Jurchen language is still an important tool,Footnote 9 and J. J. M. de Groot (b. 1854 in Amsterdam; d. 1921 Berlin). De Groot, who was Dutch, returned to Holland after earning his Ph.D. in Leipzig, and became professor of anthropology (“Volkenkunde”) in Leiden in 1891. In 1904 he took over the vacant chair for Sinology there, but he returned to Germany in 1912, where he became the first ordinary professor for Sinology in Berlin. De Groot was to become famous for his six-volume Religious System of China and for creating the concept of the Chinese Universismus. Footnote 10

Chinese Studies in the Three Major Centers of Leipzig, Berlin, and Hamburg and the Expansion of Classical Sinology

Berlin had been a center of Chinese studies for some time.Footnote 11 The first Sinologist who was to work at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin was Wilhelm Christian Schott (b. 1802 in Mainz; d. 1889 in Berlin). Schott had studied Oriental languages in Halle since 1821 and taught two Chinese students who had come there. Having written his doctoral dissertation on the Arabo-Islamic Sunna, his Habilitation was the first German translation of the Confucian Analects, in 1826. For this he relied heavily on Marshman's English translation.Footnote 12 In 1830 Schott went to Berlin, where he worked with Neumann's collection of Chinese books, obtaining an extra-curricular professorship in 1838, a position that did not involve a salary. Only in 1841 was he given a salary at the academy of sciences, but he had to teach the Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian languages since Chinese did not attract enough students. He is one the fathers of the so-called Altaic theory, which postulates a relationship between the Finnougric, Turkish, Mongolian, and Tungusic languages.

With the foundation of the German Kaiserreich in 1871 the need for expertise on China increased. In 1887 the University of Berlin had established a Seminar for Oriental Languages because of Germany's obvious need of experts for its expanding consular service in China. When Schott died in 1889, the university of Berlin offered Georg von der Gabelentz a chair for East Asian languages and general linguistics (Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft), which he accepted. Berlin became a major center for Chinese studies also because Ferdinand von Richthofen (b. 1833 Carlsruhe (Silesia); d. 1905 Berlin), who had travelled extensively in China, in 1886 became a professor of geography there. He popularized the term “silk road,” and he taught major students such as the Swedish traveler and geographer Sven Hedin (1865–1952). At the same time Carl Arendt (1838–1902) became professor for Chinese language and established the teaching of modern Chinese at the university. Arendt had studied Chinese in Beijing from 1865, and he worked as an interpreter for the German legation that had been sent to China after the treaty of Tianjin in 1861.

Wilhelm Grube worked at the anthropological museum in Berlin. For many years he had been preparing a translation of the novel Fengshen yanyi 封神演義,Footnote 13 and he had hoped to become the successor of his teacher von der Gabelentz when the latter died in 1893, but the position was only filled again in 1912, when de Groot was summoned. Grube remained an extraordinary professor without a salary until the end of his life, working at the anthropological museum. Friedrich Hirth (1845–1927) wrote that in 1889 everybody had thought that Grube would become the successor of von der Gabelentz in Leipzig,Footnote 14 and the Prussian ministry for culture had already offered Grube's position to Friedrich Hirth. Hirth, who had learned Chinese and met with renowned Sinologists while working at the Chinese maritime customs between 1870 and 1897, did not accept the position, since he wanted a full professorship. He was to get what he wanted only in 1902, and not in Germany but at Columbia University in New York.Footnote 15 Hirth was to write books on ancient China and Rome and to translate the chapter on Central Asia and the Xiongnu 匈奴 of the Hanshu 漢書, but he did so in English, not in German. Because of its unwillingness to pay appropriately for scholars, Germany lost many China experts during that time. Together with Hirth, Sir Robert Hart had also hired Paul Georg von Möllendorff (b. 1847 Zehdenick; d. 1901 Ningbo) whose works on Manchu Grammar and literature are still worth studying.Footnote 16

Grube's name is important not only because of his work on Chinese literatureFootnote 17 and customs, but also because in Berlin he taught three important German Sinologists, namely Otto Franke (1863–1946), Berthold Laufer (1874–1934), and Erich Haenisch (b. 1880 Berlin; d. 1966 Stuttgart) whose works were to become crucial for the further development of Chinese Studies in the early twentieth century. Laufer, who was of Jewish descent, left Germany in 1898 to work in the United States, first in New York and then in Chicago, and he is therefore not to be considered among those who shaped the development of German Sinology.Footnote 18 Franke and Haenisch, however, were to become central figures in the development of traditional Chinese studies in Germany.

After studying the Chinese language in Berlin and writing a Ph.D. dissertation in the field of Indology, Otto Franke had gone to China to work as an interpreter for the German embassies in Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai between 1888 and 1901, a time during which he travelled widely in China. As Franke had come to Sinology as a man who had lived in China before becoming a scholar, he made his Habilitation in Berlin in 1903, at the age of forty, which in those days was very late. Much of what he wrote at that time did actually concern modern China, and that may have been the reason that in 1909 he was selected to become professor of languages and history of East Asia at the Colonial Institute in Hamburg (since 1919 University of Hamburg), the first chair for East Asian studies in Germany. This institution certainly had become necessary, due to the rise of imperialism in Europe and the USA, which had led to the acquisition of colonies by all major Western powers in the 1890s. In 1902 Franke published a book on Jehol, today called Chengde, the summer residence of the Manchu emperors. His book on the Chunqiu and the Han scholar Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 (179–104)Footnote 19 was inspired by his contact with contemporary Chinese reformers such as Kang Youwei 康有為 (1858–1927). Here we again encounter the problem of actually making a distinction between contemporary and classical China studies at the time when Franke wrote.

In 1923 Franke became successor to de Groot in Berlin, where he had many more students than in Hamburg. Among them were Walter Simon, Stephan Balàzs, Wolfram Eberhard, Annemarie von Gabain, Walter Fuchs, and Hellmut Wilhelm, to name only those who later were to become most influential. In Berlin, he worked at his monumental history of China, especially after his retirement in 1931. He managed to publish three volumes that covered the time from the historical beginnings until the end of the Tang dynasty. Two more volumes consisting of text and notes were ready for publication in 1944 but could not be published during the war.Footnote 20 They came out posthumously and, although of course they do not meet modern historiographic standards, they are still an extremely useful tool for those seeking a narrative of Chinese history that is critical of its sources but still allows the reader to know how the authors of the Chinese standard histories told it.

Like Otto Franke, Erich Hauer (1878–1936) studied Chinese in Berlin in order to work afterwards for fifteen years in the German consular service. Only afterward did he study again in Berlin. His monumental translation of documents on the foundation of the Qing empire, the Huang-Qing Kaiguo fanglüe 皇清開國方略, was published in 1926. Subsequently he taught at the University of Berlin as a Sinologist with a focus on Manchu and Mongolian. His Handwörterbuch der Mandschusprache, which was published posthumously in 1952, remains the best Manchu dictionary in Western languages.Footnote 21 He died of a heart attack aboard a ship that was bringing him back from vacation in the summer of 1936.

One other important name of the Berlin school of East Asian studies was Ferdinand Lessing (1882–1961), who had studied with Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Müller at the Museum for Anthropology in Berlin. He went to China in 1907 to teach languages in Chinese and Japanese colleges for seventeen years before becoming professor of Chinese and succeeding Müller as the curator of the museum in 1927. In the early 1930s he joined Sven Hedin on an expedition to China, and in 1935 he was recruited by the University of California, Berkeley, where he headed the Department of Oriental Languages; he became an American citizen in 1946. Being the second German to work as a professor in East Asian studies at Berkeley, he added Mongolian and Tibetan to the Berkeley curriculum.Footnote 22 There he met Peter Alexis Boodberg (1903–1972), a descendant of a Baltic-German family who had been born in Vladivostok where his father had served in the Russian army and had come to San Francisco in 1920. Lessing is best known for his Mongolian–English Dictionary, which is still the most widely used dictionary for classical Mongolian in the Western world, and for his work on the Lama temple in Beijing.Footnote 23 In China Lessing met Anna Bernhardi (1868–1944), apparently the first woman in a Sinological world that was for a long time almost exclusively male. Bernhardi had been a painter until 1900, when she heard about the political events in China. She decided to study Chinese at the Berlin Institute and then went to China for several years, corresponding with Grube and working at the museum for anthropology afterwards. She will always be remembered for having made the first complete translation of the poems of Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365–427), published as an offprint of the Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen in 1912.Footnote 24

Although Hamburg had created the earliest chair for Chinese studies, Leipzig remained, as far as the number of students was concerned, the second center for Chinese studies after Berlin. That Hamburg could not compete may have had something to do with the character of Alfred Forke (1867–1944) who became Franke's successor in Hamburg. He was interested in philosophy but he apparently did not teach many students.Footnote 25 Forke had studied law in Berlin and worked for the German consulate in Beijing between 1890 and 1903 before he returned to Berlin to teach Chinese at the Seminar for Oriental Languages. This was not a major position, and so Forke was happy to accept an offer by the University of California, Berkeley, to teach there as well. His tenure in Berlin apparently did not end, but World War I allowed him to stay at Berkeley from 1914–1917. Berkeley counts him as the holder of the chair for East Asian Languages and Cultures during that time, while Haenisch says in his obituary that Forke actually had to stay in the United States during World War I.Footnote 26 Forke translated the works of the Han philosopher Wang Chong 王充 (30–100?) into the English language,Footnote 27 and later, in 1922, those of Mozi 墨子 into German.Footnote 28 This was to become a major source of inspiration for Berthold Brecht's fragmentary Me-ti, Buch der Wendungen, a text that Brecht worked on in the early thirties.Footnote 29 Forke's major work, however, would be his history of Chinese philosophy, the Geschichte der chinesischen Philosophie in three volumes. Erich Haenisch later was to remark that this was rather a history of Chinese philosophers than one of Chinese philosophy. Yet, these volumes still remain a landmark in the field because Forke actually covered many names which do not appear in major Western histories of Chinese philosophy even today.Footnote 30 Forke also translated several Yuan 元 dramas which were published only posthumously.Footnote 31 This remains an extremely important achievement, since after him there is very little German scholarship on this subject, which was also considered unworthy of scholarly consideration in China until Wang Guowei 王國維 (1877–1927).

In 1935 Forke was succeeded in Hamburg by Fritz Jäger (1886–1957), a student of Otto Franke. Jäger was interested in the Shiji 史記 and in Ming 明 history, the latter probably because Otto Franke's history of China did not cover it, but he did not publish very much, and there is no major book by him. He was, however, a very serious scholar. The judgments on experts that he wrote as a member of the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP), between 1938 and 1943 on the younger generation of German Sinologists show him as an extremely sharp and also fair observer.Footnote 32 He must also have been a gifted teacher since former Franke students such as Otto's son Wolfgang Franke (1912–2007) and Alfred Hoffmann (1911–1997) left Berlin and came to study in Hamburg when Erich Haenisch took over the Berlin chair.

The position which Georg von der Gabelentz had held in Leipzig until 1889 remained vacant for several years. It was only filled by August Conrady (1864–1925) in 1896. The University of Leipzig created a chair for him in 1920 which was the third of its kind in Germany after those in Hamburg and in Berlin. Like Otto Franke, Conrady had begun as an Indologist and become a Sinologist only later in his career. Unlike Franke, he did not go to China, and as a result he did not become an eminent Sinologist as far as his publications were concerned. However, he seems to have been a rigid philologist. As such he was able to train students among whom the most important names were Bruno Schindler (b. 1882 Leschnitz; d. 1964 London), Gustav Haloun (b. Pirnitz/Brtnice 1898; d. Cambridge 1951) and Eduard Erkes (b. Genua 1891; d. Leipzig 1958). What made a difference between the Sinologists from Leipzig and those from Berlin was that almost all of the Leipzig Sinologists lacked any experience in China, while most Berlin protagonists knew China well. An exception was Franz Xaver Biallas (1878–1936) from Silasia, one of Conrady's first students, who was the first academically trained Sinologist of the Steyler missionaries. He wrote a dissertation on Qu Yuan, a subject in which Conrady was very much interested, as can be seen by his own posthumous publications and more so by those of his son-in-law Eduard Erkes. Biallas went to China in 1926 to teach at the catholic Fu-jen 輔仁 University, which in the fifties was to become incorporated into Beijing Shifan daxue 北京師範大學. In 1928 he published a book on Confucius and his Cult which in some respects is still unsurpassed.Footnote 33 His main life achievement, however, was the foundation of the journal Monumenta Serica which is the only one of the major German journals in Chinese Studies of those times that still exists today in Germany.

Erich Haenisch became Conrady's successor in Leipzig. He continued the tradition that was common to both the Berlin and the Leipzig centers for Chinese studies that combined Chinese with Manchu and Mongolian studies. On the other hand, he did not really continue the tradition of religious studies that had always been an important element at Leipzig. Already his dissertation which he finished at the age of 23 in 1903 dealt with a comparison of the Chinese translation of the Mongolian history Erdeni yin tobci, rendered as “Geschichte der Ostmongolen” by Isaac Jacob Schmidt in his complete German translation of 1829.Footnote 34 In 1904 Haenisch went to China as a teacher of the German language at the military academy in Wuchang where he stayed until the outbreak of the Chinese revolution in 1911. During these seven years he travelled widely in China. Upon his return to Berlin he worked for the Anthropological Museum. In 1913 he finished his Habilitation on the uprising of Wu Sangui 吳三桂 (1612–1678) at the beginning of the Qing period.Footnote 35 During World War I Haenisch served in the German army, becoming a prisoner of war in the end. After his return, in 1920 he became an adjunct professor of Chinese “colonial languages” (Mongolian and Manchu) in Berlin. He remained in Leipzig until he was recalled to succeed Otto Franke in Berlin in 1932. In 1928 he had travelled to Northern China and Mongolia for several months to study Mongolian manuscripts in Ulan-Bator. On the basis of one of the first Chinese textbooksFootnote 36 that had been compiled after the reforms of the school curriculum in 1905, in 1929 Haenisch began to publish his own Lehrgang der klassischen chinesischen Schriftsprache,Footnote 37 an introduction into Classical Chinese that was used in many German Sinological institutes until the end of the twentieth century, although it was superseded as early as 1985 by Ulrich Unger's Einführung in das Klassische Chinesisch.Footnote 38 Probably the most important of Erich Haenisch's publications was his reconstruction and translation of the Secret History of the Mongols which came out in Leipzig in 1941,Footnote 39 eight years before Paul Pelliot's version, which appeared posthumously.Footnote 40 Haenisch also translated many chapters of the Shiji and published widely on Confucianism.

Before becoming a professor in Leipzig in 1925, in the beginning of the same year Haenisch went to Göttingen, where he founded the Sinological institute. It took another six years until Gustav Haloun was called to Göttingen to teach mainly in the field of classical Chinese philosophy. In 1926/27 the University of Bonn decided to establish a department for Chinese with an associate professor for which Erich Schmitt (1893–1955), a student of de Groot, was chosen.Footnote 41

Also in 1925, the university of Frankfurt decided to establish a position in Chinese studies; this was filled by the famous translator Richard Wilhelm (1873–1930) from Stuttgart in southern Germany. Wilhelm stood in a German missionary tradition that included Karl Gützlaff (1803–1851), who had worked in the administration of Hong Kong, Ernst Johann Eitel (1838–1908), who is famous for his book on the practice of Fengshui 風水,Footnote 42 as well as Ernst Faber (1839–1899), who had worked on ancient Chinese philosophers. Faber is important because he wrote on Mengzi 孟子, Liezi 列子 and on Mozi 墨子 whom he declared to be the founder of ancient Chinese socialism.Footnote 43 Wilhelm praised his translation of the Zhuangzi 壯子 which, however, was destroyed in a fire before being published.Footnote 44 Wilhelm succeeded Faber in Qingdao 青島 (or Tsingtau) in 1900, two years after the German colony had been founded there. He had studied Protestant theology in Tübingen in 1891 and began a career as a Protestant minister in Southern Germany before in 1900 for the German East Asia mission going to Qingdao where all his four sons were born and where he learned Chinese. He established a German-Chinese school for which he was given the “button fourth rank” by Empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧 (1835–1908). He stayed in China until 1920.

During this time he befriended numerous Chinese intellectuals and, with the help of his teacher Lao Naixuan 勞乃宣 (1843–1921), began his prolific work as a translator of Chinese classical texts into the German language. He began with the Lunyu 論語 and the Daodejing 道德經, which were published with Eugen Diederichs in Jena in 1910 and 1911 when his Liezi also came out. Wilhelm's preface to the translation of the Zhuangzi is dated 21 March 1912. In 1916 he prepared a Mong Dsi for the same publisher, and in 1924 he published his translation of the Yijing 易經 which was, thanks to the famous translation by Cary F. Baynes into English, to become his greatest success. In 1928 the Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 followed, and in the year of Wilhelm's death Diederichs produced his partial translation of the Book of Rites (Li Gi 1930), while a translation of the Kongzi jiayu 孔子家語 was published posthumously by Wilhelm's son Hellmut.Footnote 45 What made all these translations so valuable was the German prose that Wilhelm was able to write. It is a mixture of influences from such classics as Goethe or the Luther bible that makes them predestined for teaching undergraduates. His Liezi, Zhuangzi or his Lunyu make better reading for the non-Sinologist than every other translation of these works that came out in German afterwards. There are many problems with these translations, of course. Wilhelm translated technical or philosophical terms often in different ways, and a word such as dao 道 became “der Sinn” (meaning) in some of his translations which is inspired by Goethe's Faust but certainly does not render what dao actually means. His rendering of ren 仁 and yi 義 in Mong Dsi as “Liebe” und “Pflicht” is heavily influenced by a southern German protestant and a Prussian background and has little to do with the Chinese original. And yet, these translations have made Chinese thought visible in Germany in a way that would otherwise not have been possible. The German translation of the Lüshi chunqiu was a major achievement that remained unparalleled in Western Sinology until John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel superseded it in the English-speaking world seventy-two years later.Footnote 46

Wilhelm published widely, but many of his books were not written in the rigorously scholarly manner that was characteristic of German Sinology in the first half of the twentieth century.Footnote 47 For this he was criticized by colleagues back home. While in Tsingtau he was admired in China because of his willingness to interact with the Chinese people, which was not often the case with the colonial inhabitants of Tsingtau. Wilhelm stayed in China during World War I. In 1920, after the treaty of Versailles had been ratified and Jiaozhou 膠州 was given to the Japanese, he came back to Germany where he met a rich countess in Darmstadt, an acquaintance that was to become important in 1925 when, after having again gone to China and worked as a professor for German literature and philosophy at Peking University from 1922 to 1924, he for a second time returned to Germany to teach at Frankfurt University. The countess gave an endowment to create a chair for him, which he filled for the remaining years of his life.Footnote 48

Finally, some words should be said here about two other famous translators, namely Franz Kuhn (1884–1961) and Vincenz Hundhausen (1878–1955). According to Franz Kuhn's own words de Groot threw him out of the Berlin Institute because he was interested only in novels, which according to his teacher were not a good subject for a serious Sinologist. Kuhn briefly worked for the German foreign service but then studied Sinology in Berlin between 1913 and 1919 and became a successful translator who introduced the German readership to shortened versions of the Jin Ping Mei, the Shui hu zhuan 水滸傳, the Honglou meng 紅樓夢, the erotic novel Roupu tuan 肉蒲團, and many other Ming or Qing stories.Footnote 49 Vincenz Hundhausen went to China in 1923 as a lawyer, but then became a professor of literature at Peking University. There he discovered Chinese poetry and drama. He translated several important Chinese dramas such as the Xixiangji 西京雜記, the Pipaji 琵琶雞, and the Mudan ting 牡丹亭 into German and had these pieces performed with a German-Chinese theatre group in Beijing as well as in Europe—though not in Nazi Germany. Hundhausen was expelled from China in 1954 and had to abandon his library of 12,000 volumes. He died a year later, a broken man.Footnote 50

The Third Reich and its Consequences for German Sinology

German Sinology had grown steadily during the first three decades of the twentieth century.Footnote 51 The rise of Hitler's NSDAP was to bring this development to an end. It is obvious that Germany lost half a generation of its Sinologists in the thirties and forties, although the reasons for emigration are not always entirely clear. In the twenties many young men had been trained in the two institutes of Berlin and Leipzig the history of which was closely intertwined. They were actually waiting for open positions. Hamburg had been an offshoot that was to truly take off only after World War II, as would the other three centers in Bonn, Göttingen, and in Frankfurt.

Erich Haenisch's major students in Berlin after 1932 were Peter Olbricht (1909–2001) who after earning his Ph.D. in 1938 worked for the foreign service, probably deciphering Chinese messages, and Herbert Franke (1914–2011) who was to become the major figure in developing Sinology in Munich after the war. In Hamburg Fritz Jäger's main students were Alfred Hoffmann and Wolfgang Franke, while in Frankfurt, Erwin Rousselle (1890–1949) succeeded Richard Wilhelm in 1931 as he had done in Beijing where he had taught as a professor of German philosophy at the Chinese University, today Peking University, and at Tsinghua. He did not hold a chair, however, since the endowment of the countess had only been ad personam for Richard Wilhelm. Moreover, he had not studied Sinology and could not therefore train students with the necessary philological rigor. He approached the Daodejing from a philosophical point of view but for a Sinologist he did nothing to improve a scholarly understanding of the text. As a member of the Masons he was not well liked by the Nazis, and in 1939 his license to teach was revoked. Carl Hentze (1883–1975), a Belgian and one of the founders of the journal Artibus Asiae, replaced him with the protection of the National Socialists. Hentze worked on Shang 尚 bronzes and rejected the Wilhelm/Rousselle approach to classical Chinese studies, which he deemed entirely unscientific or, in his own words, as “frothing at the mouth” (Schaumschlägerei). For scholarly reasons many other German Sinologists agreed.Footnote 52 In March 1944 bombs destroyed the institute in Frankfurt with all its holdings. Sinica, the Frankfurt journal for Chinese studies that had been founded by Richard Wilhelm in 1925, had come to an end two years earlier. Hentze and Rousselle fought for some time after the war over who could lead the institute in Frankfurt again, but both lost in this struggle. It took three decades to revive Sinological activities in Frankfurt.

As has been stated above, the Sinological center of Leipzig had been led by Haenisch from 1925 until 1932. Students of Conrady were still there. Bruno Schindler had in his youth been to England where he had worked as a secretary. When he began to become interested in Chinese he went back to Germany to register in the University of Leipzig to study Oriental languages. In 1912 he went to China, living for some time in Kaifeng and studying the Jewish community which had existed there. In Shanghai he helped to found a Jewish community. He returned to Germany before the outbreak of the war, and in 1919 submitted his dissertation entitled Priestertum im alten China. Schindler is remembered for founding the journal Asia Major, in 1920, which was to become the second major journal for Chinese studies in Germany after the Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen (1898–1935). In 1933 he emigrated to England. This brought Asia Major to an end, but he was able to revive it in England in 1949.Footnote 53

Conrady's major student was Gustav Haloun (1898–1951) from Pirnitz (today Brtnice in the Czech Republic), who had begun to study Sinology in Vienna with Arthur von Rosthorn and had then come to Leipzig to write his dissertation on the history of clan settlement in ancient China, Beiträge zur Siedlungsgeschichte chinesischer Clans II: Phratrie Yen-Ying-Ki I: Der Ahnherr Shao-Hao (mit einem Exkurs über die Genealogie der Chou, part of which was published in English in Asia Major in 1924.Footnote 54 In 1926 at the German University in Prague he submitted his Habilitation on the relations between Chinese and Tocharians or Indogermans,Footnote 55 a study that still is cited by scholars working in this field. His argument that Daxia 大夏 and Tocharians are not the same words has been widely accepted. In 1928 he went to Halle but was called to Göttingen in 1930/31 where he became director of the new Sinological Institute and built up a Sinological library without, however, receiving a regular salary. In 1934 he was promoted to associate professor, a position that still did not mean riches. It is therefore not entirely clear whether he accepted the offer to become successor of Arthur Christopher Moule in Cambridge because he was an enemy of the Nazis or, as Walter Fuchs speculates, because this simply was a true promotion. It does seem, however, that opposition to the Nazis indeed was a reason for him to leave Germany.Footnote 56 In Cambridge he built up the institute and its library. There is no major book by Haloun but his articles on the Guanzi and on such little-studied texts as the Yi Zhoushu 逸周書 as well as on China's relations to Central Asia were important ground work on which later research could build.

Eduard Erkes (1891–1958), the third student of Conrady (and his son-in-law), had submitted his dissertation on the Zhaohun 招魂 poem of the Chuci 楚辭 in 1913, a subject that at that time had not yet been studied by others, and he worked on related chapters of the Chuci and Song Yu 宋玉, one of its authors, in the twenties after having submitted his Habilitation on the Huainanzi 淮南子 in 1917. Conrady himself had worked on the Heavenly Questions (Tian wen 天問), a study on this subject by him was published posthumously. His and Erkes’ work were of lasting influence, and it should also be pointed out that Erkes’ translation of the Heshang gong 河上公 commentary on the Laozi was a milestone in the history of research on Daoism that, despite Henri Maspero's work, was to really take off only long after World War II.Footnote 57 Erkes became a member of the social-democratic party in 1919, and in 1933 this led to the revocation of his permission to teach. There had been problems when he was considered to become an “außerordentlicher Professor” in 1925. Already then, this may have had something to do with his political convictions. But Sinologists also had problems with the way he translated and understood classical Chinese. For socialists the noble man of Confucius became a person of higher standing in the social hierarchy,Footnote 58 a reading that does have some plausibility and that was preferred by more radical communists before and during the cultural revolution in China. It was, however, a problem that the twentieth century was more concerned with than ancient China. Political differences often were mixed with scholarly ones. Erkes apparently was denounced as politically not reliable by Otto Kümmel (1874–1952) who had worked as one of the first specialists of East Asian arts in Berlin.Footnote 59

Erkes stayed in Leipzig and worked as an independent scholar, producing articles on animals in ancient China, many of which appeared in the leading journal T'oung Pao.Footnote 60 From his students he demanded a more meditative approach to philology than most Sinologists at this time would accept. This, too, may have been a reason that his scholarly work was not fully appreciated for a long time. Erkes became a member of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and was to lead the institute until his death in 1958. During the 1930s and during the war the Leipzig institute was led by André Wedemeyer, a historian who mainly worked in the field of Japanese Studies. Thus, of Conrady's three major students, two went to England while one was able to stay in Leipzig and managed to continue the Leipzig tradition of Sinology after the war although he never published a major scholarly book.

Conrady's students in Leipzig were by far outnumbered by the students of Otto Franke in Berlin. The oldest of them was Walter Simon (1893–1981) who had first studied romance and classical philology classical philology in his hometown Berlin. After World War I, during which he was working in military intelligence, he earned his Ph.D. in 1919 and only then, at the age of twenty-six, did he become interested in Sinology, becoming a Privatdozent in 1926. In 1932 he got the title of an extra-curricular professor receiving an income from working as a librarian. Wolfgang Franke, who was a student in Berlin when his father Otto retired, later said that he enjoyed the seminars of Simon, in particular in comparison with purely philological readings offered later by Haenisch, whose approach to texts he did not appreciate. When Simon was forbidden to teach, students protested to the authorities, but, obviously, to no avail.Footnote 61 He was dismissed after the anti-Jewish Nuremberg laws in 1935 and left Germany in 1936 when it became obvious that there was no future left for a Jew at home. Otto Franke, Erich Haenisch, and Paul Kahle (1875–1964) had recommended him, and with the help of some donors he was appointed at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where he held a chair from 1947 and in 1952 became head of the Department. Simon was later to build up the Sinological library at SOAS. As a scholar, Simon had been famous for his Tibetan-Chinese word equations.Footnote 62 Schindler, Haloun, and Simon all thus went to Britain to help to build up Sinology there.

Another student of Franke was Annemarie von Gabain (1901–1993) who earned her Ph.D. with the first translation of the Xinyu 新語 of the Han scholar Lu Jia 陸賈 (died 170 BCE). She was to become a Turkologist, working in Ankara from 1935 to 1937. She became a member of the National Socialist Worker's Party in 1939 but she did also try to help persecuted scientists. As far as Chinese studies are concerned, it is important to note that she worked on the Turfan texts in Uyghur script which had been brought to Berlin by Artur von Le Coq's expeditions. Becoming an eminent figure in German Turkic studies, not in Sinology, she was the one who helped Wolfram Eberhard, another student of Otto Franke's, to find a position in Ankara.Footnote 63

Eberhard (1909–1989) had begun to study Sinology and Manchu in Berlin in 1927, and, as one biographer says, as an anthropologist he studied modern Chinese with Ferdinand Lessing secretly at the institute for Oriental languages because his teachers in Sinology disapproved of this, thinking that a good Sinologue should not waste his time studying colloquial Chinese in Germany. On the other hand, the teachers at the seminar disapproved of Eberhard studying classical Chinese, a division that later was to become characteristic of some places in Germany.Footnote 64 Eberhard earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on Beiträge zur kosmologischen Spekulation in der Han-Zeit, a study in which he discussed the long treatise on the Five Elements of the Hanshu. Nothing relevant has been done in Western Sinological literature on this text since this remarkable study. Eberhard married in 1934 and, barely twenty-five years old, immediately went to China with his wife. He briefly returned to Germany in 1936 but left again when he saw that, as a social-democrat,Footnote 65 his situation in Germany would be difficult, and at the same time got the chance to go on a journey around the world in 1937. On this trip, in Hong Kong he heard that there was a position for him in Ankara where Annemarie von Gabain had laid the foundations of Sinology.Footnote 66 After two years he was expected to teach in Turkish, and he began to publish in German and Turkish on Turkish and other Central-Asian peoples in ancient China. His path-breaking studies on the Weishu 魏書 and the Toba/Wei, for which he introduced an anthropological/sociological approach that was also characteristic of his short history of China published in 1948,Footnote 67 were a natural result of his new surroundings in Turkey. He stayed in Ankara until 1948 when through Franz Michael (1907–1992)Footnote 68 he was recruited to Berkeley where he became a professor of sociology, joining Ferdinand Lessing and Peter Boodberg. Chinese Studies at Berkeley was under a strong German influence for some time. Eberhard, who throughout his life remained in contact with Chinese studies in Germany, had a vast interest in Chinese folklore and literature.Footnote 69 Fritz Jäger, who was obviously distressed about the difficult situation of German Sinology, which had been decimated by the emigration of many talented scholars, wrote in 1938 that Eberhard was clearly the most gifted of the younger German Sinologists, the greatest hope of Sinology.Footnote 70

The Hungarian Istvan (German: Stefan, French: Étienne) Balázs was another Franke student who began to apply the sociological approach to China which Max Weber had introduced without being a Sinologist. It is said that Franke considered him his best student.Footnote 71 First interested in history of thought, Balázs wrote his dissertation on the economic history of the Tang 唐 and published two articles in German on the economic history of other periods. In 1935 he left Germany for political reasons, but he stayed in contact with German Sinologists.

Balazs was to become a bone of contention in Fritz Jäger's efforts to produce a Festschrift on the occasion of the seventieth birthday of Alfred Forke. In November, 1935, Jäger had asked Erwin Rousselle whether it would be possible to make use of a special edition of Sinica to produce a Festschrift for Forke. Given Rousselle's approach to scholarship, Jäger cannot have been a great friend of Sinica, and he would probably have loved to publish the Festschrift in Asia Major, which had been the major journal for Chinese studies in Germany. Now he wrote that the future of Asia Major was all but secure.Footnote 72 This was a euphemism since it was clear that the editor had had to leave Germany and was certainly not willing to allow those who had stayed to make use of his journal. Why the Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen in Berlin was not considered is not clear—maybe Jäger knew that it would have been difficult to get Otto Franke and Erich Haenisch on board. The lack of a good journal in Germany for scholarship on China in Germany had become a problem. Rousselle answered positively. By March 26, 1936, Jäger had drawn up an impressive list of twenty-six SinologistsFootnote 73 who he thought should contribute, although he commented with regret that he had had to leave out Walter Simon because he was Non-Aryan. On August 5 of that year Rousselle sent out a different list, which included nineteen of the names that had been on Jäger's list. Some of Jäger's names had been omitted and new ones had been added, among them that of Dr. Stefan Balázs.

In a letter dated 23 October 1936 Rousselle told Jäger that among the contributions which had been sent in there was one by “Dr. Stefan Balàzs, Neuilly sur Seine. However, I feel as if there have been great differences of opinion about him lately.”Footnote 74 Jäger answered that he had seen Balazs only once but that he had asked Hans O. Stange (1903–1978), another student of Franke, about him. Stange had told him that during a political discussion “B revealed himself to be a sworn Marxist and Communist to the last brutal Bolshevik consequence.”

Stange cannot say whether B. was actively active as a communist, since B. always studiously avoided questions about his personal life and circumstances. Under these circumstances, I consider it impossible that an article by B. could still appear in a German journal … From the point of view of our science it may seem very regrettable that such an excellent researcher as B. is lost for German Sinology, one can only wonder again and again that people of real education so easily fall prey to the communist doctrine of salvation.Footnote 75

With this, the case was closed, and Rousselle sent Balàzs back his article. Otto Franke declined to write a preface to the Festschrift, and Jäger stated that he did not dare to ask him again—obviously because he knew that the answer certainly would have been no. Franke had written a preface to the Festschrift for the Japanologist Karl Florenz the year before, and already at that time the name of Simon had been a problem.Footnote 76

Other than the omitted Walter Simon, Jäger had clearly listed all those German Sinologists whom he considered good, no matter whether they were in Germany or not. But there were, of course, limits that could not be passed. It took years until the Festschrift was finished. Partly this was due to Jäger's failure to hand in his own article in time. In the end, the Festschrift Forke consisted of a dedication by Jäger and Rousselle, a bibliography of Forke's works by Fritz Jäger, and eight articles, among them one by Jäger, one by Werner Eichhorn (more on whom later), and one by Walter Fuchs. The other contributors were not Sinologists.Footnote 77 A planned second volume never appeared.

Stange was soon promoted to become successor of Gustav Haloun in Göttingen as a “Dozent,” a kind of associate professor with a low but stable income. Stange was a party member like Jäger himself. Jäger promoted him but subtle remarks clearly show that he did not appreciate Stange, whom he apparently regarded as a careerist.Footnote 78 Neither did he regard his scholarly work particularly highly. Among Stange's few works he only praised his translation of the long biography of Wang Mang 王莽 (45BCE–23 CE) in Ban Gu's 班固 (32–92) Hanshu which Stange submitted as his Habilitation in 1939.Footnote 79 It was indeed a book of high philological standard which preceded its English equivalentFootnote 80 by sixteen years and was of equal quality. In 1945 Stange was removed from his position but he returned in 1953, after denazification,Footnote 81 and was director of the Göttingen Institute in 1957 until his retirement in 1970. His name is associated with the only Chinese–German Dictionary for classical Chinese, the new edition of 1959 of the Chinesisch–Deutsches Wörterbuch that had originally been published by Werner Rüdenberg (1881–1961) in 1925.

Fritz Jäger emerges from his posthumous letters and experts’ opinions as a tragic figure. He certainly was convinced of the German cause as the NSDAP presented it, but at some points the reader gets the impression that he also may have thought that by being a member of the party he could protect German Sinology and hold together as many of its branches as possible. He certainly was more interested in quality of research than in Nazi ideology, and he tried to do as much as possible for young German Sinologists of whom it was clear that they did not share Nazi beliefs. On some of them who left Germany he was very positive, while he criticized his fellow party member Stange. Although certainly not impressed by the scholarship of Erwin Rousselle, who was not a Nazi, their correspondence shows that he apparently got along with him well.Footnote 82 But in the end he failed. Having lost his children during the war he was personally bitter, and he was forced to realize that joining the party had not given him the power to stop the decline of German Sinology.

German Sinologists in Beijing

One institution that was to become important for German Sinology was the “Deutschland-Institut” in Beijing which seems to have been a safe harbor for a group of young Sinologists who, contrary to the other emigrants, returned to Germany after the war. The Deutschland-Institut had been founded in 1931 by Zheng Shoulin 鄭壽麟 (1900–1981), although the idea originally went back to Richard Wilhelm. Zheng had studied in Germany and earned his Ph.D. in 1925 in Leipzig and he wanted to spread the knowledge of this country in China. In March 1933 Zheng Shoulin together with the Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhang Junmai 張君勱 (Carsun Chang, 1886–1969) held a founding ceremony together with a group of German and Chinese. One impetus was the desire to counter the powerful Anglo-American influence on Chinese intellectuals, but at the same time the institute was in close contact with the American Yanjing University and other universities such as the catholic Fu-jen University.Footnote 83

Hellmuth Wilhelm (1905–1990), the third of four sons of Richard Wilhelm, had been born in Tsingtau. Back home in Europe he had first studied law, but in 1930, when his father died, he decided to study Sinology. He wrote a dissertation with Otto Franke in Berlin on Gu Yanwu 顧炎武 (1613–1682), although it seems that Franke had not appreciated the work of Richard Wilhelm. In 1933 Wilhelm became one of the German founders of the “Deutschland-Institut.” He stepped down from his position there shortly afterwards when the new German government no longer allowed Jews anymore to occupy academic positions. Wolfgang Franke said that he wanted to protect the institute and, since his wife was Jewish, did not see any other way. At Fu-jen University Wilhelm worked for Monumenta Serica, and in 1935 he became a Professor for German at Peking University, where he continued among other things his father's work on the Yijing.Footnote 84 After the war he went to Seattle where he taught from 1948. Although he was German, his career from this point is part of the history of American Sinology, not German.Footnote 85

For young German Sinologists the foundation of an institute in China was a wonderful thing. There they had a place to stay and learn something about China. Otto Franke's son Wolfgang had begun his studies in Berlin in 1930 when his father was still active and had then moved to Hamburg where he had been born. In 1937, after earning his Ph.D. in 1935 with a dissertation on the reforms of Kang Youwei, he went to the Deutschland-Institut as a managing director.Footnote 86 The institute was for some time directed by Max Löhr (1903–1988) who had studied Far Eastern Art in Munich and obtained his Ph.D. in 1936, working afterwards at the Munich “Völkerkunde-Museum.” In 1940 he became director at the Deutschland-Institut and in 1949 came back for a short time to Munich before emigrating to the United States. Jäger describes him as not a true Sinologist, just as Werner Speiser (1908–1965), also a specialist of Chinese art, who worked at the museum for East Asian Art in Cologne.Footnote 87

Walter Fuchs (1902–1979) had begun his studies with de Groot but wrote his dissertation in 1925 on the Turfan Oasis with Otto Franke, having studied Manchu as well as Chinese. He immediately afterwards succeeded Ferdinand Lessing as reader of German and Latin at the Japanese occupied Mukden (Shenyang 瀋陽).Footnote 88 After having taught at Fu-jen university he became director of the Deutschland-Institut for one year in 1940, being at the same time one of the editors of Monumenta Serica. As Wolfgang Franke says, Fuchs gave up his position because the University of Munich offered him a chair.Footnote 89 Already at that time he was a major specialist for Manchu history and literature. A final name that is associated with the Deutschland-Institut was that of Alfred Hoffmann who, without having obtained his Ph.D., was able to go to Beijing in 1941 with the help of Otto Franke. Between 1943 and 1945 he worked at the German embassy in Nanjing, but he then returned to Beijing until 1946 when he was also repatriated.Footnote 90

Rebuilding Sinology in Germany after World War II

When the war in Europe was over, German Sinology, which had been thriving until the early thirties, was at the bottom. Otto Franke had left Berlin in 1943 and had gone to a village close to his place of birth in Saxony-Anhalt where he could work on his history of China. He died in 1946. Fritz Jäger was removed from his position in Hamburg just as Otto Stange was in Göttingen. The East Asian Seminar of the University of Leipzig and its 20,000 volumes was destroyed by fire during the bombing on the night from December 3 to 4, 1943. The institute in Frankfurt suffered from the same fate in March 1944. Sinology at Bonn had never really flourished under Erich Schmitt.

Erich Haenisch had helped to build up the library of the Berlin Institute which was also destroyed in the war. He himself moved to Herrenchiemsee in Bavaria, where a daughter of his lived, late in 1944. In 1946 the Bavarian state called him, a true Prussian, to Munich to found the Sinological Institute there. Haenisch had gone there occasionally to teach since the late twenties, and, as mentioned above, in 1940 the University of Munich had offered a chair to Walter Fuchs in an institute that was yet to be finally established. Fuchs had not accepted, officially because the ties between Germany and China had been interrupted in 1941 when the war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out.Footnote 91 Yet, one wonders whether Fuchs, who was barely thirty years old at that time, did not actually think that it was safer—and also nicer—to stay in Beijing and wait there for better times. Haenisch got the position in Munich at the age of sixty-four because he was the only Sinologist of international standing left who could be employed. Haenisch had never become a party member, and he had protested to the authorities when they had put his French colleague Henri Maspero (1883–1945) in the concentration camp of Buchenwald. He obliquely alludes to this in his obituary for Maspero. In language that sounds as strange in the German original as in the translation attempted here he exclaimed:

And this researcher's life was to expire prematurely as a victim of an unfortunate time of confusion, in need and coercion of the hostage-taking of Buchenwald! It is understandable that the news of the danger caused consternation in German professional circles at that time, and it goes without saying that efforts were deployed to help and save. It should also be acknowledged that the authorities, who had to be approached for mediation, demonstrated understanding and concession. As fate would have it, the action dragged on and was finally suffocated in the maelstrom of general dissolution.Footnote 92

Wolfgang Bauer (1930–1997), one of Haenisch's first students in Munich, notes how, with the help of his private library, Haenisch began to teach “under unimaginably primitive conditions” (eighty percent of the city of Munich had been destroyed as well). He refers to Haenisch's articles on “Mencius und Liu Hsiang, zwei Vorkämpfer für Moral und Charakter” (1942) and “Die Ehreninschrift für den Rebellengeneral Ts'ui Lih im Lichte konfuzianischer Moral” (1944) in which, drawing on examples of upright resistance in Confucian China, Haenisch expressed his criticism of the circumstances of his own time in a barely veiled manner.Footnote 93

By these circumstances, Haenisch became the most important figure in German Sinology in the transition period after the war. As Fritz Jäger had been before, he now was constantly asked to comment on others, and, of course, not everybody liked this. Wolfgang Franke describes him as highly formalistic and says that he did not regard his research highly; he adds that Haenisch once disparagingly remarked to Walter Fuchs that he always graded work done in China one grade lower and told him to do some proper work, forcing him to translate the Annals of the Yuanshi to win his goodwill and esteem. Fuchs referred to this as his punishment work.Footnote 94 Wolfgang Franke also compared Haenisch to Walter Simon, saying that students in Berlin liked Simon and found Haenisch boring.Footnote 95 When, after the war, Carl Hentze in Frankfurt fought with Rousselle over the question of who should be given the chair, Haenisch seems to have said that Hentze—a former National-socialist—was not qualified for a chair because he was too narrowly specialized. Furious, Hentze wrote that Haenisch himself was only a Mongolist and that his introduction to classical Chinese was flawed.Footnote 96

Wolfgang Franke, who had been a good friend of Fuchs's in Beijing, admitted that in 1948 when Fuchs had been the best candidate for the chair in Hamburg this was not possible because he was a former party member. This was the reason why when Franke came back to Germany in 1950, he himself, not Fuchs, was chosen for this second chair in what was to become the Federal Republic of Germany. He added that it was obvious that Haenisch would not recommend Fuchs to become his own successor in Munich, a position that was taken in 1952 by Herbert Franke, who was not related to Otto and Wolfgang and who was half a generation younger than Fuchs.Footnote 97 The historian should be careful when reading Wolfgang Franke's comments, since it is obvious that he disliked Haenisch.Footnote 98 Haenisch may have had good reasons for his choice. When he retired, Fuchs had not yet published a book-length study, and Haenisch judged him the same way he did Hentze, considering his scholarly interests too narrow.Footnote 99 Fuchs later became an associate professor at the Free University Universität in (West-)Berlin in 1956 and then obtained the newly created chair in Cologne which he held until his retirement in 1970. At the Free University he was replaced by Alfred Hoffmann, who finally completed his Ph.D. after the war, with a dissertation on the Ci 辭 poems of Li Yu 李煜 (937–978), the ruler of the Southern Tang dynasty, with Jäger in Hamburg in 1949. He enlarged this thesis for his Habilitation in Marburg in 1952, teaching and becoming an associate professor there in 1957.Footnote 100 This book remained Hoffmann's only important book-length study. It is one of the very few studies that introduces Western readers to the metaphors and hidden meanings of Chinese poetry and still a must for German students interested in that field.

Berlin did not recover quickly from the wounds of the second world war. At the old Friedrich-Wilhelm University, now renamed as Humboldt University, Paul Ratchnevsky (1899–1991) taught from 1953 to 1964. He had studied in Berlin between 1919 and 1923 before continuing in Paris. As a specialist of Mongolian he published a translation of the Yuan code in FrenchFootnote 101 and the first scientifically sound biography of Cinggis Khan.Footnote 102 After him, the Humboldt University was almost exclusively concerned with contemporary China studies.Footnote 103 The center for traditional Chinese studies was Leipzig where Eduard Erkes was soon promoted to chair the institute. Erkes began to interpret ancient China in Marxist terms in 1950, although he denied that ancient China had been a slaveholder society.Footnote 104 Hentze had commented on him very sarcastically already in 1948.Footnote 105 Traditional China was also dealt with at the Academy of Sciences in Eastern Berlin, with Gerhard Schmitt (1933–2017)Footnote 106 and Thomas Thilo as the most important names.

In West Germany, Munich and Hamburg under the direction of the two Frankes became the two nuclei out of which research on China grew. While Wolfgang Franke stressed the importance of combining contemporary China studies with traditional Sinology, the institute in Munich focused almost exclusively on traditional China. Wolfgang Franke built up a research center on Ming studies in Hamburg. His own major contribution in the traditional China field was an introduction to the sources of Ming history.Footnote 107 In 1954 he founded the journal Oriens Extremus which became the second journal for Chinese studies, on the same level of importance as Monumenta Serica which after the war was brought to St. Augustin close to Bonn.

Herbert Franke had earned a Ph.D. in law in 1937 at the university of Cologne where he came from. He had at the same time studied Chinese in Bonn and Berlin. After having served in the military between 1937 and 1945, in 1949 he earned his Habilitation in Cologne with a thesis on the economy of China under the Yuan dynasty.Footnote 108 Widely interested in Chinese and other Oriental studies he was also very successful as an administrator. Soon other universities became interested in this still-young man whom Haenisch had called the best among the younger German Sinologists, although “he still lacked knowledge of land and people.”Footnote 109 Franke wrote his Habilitation on a collection of pen jottings (biji 筆記) of Yuan times,Footnote 110 still an understudied subject. Canberra, Cambridge, Columbia and Cologne, but also Oxford, Frankfurt and Bonn soon tried to lure Herbert Franke out of Munich, but he stayed.Footnote 111 In 1959, together with Wolfgang Bauer, he published a volume of Chinese fiction in German translation, mainly from Tang times, which became a great success and which, as he once told the author of this article, laid the foundation for his house in a suburb of Munich close to Lake Starnberg.Footnote 112 As he also told this author, it was only at the age of forty that he began to study classical Mongol in order to continue the tradition of Erich Haenisch. In the 1960s he began to focus more and more on Mongolian history and literature. That was, as he also once remarked, his way to avoid getting into conflict with Maoist students in 1968. Herbert Franke is also renowned as a man who started international collaborations. The Song Biography project is one example, his editorship for the volume of the Cambridge History of China on conquest dynasties another one.

After the war a time began during which it became more and more difficult to travel to China and to actually know how contemporary China looked. It was also the time of “armchair Sinologists” (as they were called in Britain)—men who had never seen China but who knew ancient China very well, just as professors knew ancient Greece or Rome. We do not know whether earlier generations of German professors had been so much better as far as spoken Chinese was concerned. Kristoffer Schipper once remarked during a lecture at the conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies in Riga in 2014 that Haenisch, who himself had spent seven years in China, used to say: “Das Chinesisch Sprechen überlassen wir doch besser den Chinesen.” (speaking Chinese we should leave to the Chinese). Eberhard's experiences in pre-war Berlin cited above as well as other indicatorsFootnote 113 suggest that many of the Sinologists who had stayed at the Deutschland-Institut also obviously did not spend their time learning modern Chinese but instead preferred to buy ancient Chinese books. Of course, there had always been those who were excellent Sinologists without ever having been to China. The von der Gabelentz were early examples of this, and Haloun was a later one. Nevertheless, an important part of the China experience was now missing, and that naturally also changed the direction of China studies.

Two other factors were influential. One was the economic miracle in Western Germany, which at the end of the fifties all of a sudden allowed universities to think about fields which they did not yet cover, among them China. The other one was the development in Eastern Germany where the grip of socialism on the life of individuals became tighter. This led to a second emigration of Sinologists, this time one not from Germany to other countries but one from Eastern to Western Germany. It also meant that West German Sinology was less caught up in the wave of Maoism in 1968 than other European Sinologies. Half of the West German holders of Sinological chairs were actually East Germans, and contrary to their colleagues elsewhere they had had their reasons for leaving that part of Germany.

An early example was Hans Steininger (b. 1920 in Breslau (Wrozlaw); d. 1990) who received his Sinological training in Leipzig. He earned his Ph.D. in Erlangen, close to Nuremberg, in Western Germany in 1951 and stayed there afterwards as an assistant professor, earning his Habilitation in 1960 on a Daoist philosopher. He kept teaching in Erlangen until 1965 when he was called to Würzburg where the university had created a new chair. In Erlangen he was replaced by Heinz Friese who had been born in Mukden in 1931 and had studied at the Humboldt University in East Berlin. When his father came home in 1953 after many years as a prisoner of war, the family went to the West and he continued his studies in Hamburg with Wolfgang Franke. Like Franke, he had worked on the Ming. He died very young, in 1975, and was replaced by Wolfgang Lippert (b. 1932) who also had studied at the Humboldt University but had then shortly before the building of the Berlin wall “fled the republic” to West Germany and earned his Ph.D. in Frankfurt.Footnote 114 In 2000 he was replaced by Michael Lackner (b. 1953), a student of Wolfgang Bauer.

Ulrich Unger (1930–2006), born in Leipzig, had studied at the Karl-Marx University in Leipzig and earned his Ph.D. on preclassical Chinese grammar. In 1958 he left the German Democratic Republic in disgust and became an assistant professor at the University of Freiburg with the task of establishing Sinology there. As he once told me, his mentor was Herbert Franke, who also helped him to earn his Habilitation with a study of paleographic Chinese bronzes of the Western Zhou period. In 1966 Unger moved to Münster where a chair had been established in 1962 and filled by Tilemann Grimm (1922–2002), another student of Wolfgang Franke. Like other Franke students Grimm had earned his Ph.D. and his Habilitation on Ming studies, but also like others he afterwards developed into a specialist on contemporary China. Unger shaped the Münster institute according to his ideas, introducing his own system for the transcription of Chinese, further developing the system of Haenisch by introducing elements which allowed his student to recognize middle-Chinese phonetics. Also building on Haenisch's Introduction he wrote his own Einführung in das Klassische Chinesisch. It is not always easy to use because Unger used Latin and Greek grammatical terms, but it remains nevertheless one of the best introductions to Classical Chinese ever written. Unger also published a book on rhetoric in ancient China in which he also made use of the categories of ancient Europe, and he wrote a monumental grammar of classical Chinese in nine volumes that was published posthumously by his successor Reinhard Emmerich (b. 1954).Footnote 115 Under the title of Hao-ku Unger wrote a series of seventy-eight articles, mainly on the reconstruction of ancient Chinese and on bronze inscriptions, but later also increasingly on the cultural history of ancient China. He sent copies of these articles to colleagues, a mode of publication that he had learned from Peter Boodberg.Footnote 116 He was without doubt the greatest specialist of preimperial ancient China language and literature that Germany produced in the twentieth century.Footnote 117

Tilemann Grimm who had lived in China until the age of twelve became a professor in Bochum in 1965. A new university had been founded there, a so-called “Reform-Universität.” Bochum established two chairs for Sinology, one in Chinese literature that was filled by Alfred Hoffmann who had earlier been in Berlin, the other in Chinese history with Grimm. Both chairs were taken by modern China specialists, namely Bodo Wiethoff and Helmut Martin, when Hoffmann retired and Grimm accepted an offer from the University of Tübingen. In 1978 the Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung was founded, a third journal for German Sinology.

In the 1960s the universities of both Hamburg and Munich realized that in order to be competitive with newcomers such as Bochum in Germany and also on an international level it was necessary to add a second chair for China. Wolfgang Franke managed to establish a position for Liu Mau-tsai (1914–2007) who in his youth had worked at the embassy of Manchuguo in Berlin. After the victory of Mao Zedong in mainland China, Liu had chosen to stay in Germany, earning a Ph.D. in Göttingen with Hans O. Stange. Liu Mau-tsai wrote a dissertation with a translation of the chapters of the Tangshu 唐書 on the Tujue 突厥. He worked as a teacher of Chinese at the Universities of Göttingen and Bonn before Franke brought him to Hamburg in 1967 to the newly created chair for Language and Literature of China, which he held until his retirement in 1980. In 1971 Jutta Rall-Niu (1929–2006), a specialist in Chinese medicine became an associate professor at Hamburg. A fourth position was added which was taken by Bernd Eberstein (b. 1942), a student of Franke and a specialist in contemporary China who taught at the institute until 2008. With these additions the Sinological Institute in Hamburg for a long time remained the largest of its kind in Germany.

Herbert Franke created a second chair for Wolfgang Bauer who before had become the first professor of Sinology in Heidelberg in 1962. Bauer had earned his Ph.D. with a slim dissertation on the biographies of Zhang Liang 張亮 and Chen Ping 陳平 in the Shiji. His Habilitation on names in China was, however, a very substantial work that showed the skills of its author.Footnote 118 After short stays in Michigan and Frankfurt he went to Heidelberg where he had numerous followers, among them Rudolf Wagner (1941–2019) and Lothar Ledderose (b. 1942) both of whom were to hold chairs in Heidelberg later on. Having received a chair in Munich in 1966, in 1971 he published what was probably his greatest success, China und die Hoffnung auf Glück, a history of Chinese thought that focused on utopias, a subject that fitted the times.Footnote 119 Munich added two more positions in 1971 for the archeology and art of China (filled by Käte Finsterbusch, 1924–2018, professor from 1977–1989, who also had left Leipzig) and for Chinese medicine (Manfred Porkert 1933–2015, professor from 1975 until 1996), thus remaining on the same level as Hamburg. In the medical faculty of the University of Munich, Paul Unschuld (b. 1943), another Sinologist, taught the history of Chinese medicine from 1986 to 2006.

Munich also gave an appointment to Rolf Trauzettel (1930–2019), another man who had been born in Leipzig and had studied in Leipzig until 1956. Trauzettel was a librarian in Leipzig, but in 1962, after the Berlin wall had been built, he left the GDR and used a holiday, possible because he had actually never contradicted those in power back home, to come via Casablanca to Munich. Herbert Franke assigned him the dissertation topic of Cai Jing 蔡京 (1047–1126), the bad last chancellor of the Norther Song dynasty. Franke himself in 1962 had published an article on “Jia Sidao 賈似道 (1213–1275): A Bad Last Minister.” Together Franke and Trauzettel published a history of China that until recently remained a standard reading for students in Germany.Footnote 120 In this book, they continued the thread of writing a social history that Balazs and Eberhard had begun with their research. Trauzettel replaced Stange in Göttingen in 1972 before he accepted the chair in Bonn in 1975, which had been held by Peter Olbricht since the death of Erich Schmitt in 1955. In Göttingen Trauzettel was followed by Erhard Rosner (b. 1940), a specialist on the history of traditional Chinese medicine. After Rosner's retirement the chair in Göttingen remained vacant for several years. The institute is now focusing on contemporary China.

In Cologne, Walter Fuchs was succeeded in 1970 by Martin Gimm (b. 1930), who was born in Thüringen (former GDR) and had studied first in Leipzig and then at the Free University in Berlin where he became a student of Fuchs. From 1959 to 1963 he worked in Taibei where he continued his studies of Manchu. After the retirement of Walter Fuchs this made him the last representative of the formerly strong tradition of that field in Germany. Having written his Habilitation on the history and function of music in Tang times,Footnote 121 Gimm has edited numerous forgotten texts and books that remained unpublished, among them Forke's translations of Yuan drama and Hans Conon von der Gabelentz’ translation of the Jin Ping Mei. He continues to publish today, mainly on Qianlong and the Jesuits. For several years around the turn of the twentieth to the twenty-first century, Gimm travelled on weekends to Munich, to train a young generation of German Sinologists in Manchu. His student Dieter Kuhn (b. 1946), a specialist in the history of traditional Chinese weaving techniques,Footnote 122 replaced Hans Steininger as a professor in Würzburg in 1988. Mainly focusing on the history of Chinese technology, he built up a tradition of Song studies.Footnote 123 Erling von Mende (b. 1940), who had begun as a student of Olbricht and Fuchs, but who was also a student of Gimm and a specialist in Sino-Korean relations in ancient China, became a professor in Berlin in 1983 several years after Bodo Wiethoff had left.Footnote 124 After von Mende the Berlin Institute was turned into an institution specializing mainly in contemporary China.

Although the famous Hungarian archeologist Marc-Aurel Stein had studied in Tübingen as early as at the beginning of the twentieth century, Sinology was introduced there only in 1960 by Werner Eichhorn (1899–1990), who, after having studied other subjects in Heidelberg in 1926, came to Leipzig and discovered China, writing his first article on the Song philosopher Zhou Dunyi. After some time as a teacher at Tsinghua University in Beijing, he earned his Ph.D. in 1936 in Bonn, with a translation of the Western Inscription of Zhang Zai 張載 (1020–1077). After short stays in Göttingen and Frankfurt he went to London, where he worked for more than ten years at the School of Oriental Studies, led at that time by Walter Simon. In 1960 Tübingen offered him a position as honorary professor. Eichhorn is known for his book on the religions of China,Footnote 125 but perhaps his most important contribution to German Sinology was his translation of the Wu Yue Chunqiu 吳越春秋.Footnote 126

In Frankfurt, Sinology was revived in 1973 when Chang Tsung-tung 張聰東 (1930–2000), the former teacher of Chinese, was promoted to the position of professor. He was interested in paleography and in language comparisons of ancient Chinese with Indo-European languages.Footnote 127 After his retirement in 1999 the chair was filled by the linguist Dorothea Wippermann (modern Chinese) and a second position was created for the historian Iwo Amelung (b. 1962).

The great transformation

Until the 1970s traditional Sinology was the dominant form of China expertise at German universities.Footnote 128 With the exception of Hamburg, Munich, and Bochum, the institutes were small, with one chair responsible for teaching all aspects of China but usually specializing in one area. This had much to do with China itself which had become increasingly closed since the fifties. Mao Zedong's China was a poor socialist country. That made it easy for Western societies to ignore its presence. When Nixon's pingpong-diplomacy began, it had, however, immediate consequences also in Europe. In 1972 the Federal Republic of Germany officially recognized the People's Republic of China, and already in 1973/74 the German Academic Exchange Service sent a first ten students to China in exchange for ten Chinese students who came to Germany. The program soon grew. At the same time, German universities underwent great changes. They were now forced to admit many more students than before. At the beginning of the eighties Sinological seminars, which had seldom had more than ten students, all of a sudden had to cope with more than a hundred first year students. With the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, China had its own economic miracle in the 1980s, on a much smaller scale than the one that was to follow in the nineties, but German industry began to be interested in China.

As one of the first Sinologists, Wolfgang Franke had introduced a proper Chinese language training at the Sinological Institute in Hamburg. Other institutes were to follow soon. Going to China for language training for a year or two—which many earlier Sinologists had not done since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany—became part of a normal curriculum. Students often realized that as far as modern Chinese language competence was concerned, they were better than their venerated teachers. This situation exerted pressure on Sinological institutes to invest more in language training. Starting with the late eighties and with increasing speed in the nineties other universities than the traditional centers began to add one or sometimes two positions to their China programs.

Usually these new trends did not strengthen traditional China studies but rather brought them under pressure. In Hamburg the opposite happened around 1980. Wolfgang Franke and Liu Mau-tsai, the holders of the two chairs, retired almost at the same time. Wolfgang Franke had apparently thought that the University of Hamburg would be able to bring his student Tilemann Grimm back from Tübingen as his own successor, but Grimm preferred to stay in Tübingen.Footnote 129 Instead, the chair went to Hans Stumpfeldt (1941–2018), who had been born in Schroda/Posen in what is now Poland and grew up on the island of Rügen in North Eastern Germany. He left the German Democratic Republic at the age of about twenty before the wall was built. In Ulrich Unger he found a teacher at Freiburg who had done the same. Having obtained a thorough training in early Chinese language, history, and literature, he earned a Ph.D. in Freiburg in 1967 on territorial boundaries, roads, and streets in ancient China,Footnote 130 and then followed Unger to Münster. When the masses came to the Hamburg institute in the beginning of the eighties, Stumpfeldt continued to give a thorough training to his students in traditional China studies. He was to publish many articles later on, but perhaps his most important contributions to German Sinology were his translations of Han texts: a volume devoted to Han poetry and two volumes of the Shuoyuan 說苑 of Liu Xiang 劉向 (79–8).Footnote 131 Although unable to hold a conversation in modern Chinese, Stumpfeldt always supported Franke's approach as far as the necessity of a proper language training in modern Chinese for his students was concerned.

For the second chair, Hamburg had originally wanted to appoint William Nienhauser who had been trained in Bloomington, Indiana. Instead, it went to the Austrian Sinologist Friedrich Bischoff, who had been one of Nienhauser's teachers. Bischoff had grown up in Paris. His father had been Austrian ambassador in Paris in 1938, when Austria ceased to exist as an independent state. Bischoff chose to study with Robert des Rotours (1891–1980) and Paul Demiéville in Paris, earning his Ph.D. with a dissertation on the Hanlin 翰林 academy.Footnote 132 As his father became Austrian Ambassador in Moscow after the war, he was one of the few German speaking Sinologists who were given the opportunity to travel to Mongolia and China (Beijing) in 1957 where he stayed for several months. He had studied Tibetan and Mongol, as well, and had gone to Bonn as a teacher of Tibetan in 1961. In 1964 he became Professor for Tibetan and Chinese studies in Bloomington. Bischoff's experiences in China were not very positive. When I once asked him what China had been like back in 1957 he laconically replied: “Dusty.” Teaching classical Chinese with Haenisch's grammar, alternating with Jutta Rall-Niu who used Shadick, and adding Mongolian to the Hamburg curriculum, he also liked to discourage his students from going to China, telling them that they would learn nothing there, but would lose what they had learned before in Germany. When Wolfgang Franke once remarked that evil spirits had taken possession of the Hamburg institute,Footnote 133 he was referring to the fact that, despite China's growing importance, the Hamburg seminar's contemporary China program was no longer very strong.

Both students of the Hamburg seminar who were to become professors in the 1990s—Reinhard Emmerich, who became Unger's successor in Münster, and this author, who succeeded Wolfgang Bauer in Munich—earned their doctorates with Stumpfeldt on the two dynasties with which Stumpfeldt was most familiar: the Han and Tang dynasties.Footnote 134 Friedrich Bischoff was replaced by Michael Friedrich (b. 1955) in 1994, a student of Wolfgang Bauer in Munich, who continued the classical China tradition while also training many students in contemporary China studies. Friedrich has recently established a research cluster for the study of manuscripts which has added a new area to the Hamburg curriculum. Stumpfeldt was replaced by Kai Vogelsang (b. 1969) who had been trained in Hamburg, having written a Ph.D. on the nineteenth-century reformer Feng Guifen 馮桂芬 (1809–1874). Vogelsang wrote a Habilitation on the principles of ancient Chinese historiography while working as an assistant professor in Munich.Footnote 135 The Hamburg institute suffered from cuts in its resources in the nineties and in the first decade of the new millennium.

Munich students from the Bauer/Franke school found positions in several places. Florian Reiter (b. 1948) became a professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin when the East German professors who had worked there before were replaced after 1989. He is a specialist in Daoism. Michael Lackner obtained the chair in Erlangen where, with the help of money from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, he co-established a multidisciplinary international research center on divinization. In Munich itself, Herbert Franke was succeeded by Hellwig Schmidt-Glintzer (b. 1948), a prolific writer who had earned his Ph.D. with a study of the Buddhist Hongming ji 弘明集.Footnote 136 He left Munich in 1994 to become director of the Herzog-August Bibliothek in Wolffenbüttel. His successor was Roderich Ptak (b. 1955), a specialist for the sources of maritime China. The two associate positions formerly held by Käte Finsterbusch and Manfred Porkert were forged into one chair for the history of Chinese art and archeology, filled for a long time by Thomas Höllmann (b. 1952), also a student of the Munich school. His successor is Armin Selbitschka (b. 1972) who was trained in Munich. The Munich institute thus has remained a center for traditional China studies.

In Heidelberg, Bauer's student Wagner invested time and energy in building the biggest library of all Sinological institutes in Germany. Its holdings are not as large as those of the two state libraries in Berlin and Munich, but they include many precious books not to be found elsewhere in Europe.Footnote 137 An ambitious program for language training and several new professorships were added, although only one of them, now filled by Enno Giele, a student of Erling von Mende, is explicitly specializing in traditional Chinese culture. In Tübingen, Hans-Ulrich Vogel (b. 1954) who had studied in Berlin and Zurich, a historian of the economic and social history of China, followed Karl-Heinz Pohl in 1994. A second position was first filled by Hermann Kogelschatz and then by Achim Mittag (b. 1958), had long been in Munich. Tübingen also added further positions for contemporary China. The same happened in Würzburg where now only Roland Altenburger (b. 1964) is teaching traditional Chinese literature with a focus on the novels of late imperial China. Two more positions are concerned with the economics and the social situation of contemporary China.

The Leipzig institute underwent many changes. In 1963 Anthony Hulsewé published a very angry review on the low scholarly quality of the volume edited by Johannes Schubert for Eduard Erkes after his death.Footnote 138 This author does not know much about Fritz Gruner who headed the institute after him, but his successor Ralf Moritz (b. 1941) who had studied in Beijing from 1963 to 1966 wrote a study on Hui Shi 惠施, the interlocutor of Zhuangzi, and the development of early Chinese philosophical thought that is still worth recommending to students.Footnote 139 He was able to shape the tradition of Sinology in Leipzig until his retirement in 2006, being the only professor who had taught in the GDR and had remained in office after 1989. Hubert Seiwert continued the old tradition of research on the religions of China in Leipzig from 1994 to 2014, while Rainer von Franz, a student of Trauzettel obtained a position for contemporary China there in 1992. This position was filled from 2013 to 2017 by Stefan Kramer, who then went to Cologne, to be followed by Elisabeth Kaske, while Philipp Clart, also a specialist for the religions of China, obtained the chair for Culture and History of China. Clart had studied and taught at the University of British Columbia and at Missouri-Columbia.

In North-Rhine Westfalia four universities covered traditional China, namely Münster, Cologne, Bonn, and Bochum. The state began to invest money into contemporary China studies which meant that resources had to be shared. The institutes in Münster and Bonn have continued to uphold the study of traditional China, but they have paid for this by remaining small.Footnote 140 Cologne has given up traditional China studies. The opposite happened in Bochum, where Heiner Roetz (b. 1950), a student of Chang Tsung-tung and a specialist of premodern philosophy, gained the chair when Bodo Wiethoff retired. After his retirement Christian Schwermann (b. 1967), a student of Trauzettel in Bonn, succeeded to this position. Schwermann is also working on preimperial China.Footnote 141


Germany established an academic tradition of research on China in the nineteenth century with a focus on history, literature, and philology. However, proper philological training needs time. When the European Union in Bologna in 1999 started a process that aimed at harmonizing national study programs it also endeavored to shorten the times for studying. Bachelor and Master programs were introduced which had been alien to the German university of the past. Traditional philologies such as Sinology have suffered from this process with the result that fewer students now get an MA than before in many places. At the same time it has become difficult to attract students to the field of traditional Sinology that, instead of complementing contemporary China studies, is now often competing with it.

In Europe, Asian studies have always been more internationally oriented than the large disciplines. But in the past, being international did not mean giving up one's own language for scholarly writing. Until the 1970s or 1980s it was normal for a traditional China scholar in Europe to read publications in at least Chinese, English, French, and German. As language-training in French and German has come under pressure this is not the case anymore. Many Chinese students today come to Germany to study traditional China because our approach is different from the one they are getting back home and many of them do actually learn German, although many are also surprised when they learn that Sinology is not being taught in English. In many cases it is impossible to improve the language abilities of Chinese students in German to the level to enable them to write a dissertation in German. What is published in French and in German is now read by very few scholars outside of the countries where it is written. Acknowledging this problem, academic journals such as Monumenta Serica and Oriens Extremus now almost exclusively publish articles written in English.

Thus, many colleagues in Europe are now switching to English for their publications. But many of us who are non-native speakers of English also underestimate the important role that the language factor plays in scholarship. Dissertations written in English by Chinese students in Germany will only rarely be as good as those written in a country where this language is actually spoken, and the same is also often true for German ones. It takes precious time to produce a good book in a language which is not one's own mother-tongue, time that scholars formerly used for research. It is hard to keep a scholarly tradition alive when its language is not written anymore. Universities have always had the duty to train students to write in a good style. German Sinology is currently facing the dilemma that students have to be able to learn to write good German and good English at the same time. This does not always work.

The rise of China to its current economic and political power has been unprecedented since traditional Sinology at German universities was first established two centuries ago. More than ever the China field has the responsibility to train students who know more than economic figures or the contemporary Chinese political system. A deeper understanding is needed, and that is the reason why some centers for traditional Sinology will have to continue to fight for the necessity of a proper philological training in classical Chinese literature and thought.

Conflicting Interests

The author declares none.


1 Compare, however, Franke, Herbert, Sinologie an deutschen Universitäten: Mit einem Anhang über die Mandschustudien (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1968)Google Scholar. Franke does not differentiate between premodern and modern Sinology or China studies. Sinology is the term used in what follows for traditional China Studies. See also Hartmut Walravens, “Zur Geschichte der Sinologie im deutschsprachigen Raum,” (undated; the last date mentioned in this text is 2011). Compare Haenisch, Erich, Sinologie: Aus fünfzig Jahren deutscher Wissenschaft (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1930)Google Scholar.

2 Kircher, Athanasius, China monumentis, qua sacris quà profanis, nec non variis natrae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata (Amsterdam: Janssonius a Waesberge, 1667)Google Scholar.

3 Walravens, “Zur Geschichte der Sinologie.”

4 Ess, Hans van, “Der Name der Uiguren,” in Über den Alltag hinaus: Festschrift für Thomas O. Höllmann zum 65. Geburtstag (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017), 253–66Google Scholar.

5 See Roland Altenburger, “Early French Sinology and the Question of ‘Plagiarizing’ Re-Translation: The Case of Heinrich Kurz’ German Rendition of Huajian ji,” in Sinologists as Translators in the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, edited by Bernhard Fuehrer and Lawrence Wang-chi Wong (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2015), 214–21.

6 On Neumann see Franke, Sinologie an deutschen Universitäten, 9.

7 Plath, Die Völker der Mandschurey (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1830), 1021–31.

8 Max Weber, in the introductory paragraph to his famous essay “Wissenschaft als Beruf” (translated into English as “Science as Vocation,” although Weber was actually not speaking about the hard sciences and medicine; Weber had written the text for a lecture in Munich in 1917) wrote critically about the problem that those who became “Privatdozenten” at a German university through the “Habilitation” (the second book which had to be approved by the faculty) had an income only from what their students had to pay for their seminar, not from the university or the state itself. This applied to many “extraordinary” or “associate” professors as well, however one wants to translate the strange German term “außerplanmäßig” into English. Otto Franke said that “German science held its doors closed to Sinology” and that “except for the somewhat nebulous professorship for ‘East Asian languages’ in Leipzig, and the unsalaried one in Berlin” there was no chair at German universities for Chinese at the beginning of the twentieth century; Franke, Otto, Erinnerungen aus zwei Welten (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1954), 117CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Grube, Wilhelm, Sprache und Schrift der Jucen (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1896)Google Scholar.

10 Groot, J.J.M. de, The Religious System of China (Leiden: Brill, 1892–1910)Google Scholar, and Universismus—Die Grundlage der Religion und Ethik, des Staatswesen und der Wissenschaften Chinas (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1918). De Groot had actually been on the wrong side when student protests broke out in Holland and was therefore happy to go back to Germany.

11 On the establishment of Sinology in Berlin, see Leutner, Mechthild, “Sinologie in Berlin: Die Durchsetzung einer wissenschaftlichen Disziplin zur Erschließung und zum Verständnis Chinas,” in Berlin und China: 300 Jahre wechselvolle Beziehungen, edited by Heng-yü, Kuo (Berlin: Colloquium Verlag, 1987), 3155Google Scholar.

12 Wilhelm Schott, Werke des tschinesischen Weisen Kung-Fu-Dsü und seiner Schüler: Zum Erstenmal aus der Ursprache ins Deutsche übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet, Volume 1: Lün-yü (Halle: Rengersche, 1826).

13 Grube, Wilhelm, Feng-shen yen-i, Die Metamorphosen der Götter (Leiden: Brill, 1912)Google Scholar. Compare Thomas Zimmer, “Early Translations of Chinese Literature into German: The Example of Wilhelm Grube (1855–1908) and his Translation of Investiture of the Gods,” in Sinologists as Translators, 355–84.

14 Hirth in Bruno Schindler, ed., Hirth Anniversary Volume (London: Probsthain & Co., 1923), XXIII. Franke, Erinnerungen aus zwei Welten, 118, says that Grube had become bitter, but he also adds that he was a very sensitive man, and it seems that this was what prevented him from being offered a better position.

15 Haenisch, Sinologie, 271, complains that after the death of Georg von der Gabelentz a whole generation of China scholars was missing and that, instead, dilettantes were dabbling in Sinology. He mentions Ferdinand von Richthofen as one of these dilettantes, a good scholar who should not have spoilt his reputation by writing on subjects he knew nothing about. He then adds: “Friedrich Hirth, who dared to speak freely, albeit in an unusual form, made himself impossible in his homeland and was lost to German science.” Hirth obviously had criticized von Richthofen.

16 von Möllendorff, Paul Georg, A Manchu Grammar: With Analyzed Texts (Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1892)Google Scholar; Möllendorff, , “Essay on Manchu Literature,” Journal of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 24 (1889), 145Google Scholar.

17 See Grube, Wilhelm, Geschichte der chinesischen Literatur (Leipzig: C.F. Amelangs, 1902)Google Scholar. This book is a surprisingly good survey of Chinese literature, full of quotations that prove how much its author had been able to read even at that time.

18 Otto Franke had worked together with Laufer. In Erinnerungen aus zwei Welten, 149, he writes that Laufer told him that he disliked being in America because there was only money but no real interest in scholarship. Franke hoped to bring him to Hamburg since Laufer had sent letters to him in which he wrote how unhappy he was in Chicago. But on 28 April 1918 he had, together with seventeen other professors of German descent, published a “declaration of principles” in the New Yorker Staatszeitung in which they expressed their support for America against Germany. Franke speculates that Laufer did this under pressure. He told Franke in 1921, “I think we remain the same,” meaning that he would not come to Germany because his declaration became known there. Franke also says that Laufer killed himself by throwing himself from one of the highest floors of a skyscraper onto the street; ibid., 149f. For more information see Hartmut Walravens, ed., Bertold Laufer: Kleinere Schriften, 5 volumes (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1998), and Bennet Bronson, “Bertold Laufer,” Fieldiana. Anthropology 36 (2003), 117–26.

19 Franke, Otto, Studien zur Geschichte des konfuzianischen Dogmas und der chinesischen Staatsreligion: Das Problem des Tsch'un-ts'iu und Tung Tschung-schu's Tsch'un-ts'iu fan lu (Hamburg: L. Friederichsen, 1920)Google Scholar.

20 Otto Franke, Geschichte des chinesischen Reiches, 5 volumes (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1930–52).

21 Erich Hauer: Huang Ts'ing K'ai-kuo fang-lüeh: Die Gründung des mandschurischen Kaiserreiches (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1926); Handwörterbuch der Mandschusprache, (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, and Tokyo: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens, 1952–55; see the new edition, ed. Oliver Corff, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007).

22 See Ferdinand Diedrich Lessing, Oriental Languages: Berkeley, Online Archive of California, Fritz Jäger later said that with a little bit of goodwill it would have been possible to keep Lessing in Germany. He was not offered a position. See Hartmut Walravens “Streiflichter auf die deutsche Sinologie 1938–1943 sowie drei Dokumente zur deutschen Japanologie,” NOAG Hamburg 165–66 (1999), 189–222, at 204. The first German was Alfred Forke, see below.

23 Ferdinand Lessing, Yung-ho-kung: An Iconography of the Lamaist Cathedral in Peking, Vol. 1 (Stockholm, 1942).

24 See the brief review by Chavannes in T'oung Pao 13 (1912), 508–9 which corrects the dates of Tao Yuanming's life (Bernhardi had 428 instead of 427) and criticizes some mistakes in the transcription but which does not at all seem to have recognized the great achievement that her work actually was. He just said that the translation was correct but that the language of Tao Yuanming also was easy.

25 But see also Otto Franke's remarks in Erinnerungen aus zwei Welten, 137, about the difficulty of finding students who were really interested in Sinology in Hamburg. On Forke see Reinhard Emmerich, “‘Ich fühle mich immer wieder angezogen von originellen und freien Geistern’—Alfred Forke (1867–1944),” in Chinawissenschaften—Deutschsprachige Entwicklungen. Geschichte, Personen, Perspektiven, edited by Helmut Martin and Christiane Hammer (Hamburg: Institut für Asienkunde, 1999), 421–48. Emmerich points out that Forke did train a few Ph.D. students, among them Wolfgang Franke (see below) and Victoria Contag (1906–1973), one of the first historians of Chinese art; see ibid. 439f.

26 University of California History Archives, Berkeley: Departments and Programs,, and Erich Haenisch, ‘Nachruf Alfred Forke’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 99 (1945–1950), 4–6. Emmerich suggests that Forke's contract at Berkeley was not renewed in 1918 because of negative feelings against Germans at the end of World War I; see Emmerich “‘Ich fühle mich immer wieder angezogen von originellen und freien Geistern’”, 433–38.

27 Forke, Lun-heng 1: Philosophical Essays of Wang Ch'ung (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1907) and Lun-heng 2: Miscellaneous Essays of Wang Ch'ung (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1911).

28 Forke, Me Ti, Des Sozialethikers und seiner Schüler philosophische Werke (Berlin: Kommissionsverlag der Vereinigung wissenschaftlicher Verleger, 1922).

29 See now Wulf Noll, “Bertolt Brechts Me-ti/Buch der Wendungen mit Blick auf Alfred Forkes Me Ti des Sozialethikers und seiner Schüler philosophische Werke als Quelle,” minima sinica. Zeitschrift zum chinesischen 32 (2020), 233–91.

30 Forke, Geschichte der alten chinesischen Philosophie, Geschichte der mittelalterlichen chinesischen Philosophie, Geschichte der neueren chinesischen Philosophie (Hamburg: L. Friederichsen 1927, 1934 and 1938).

31 Martin Gimm, ed., Zehn nachgelassene Übersetzungen von Alfred Forke, hrsg. und eingeleitet von Martin Gimm (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1978).

32 These letters were published in Walravens “Streiflichter auf die deutsche Sinologie 1938–1943.”

33 Franz Xaver Biallas, Konfuzius und sein Kult (Peking: Pekinger; Leipzig: Carl Emil Krug, 1928). Biallas wrote on the development of the cult until the end of the Qing dynasty, describing also how Qianlong introduced the ceremonies on the occasion of Confucius’ birthday.

34 Isaac Jacob Schmidt, Geschichte der Ost-Mongolen und ihres Fürstenhauses, verfasst von Ssanang Ssetsten Chungtaidschi der Ordus: Aus dem Mongolischen übersetzt, und mit dem Originaltexte, nebst Anmerkungen, Erläuterungen und Citaten aus andern unedirten Originalwerken herausgegeben (St. Petersburg: N. Gretsch; Leipzig: Carl Cnobloch, 1829). Erich Haenisch, Die chinesische Redaktion des Sanang Setsen, Geschichte der Ostmongolen, im Vergleiche mit dem mongolischen Urtexte (Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1904).

35 This appeared as “Bruchstücke aus der Geschichte Chinas unter der Mandschu-Dynastie: Der Aufstand des Wu San-kuei, aus dem Sheng-wu-chi übersetzt,” T'oung Pao 14 (1913), 1–71.

36 Chudeng xiaoxue guowen jiaoke shu 初等小學國文教科書, xuantong yuan nian 宣統元年, eleventh month (1908/09), a book which Haenisch without doubt had found shortly after he came to China.

37 Lehrgang der klassischen chinesischen Schriftsprache (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1929, 1931, 1933 and 1957).

38 Ulrich Unger, Einführung in das Klassische Chinesisch (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1985).

39 Erich Haenisch, Die Geheime Geschichte der Mongolen. aus einer mongolischen Niederschrift des Jahres 1240 von der Insel Kode'e im Keluren-Fluß (Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1941).

40 Paul Pelliot, Histoire Secrète des Mongols. Restitution du Texte Mongol et Traduction Française des Chapitres I a VI (Paris: Librairie d'Amérique et d'Orient/Adrien Maisonneuve, 1949).

41 Jäger describes him as a difficult person who made life difficult for others, too. Hartmut Walravens, “Streiflichter auf die deutsche Sinologie 1938–1943,” 205 and especially 207–8.

42 Ernest Eitel, Feng-shui: or, The Rudiments of Natural Science of China (London: Trübner, 1873).

43 Walravens, “Zur Geschichte der Sinologie,” 5.

44 Richard Wilhelm, Dschuang Dsi. Das Wahre Buch vom Südlichen Blütenland, Nan Hua Dschen Ging aus dem Chinesischen verdeutscht und erläutert (Jena: Diederichs, 1912), Introduction, XXIV.

45 Kungfutse. Schulgespräche. Gia-yü (Düsseldorf-Köln: Diederichs, 1961).

46 As a native speaker of German, this author usually still refers to the Wilhelm version.

47 See for example his Die Seele Chinas (Berlin: Reimar Hobbing, 1926).

48 There is a wealth of literature on Richard Wilhelm. Two recent books are Hartmut Walravens, ed., Richard Wilhelm (1873–1930): Missionar in China und Vermittler chinesischen Geistesguts, mit einem Beitrag von Thomas Zimmer (Nettetal: Steyler Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2008); Dorothea Wippermann, Richard Wilhelm: Der Sinologe und seine Kulturmission in China und Frankfurt (Frankfurt: Goethe Universität Frankfurt, 2020). Additional references are to be found in these books.

49 Jin Ping Mei 1930, Honglou meng 1932, Shuihu zhuan 1934, Roupu tuan 1959.

50 On Franz Kuhn see especially Hatto Kuhn, Dr. Franz Kuhn (1884–1961): Lebensbeschreibung und Bibliographie seiner Werke. Mit einem Anhang unveröffentlichter Schriften (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1980). Some notes on Vincenz Hundhausen are to be found in Wolfgang Franke, Im Banne Chinas: Autobiographie eines Sinologen (Dortmund: Projekt Verlag, 1997). See also Barbara Schmitt-Englert, Deutsche in China 1920–1950: Alltagsleben und Veränderungen (Gossenberg: Ostasien, 2012 and 2021), esp. 488–90.

51 As Herbert Franke said, Germany within two decades had managed to make up for its earlier failure to build up expertise on China. He stresses that the loss of the German colony in Jiaozhou had actually been a lucky event because it made it easier for Germans to get into contact with Asian scholars many of whom reacted strongly against the imperialism of other European countries. See Herbert Franke, Sinologie an deutschen Universitäten, 13f. On the achievements of German Sinology, see Haenisch, Sinologie.

52 See Hartmut Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” in NOAG Hamburg 163–64 (1998), 77–171, at 81 and 160. Interestingly, Wolfgang Franke, who was politically far away from Hentze, seems to have shared his judgement of Rousselle's qualities as a Sinologist. In 1940 he wrote a letter to his parents in Berlin expressing his fear that Rousselle might try to become director of the German Institute in Beijing where he himself was working as the managing director. That was a frightening thought for him; see Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 93. Wolfgang Franke was obviously following his father Otto who also said that Rousselle was a dilettante; see Günter Lewin, “Eduard Erkes und die Sinologie in Leipzig,” in Chinawissenschaften, 449–73, at 442.

53 See Walter Simon, “Obituary of Dr. Bruno Schindler,” in Asia Major New Series 11.2 (1964), 93–95, and Erich Haenisch, “Bruno Schindler und die alte Asia Major,” Oriens Extremus 12 (1965), 5–7.

54 Asia Major 1 (1924), 76–111.

55 Gustav Haloun, Seit wann kannten die Chinesen die Tocharer oder Indogermanen überhaupt? (Leipzig: Verlag der Asia Major, 1926).

56 Compare the obituary by Walther Fuchs in Sinologica 3 (1953), 214f. Herbert Franke does not touch on this topic in his obituary in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 102, but the Catalogus Professorum Halensis ( claims that he was not given a chair because he refused to become a party member.

57 See Philipp Clart, “Eduard Erkes und die Leipziger Forschung zur chinesischen Religionsgeschichte,” in 100 Jahre Ostasiatisches Institut an der Universität Leipzig, 1914–2014, edited by Steffi Richter, Philipp Clart, and Martin Roth (Leipzig: Universitätsverlag 2016, 71–91).

58 For Erkes as someone who translated junzi as “der gesellschaftlich Höherstehende” see Helga Scherner, “Mein Zugang zu China—Erinnerungen an Eduard Erkes (1891–1958),” in China heute, See also Erkes, “Die ursprüngliche Bedeutung der Ausdrücke ‘Chün-tse’ und ‘Hsiao-jen,’” in Helga Steininger, Hans Steininger, and Ulrich Unger, eds., Sino-Japonica: Festschrift André Wedemeyer zum 80. Geburtstage (Leipzig: VEB Otto Harrassowitz, 1956), 15–20. For the same discussion in China see the 1961 conference on Confucius and Confucian values during which Feng Youlan 馮友蘭 argued that these values referred to all humans regardless of their social class while Guan Feng 關鋒 (1919–2005) argued that the contrary was true.

59 On Kümmel see Hartmut Walravens, “Otto Kümmel: Streiflichter auf Leben und Wirken eines Berliner Museumsdirektors,” in Jahrbuch Preussischer Kulturbesitz 24 (1987), 137–49.

60 “Das Pferd im alten China,” T'oung Pao 36 (1940), 26–63, “Vogelzucht im alten China,” T'oung Pao 37 (1942), 15–34, “Der Hund im alten China,” T'oung Pao 37 (1943, pp. 1–40), “Das Schwein im alten China,” Monumenta Serica 1 (1942), 68–84, “Die Biene im alten China,” Forschungen und Fortschritte 21/23 (1947), 261–66, “Das Schaf im alten China,” Asiatica: Festschrift Friedrich Weller, edited by in Johannes Schuber and Ulrich Schneider (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1954), 82–92.

61 Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 48; Charles Bawden, “Ernst Julius Walter Simon, 1893–1981,” Proceedings of the British Academy 67 (1982), 458–77, on 463.

62 Simon, “Tibetisch-Chinesische Wortgleichungen: Ein Versuch,” MSOS 1929, and as a monograph, Berlin: de Gruyter, 1930.

63 See her obituary by Jens Peter Laut, “Annemarie von Gabain (1901–1993),” Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen 52 (1995), 367–74.

64 Alvin P. Cohen, “In Memoriam: Wolfram Eberhard, 1909–1989,” Asian Folklore Studies 49 (1990), 125–33.

65 I haven't actually found evidence that Eberhard was a social-democrat but this was often said in my mother's family who lived close by the Eberhard's in Ankara.

66 Hartmut Walravens, “In Memoriam Wolfram Eberhard,” Oriens Extremus 33 (1990), 4–10, at 6.

67 Wolfram Eberhard, Chinas Geschichte (Bern: A. Francke, 1948). For succeeding editions Eberhard changed the title to Geschichte Chinas.

68 Franz Michael also had been a student in Berlin and had served for a short time in the German diplomatic corps, but he was not allowed to go abroad because his father's side of the family was Jewish. He taught German in Hangzhou, and in 1939 went to the United States, going to Seattle in 1942. He is not further discussed here as his entire Sinological career was conducted in the United States.

69 See Walravens, Wolfram Eberhard (1909–1989): Sinologe, Ethnologe, Soziologe und Folklorist. Schriftenverzeichnis, mit einer biografischen Einleitung (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009).

70 See Walravens “Streiflichter auf die deutsche Sinologie 1938–1943,” 192, 208f. On p. 209: “I learned last year that there are serious complaints from Ankara against Eberhard's attitude as a German. It would mean a great loss for German Sinology if his further development should make the appointment of this important scholar to a German chair impossible.”

71 Compare Harriet Zurndorfer, “Not Bound to China: Étienne Balazs, Fernand Braudel and the Politics of the Study of Chinese History in Post-War France,” Past&Present, 185 (2004), 189–221.

72 Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 92.

73 Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 96–98.

74 Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 104.

75 Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 105.

76 Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 102–8. Franke calls Jäger his “first student … and my longtime friend” (Erinnerungen aus zwei Welten, 148). Nevertheless, Franke apparently did not want to contribute.

77 They were Ernst Boerschmann, an architect who was to head the Hamburg institute for some time after the war, the anthropologist Hans Findeisen, Albert Herrmann, a China geographer, Hu Shi, translated by Alfred Hoffmann (on whom below), and one article on Japanese studies by T. Inouye. Whether Sinologists were reluctant to contribute because they lacked respect for Forke or due to rifts caused by the exclusion of major persons such as Simon and Balàzs is not clear, but the reader may infer that there was a significant problem, indeed. The Festschrift was published as a Sinica Sonderausgabe at the China Institut in Frankfurt in 1937.

78 There is also the possibility that Stange was actually some kind of Nazi spy, whom Jäger had to report to or whose opinion he at least had to consult whenever he made important decisions. This system continued to exist after the war in the former GDR where there were also student members of the—then communist—party who judged the reliability of their fellow students and probably also their professors.

79 Ban Gu, Die Monographie über Wang Mang, edited by Hans O. H. Stange, Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 23, 3 (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1939).

80 Homer H. Dubs, The History of the Former Han Dynasty, vol. 3 (London: Trübner, 1955).

81 The files of all German professors were checked by American and British officers after 1945. Only those who had not been involved in crimes were allowed to teach again.

82 It is interesting to read the correspondence between Jäger and Rousselle, who in the beginning apparently did not know each other very well. They met early in March 1938 at the occasion of the “Ostasiatisches Liebesmahl,” a get-together of German merchants who were members of the Ostasiatischer Verein in Hamburg (today in English: German Asia-Pacific Business Association). See Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 116. After they met, their letters became more informal. Jäger started to use the closing salute “Heil Hitler!” at the end of his letters in 1936, while Rousselle clearly was reluctant to do so and tried to avoid it wherever he could.

83 The best overview of the Deutschland-Institut is to be found in Wolfgang Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 60–68 and passim. See also documents in Mechthild Leutner, ed., Deutschland und China 1937–1945 (Berlin: De Gruyter), 1998, esp. 346ff. Compare also Thomas Jansen, “Einige Hinweise und Fragen zur Arbeit des Deutschland-Instituts in Peking 1933–1945,” in Chinawissenschaften, 185–201.

84 In 1943 Hellmut Wilhelm gave talks on the Yijing in Beijing. They were later published under the title Die Wandlung: Acht Essays zum I Ging (The Transformation: Eight Essays on the Yijing) (Zurich: Rhein-Verlag, 1958). According to Franke, Fuchs commented mischievously on this: “Die Wandlung—vom Sinologen zum Publizisten” (“The Transformation: From Sinologist to Publicist”); Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 137.

85 We also cannot discuss here Karl August Wittfogel (1896–1988), a native German who also went to Seattle, teaching there from 1947 onwards. Wittfogel had studied with Conrady and Erkes in Leipzig and was a fervent communist. He gained his Ph.D. in 1930, in Frankfurtm with a thesis on Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Chinas, but his ideas on Asian production met with resistance among fellow communists in the Soviet Union, and after his emigration from Germany in 1934 he slowly lost faith in communism.

86 Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 68–78; Leutner, Deutschland und China 1937–1945, 325f.

87 Walravens “Streiflichter auf die deutsche Sinologie 1938–1943,” 203.

88 Wolfgang Franke said that he was a member of the NSDAP, but that, being apolitical, this did not affect his attitudes to others; see “Walter Fuchs in Memoriam,” Oriens Extremus 27.2 (1980), 143.

89 Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 98. Fuchs did not go to Munich after the war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out; see below. Fuchs lived in a large house in the old city of Beijing with a huge library, and he often had guests, both German and American. Wolfgang Franke, 120–22, writes, that one guest who often came was Mary Wright, others were Walter Heissig who had completed his Ph.D. in Vienna and was to build up Bonn as the major center for Mongolian Studies after the war, and Rudolf Löwenthal who became famous for his translations of Russian works on Mongolia. When he had to leave his home in 1946, American military trucks transported his ten thousand volumes to his new place, but in 1947 he had to leave them behind when he was repatriated by force to Germany. They have been integrated into the Beida library.

90 On Hoffmann in Beijing see Peter Merker, “Anmerkungen zum Wirken von Alfred Hoffmann am Deutschland-Institut in Peking,” in Chinawissenschaften, 474–97. On the emigration of German Sinologists see the more complete list compiled by Martin Kern in “The Emigration of German Sinologists 1933–1945: Notes on the History and Historiography of Chinese Studies.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 118.4 (1998), 507–29. German version: “Die Emigration der Sinologen 1933–1945,” in Chinawissenschaften, 222–42.

91 Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 98 (on the job offer for Fuchs) and 115. Haenisch says the same in an expert opinion he wrote on Fuchs when he was asked to judge on his own potential successors in 1951. This letter is to be found in a file on Herbert Franke held by the archive of LMU Munich.

92 Erich Haenisch, “Henri Maspero (15. Dezember 1883 bis 17. März 1945),” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 101 (1951), 2: “Und dieses Forscherleben sollte vorzeitig erlöschen als Opfer einer unseligen Zeit der Verwirrung, in Not und Drang der Geiselhaft von Buchenwald! Es ist begreiflich, daß die Kunde von der Gefahr in deutschen Fachkreisen damals Bestürzung auslöste, und selbstverständlich, daß Bemühungen einsetzten, zu helfen und zu retten. Es soll auch anerkannt werden, daß die Amtsstellen, die dabei um Vermittlung anzugehen waren, Verständnis und Entgegenkommen zeigten. Das Verhängnis wollte es, daß die Aktion schleppend verlief und schließlich im Strudel er allgemeinen Auflösung erstickte.” According to the Wikipedia article on Erich Haenisch (, “Haenisch was the only German Sinologist who actively intervened with the Nazi government on behalf of his colleague Henri Maspero . . . Since Haenisch did not receive support by his German colleagues, he could not save Maspero, who died in Buchenwald on March 17, 1945.” This information is based on based on Bruce Brooks’ profile of Haenisch in his “Sinological Profiles” ( We do not know who the “professional circles” were that Haenisch mentions. It is possible that it was just himself, but his way of phrasing the relevant sentence actually suggests that he had spoken to colleagues about this. It is interesting to note that when Fritz Jäger wrote an obituary for Otto Franke in 1950, he began it with a paragraph about the blame Germany had to bear for the death of Maspero. As a member of the NSDAP he had, of course not written to the authorities, but it is still interesting to see how this death weighed on his conscience.

93 Wolfgang Bauer, “Erich Haenisch,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 117 (1967), 205–10.

94 Franke, “Walter Fuchs in Memoriam,” 143 and 148.

95 Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 38.

96 See Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 150–60.

97 In fact the academic senate had put Fuchs at the top of the Munich short-list, Herbert Franke as second, and Otto Stange as third. A file held by the university archive of LMU Munich clearly states that Stange had no chance whatsoever because of his engagement with the Nazi administration.

98 Franke says that for Haenisch China was a dead classical culture and that Haenisch spoke badly of the Chinese (Im Banne Chinas, 39). He also says that his father Otto Franke disliked the Conrady school of Sinology in Leipzig (37). One important reason for his negative comments certainly was that Haenisch had tried to prevent him from obtaining the position in Hamburg with the argument that Franke had not written his Habilitation (ibid. 175). In fact, when Franke became professor he had not yet published very much. Lewin, “Eduard Erkes,” 453, also says that Otto Franke did not regard the Leipzig school of Sinology highly and that he commented on Haenisch that he was “not a brilliant mind but a careful and conscientious worker.”

99 Wolfgang Franke himself held similar opinions of Fuchs, saying that he was interested in detail but not in context, and he was not a good speaker; Franke, Im Banne Chinas, 120.

100 In passing it should be noted that Franz Hübotter (1881–1967) who had lived for many decades in East Asia was over seventy when he arrived in Berlin in 1953. There he taught and practiced Chinese medicine.

101 Paul Ratchnevsky, Un Code de Yuan, 2 vols (Paris: Librairie Ernest Leroux, 1937).

102 Paul Ratchnevsky, Činggis-Khan: Sein Leben und Wirken (Wiesbaden: Verlag Franz Steiner, 1983).

103 It should, however, be pointed out that especially after the relations between the Soviet Union and China deteriorated, Sinologists at the Humboldt University increasingly began to work on traditional Chinese topics. Because of the Marxist terminology that, for example, Roland Felber used, it is, however, difficult to appreciate his work on the Zuozhuan (Die Entwicklung der Austauschverhältnisse im alten China (Ende 8. Jh. bis Anfang 5. Jh. v.u.Z. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1973). Eva Müller who was to get a chair in the department of language and literature gained her Ph.D. with a thesis on the Baishi zhuan: Zur Widerspiegelung der Entwicklung der “Legende von der Weißen Schlange” in der chinesischen Literatur bis zur 1. Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1966).

104 Eduard Erkes, “China mit Tibet wiedervereint,” Leipziger Volkszeitung, November 12, 1950; Erkes, Das Problem der Sklaverei in China (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1952); Erkes, Die Entwicklung der chinesischen Gesellschaft von der Urzeit bis zur Gegenwart (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1953). Geschichte Chinas von den Anfängen bis zum Eindringen des ausländischen Kapitals (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1956–1957).

105 Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 157: “I was shown E. Erkes, China & Europe. I read that. An impeccably communist manifesto, with downright hair-raising assertions that smash every reality in the face! This is not a leaf of honor in German Sinology! Whoever introduces politics into science in the most frivolous form, thereby renounces the claim of wanting to inspire confidence in his methods.” Ibid. 162: “Have you seen the new book by Erkes? I think it is called China, the Bee State. According to assurances of people who have read it, it is now only an inventory of the Soviet Union's repetition of invective against all dissenters.” Hentze probably refers to Erkes, “Die Biene im alten China.” Forschungen und Fortschritte 24.13–14 (1948), 147–48. Lewin, “Eduard Erkes,” is very positive about Erkes, but he does not comment on his scholarship.

106 See Wolfgang Behr, “Gerhard Schmitt (1933–2017),” Early China 41 (2018), 9–23.

107 Wolfgang Franke, An Introduction to the Sources of Ming History (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaysia Press, 1968).

108 Although not much is known about this, this looks very much like a Haenisch topic, and it is, therefore, small wonder that Wolfgang Franke was not happy when Herbert Franke got the position in Munich instead of Walter Fuchs who had studied with his father Otto in Berlin and knew Mongol quite well.

109 See an expert opinion which Haenisch wrote on him in 1951. It is to be found in Franke's file at the archive of LMU Munich. Franke went to the German consulate in Hong Kong in 1953–54, shortly after becoming a professor in Munich.

110 Herbert Franke, Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte Chinas unter der Mongolenherrschaft: Das Shan-kü sin-hua des Yang Yü (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1956).

111 In a personal communication he told this author: “Ein Lehrstuhl ist zum darauf Sitzen da,” and “Never give up a chair in Munich!”

112 Herbert Franke and Wolfgang Bauer, Die Goldene Truhe. Chinesische Novellen aus zwei Jahrtausenden (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1959), translated into English as The Golden Casket (London: Allen & Unwin, 1964).

113 Personal communication by Martin Gimm to this author. See also Hentze in Walravens, “Dokumente zur Geschichte des Frankfurter China-Instituts aus den Jahren 1930–1949,” 157, who said that many people said that Richard Wilhelm who had been in China for more than twenty years did not know spoken Chinese well.

114 He is a modern China specialist.

115 Ulrich Unger, Rhetorik des Klassischen Chinesisch, (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1994; Unger, Grammatik des Klassischen Chinesisch. Grammatik des Klassischen Chinesisch, ed. Reinhard Emmerich (Heidelberg: CrossAsia-eBooks, 2019, See also Unger's Abriß der Literatur des chinesischen Altertums: Prodesse aut delectare?, published posthumously by Reinhard Emmerich (Gossenberg: Ostasien Verlag, 2008).

116 The last article I was sent is dated December 12, 2003. A selection of these articles was published by Hans Stumpfeldt and Martin Hanke under the title of Ulrich Unger, Kleine Schriften (Gossenberg: Ostasien Verlag, 2009).

117 In Freiburg, traditional Chinese studies were continued by Peter Greiner (1940–2011), another Ming specialist, and the Swiss Sinologist Harro von Senger who completed a Ph.D. in law and a Habilitation on Tang law in Munich with Herbert Franke. Von Senger later published several books on the Chinese ruse and the thirty-six stratagems, the Sanshi liu ji 三十六計. After him Freiburg became a center for modern and contemporary China.

118 Bauer, Wolfgang, Der chinesische Personenname (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1959)Google Scholar.

119 Bauer, Wolfgang, China und die Hoffnung auf Glück (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1971)Google Scholar, translated into English as China and the Search for Happiness: Recurring Themes in Four Thousand Years of Chinese Cultural History (New York: The Seabury Press, 1976).

120 Franke, Herbert and Trauzettel, Rolf, Das Chinesische Kaiserreich (Frankfurt: S. Fischer, 1968)Google Scholar.

121 Gimm, Martin, Das Yüeh-fu tsa-lu des Tuan An-chieh (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1966)Google Scholar.

122 Kuhn is probably most famous for his contribution to the Joseph Needham project Science and Civilization in China: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

123 See Kuhn's volume Die Song-Dynastie, 960–1279: Eine neue Gesellschaft im Spiegel ihrer Kultur (Weinheim: VCH, 1987). Among his students Dagmar Schäfer (1968–) is to be mentioned who became director at the Max-Planck-Institute für Wissenschaftsgeschichte and who is probably most famous for her book The Crafting of the 10,000 Things (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), which is a retranslation and reedition of the Tiangong kaiwu 天工開物 by Song Yingxing 宋應星 (1587–1666).

124 Among Gimm's other students two other names are important. Throughout his scholarly life Hartmut Walravens (b. 1944) has edited numerous works of Sinologists and compiled bibliographies of them. Martin Kern, who is now a professor at Princeton, also originally was trained by Gimm.

125 Eichhorn, Werner, Die Religionen Chinas (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1973)Google Scholar.

126 Werner Eichhorn, trans., Heldensagen aus dem unteren Yangtse-Tal (Weisbaden: Steiner, 1969). On Eichhorn see Flessel, Klaus, “Werner Eichhorn und sein wissenschaftliches Oeuvre,” NOAG Hamburg 125 (1979), 912Google Scholar, and idem, In Memoriam Werner Eichhorn, Tübingen 1991, available at Flessel is a student of Eichhorn who worked as professor in Tübingen and in Erlangen. Tübingen was also to become the home of Walter Liebenthal, a scholar who did not study Sinology in Germany but went to China in the thirties and left Beijing in 1952 to go to India. In 1962, at the age of 77, he finally settled in Tübingen.

127 Among Chang's students Heiner Roetz (see below) and Wolfgang Behr (1965–) deserve special mention. Behr is among the few people in the world who are competent in and dominate the field of the reconstruction of the phonology of ancient Chinese. Having worked in Bochum for many years he gained the traditional China chair at the university of Zurich after the retirement of Robert Gassmann.

128 This part of this essay is necessarily even more sketchy than the preceding ones. Obviously, not all contributors to the development of traditional China studies can be appreciated here. Apologies to all those whom I omitted!

129 Grimm was later succeeded by Karl-Heinz Pohl who then moved to Trier. After his retirement Christian Soffel, who had been trained in Munich and had worked on Song Confucianism and the New Confucianism of Qian Mu, got the Trier chair.

130 Staatsverfassung und Territorium im antiken China: Über die Ausbildung einer territorialen Staatsverfassung (Düsseldorf: Bertelsmann Universitätsverlag, 1970).

131 Stumpfeldt, Hans, Einundachtzig Han-Gedichte (Gossenberg: Ostasien Verlag, 2009)Google Scholar. Id., Ein Garten der Sprüche: Das Shuo-yüan des Liu Hsiang (79–8 v. Chr.) (Gossenberg: Ostasien Verlag, 2010 and 2011). Unfortunately, only the first thirteen chapters of the text are included in these two volumes. Stumpfeldt had planned four volumes but he did not manage to publish volumes 3 and 4.

132 La Foret des Pinceaux: Étude sur l'academie du Han-Lin sous la Dynastie des T'ang et Traduction du Han Lin Tche (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1963)Google Scholar.

133 In a personal conversation. This was a gross exaggeration since the quality of teaching offered at the Hamburg institute was actually very high.

134 Emmerich, Reinhard, Li Ao (ca. 772–ca.841): Ein chinesisches Gelehrtenleben (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1987)Google Scholar; van Ess, Hans, Politik und Gelehrsamkeit in der Zeit der Han. Die Alttext/Neutext-Kontroverse (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993)Google Scholar.

135 Vogelsang, Kai, Feng Kuei-fen und sein Chiao-pin lu k'ang-i (Hamburg: Hamburger Sinologische Gesellschaft, 2001)Google Scholar; Geschichte als Problem: Studien zur Geschichtsschreibung im Alten China (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007).

136 Schmidt-Glintzer, , Das “Hung ming chi” und die Aufnahme des Buddhismus in China (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1976)Google Scholar.

137 Wagner's most important contribution to classical Sinology is his trilogy on Wang Bi, which he first wrote as a Habilitation in the 1970 s and which appeared in English in 2000 as The Craft of a Chinese Commentator: Wang Bi on the Laozi; A Chinese Reading of the Daodejing. Wang Bi's Commentary on the Laozi with Critical Text and Translation; Language, Ontology, and Political Philosophy in China: Wang Bi's Scholarly Exploration of the Dark (Xuanxue) (Albany: SUNY, 2000). Wagner's other work in the field of traditional Sinology mostly focused on the history of thought of the third and fourth century.

138 Hulsewé, review of Eduard Erkes in memoriam 1891–1958, in T'oung Pao 50 (1963), 284–288.

139 Hui Shi und die Entwicklung des philosophischen Denkens im alten China (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1973).

140 In Bonn, Ralf Kauz, a specialist in Chinese–Iranian relations became professor after Trauzettel's successor Wolfgang Kubin left. Kubin is more famous for his occupation with contemporary Chinese poetry and literature than for his works on traditional China although he has written on Tang poetry and also edited a large history of Chinese literature in several volumes.

141 There are other positions in Bochum: one for the religions of East Asia filled by Jörg Plassen, who did his Ph.D. with Michael Friedrich in Hamburg on Chinese Buddhism, and one for Chinese history held by Christine Moll-Murata, a student of Wiethoff, who is a specialist for late imperial China.