FRANCKE, August Hermann

FRANCKE, August Hermann. Ober-Peilau, Schlesien (then Gnadenfrei, now Piława Górna in Poland) 5.11.1870 — Berlin 16.2.1930. German Missionary (in Ladakh) and Tibetologist. Professor in Berlin. Son of elder A.H.Fr., a merchant and dyehouse owner, and Charlotte Susanne Beyer. After school in Gnadenfrei studied for the missionary work at teachers’ seminar of the Brüder­gemeinde in Niesky (Oberlausitz). After further studies in Fairfield near Manchester went to India and worked in 1896-1910 in Ladakh: in Leh (1896-99), Khalatse (1899-1904) and Kyelang (1906-08), in 1904-05 and 1908-09 on furlough in Germany. In 1909-10 surveyed for the Indian government the archaeological remains of Tibetan frontier, 18 months’ expedition from Simla to Spiti and Ladakh and back to Srinagar. In 1910 returned to Germany, lived in Niesky. In 1914 he was sent by Munich Museum to Ladakh, travelling through Russia, Tashkent and Kashgar, but arriving at British territory he was interned (in Ahmednagar camp he studied Sanskrit). Freed in 1916 and returned to Europe, he now served as interpreter and was again taken prisoner in Serbia. In 1919 settled down in Gnadenberg (Schlesien) and started study on the gZer-myig manuscripts. From 1922 PD for Tibetan at Berlin,  1925 ao. Professor. Never wholly recovered of the troubles of captivity and died in its consequences. Hon. member of British & Foreign Bible Society 1906 (because of his Bible translations). Hon. Ph.D. 1911 Breslau. Married 1897 Anna Theodora (Dora) Weiz (1875–1945), two sons and one daughter.

Francke had an enormous ability in languages. As a schoolboy he learned Lower Sorbian as well as Sanskrit and Old Norse. In Ladakh he soon learned both classical Tibetan and local dialect and became deeply interested in the history, epigraphy, archaeology and folklore of the country. He did much pioneer work on Tibetan history. He founded the study of the Bon religion and found the living Gesar tradition in 1900. In 1904 he founded the first Tibetan journal (Ladakhi News), which was read even in Lhasa.

Publications: A number of translations of the Bible in literary Tibetan, in Western Tibetan, and in Dardic languages. Continued this work until his death.

Ladakhi Songs. 1-5. Leh 1899-1903, also Lp. 1902-03.

Frühlingsmythus der Kesarsage. 31 p. MSFOu 15:1. Helsinki 1900; Wintermythus der Kesarsage. 177 p. MSFOu 15:2. H. 1902; A Lower Ladakhi version of the Kesar saga. 32+493 p. Bibl. Ind. 168. Calcutta 1905-41 (edition); “The Paladins of the Kesar-Saga. A collection of Sagas from Lower Ladakh”, JASB N.S. 3, 1907, 67-77, 261-388, and shorter articles in JASB.

A Sketch of Ladakhi Grammar. 63 p. JASB 70 Extra-Nr. 2. Calcutta 1901; “Kleine Beiträge zur Phonetik und Grammatik des Tibetischen”, ZDMG 57, 1903, 285-298.

A History of Western Tibet. 14+191 p. 23 pl. L. 1907, 2nd ed. 1909, repr. as A History of Ladakh. 1977.

– “Geschichte des Dogra-Kriegs nach dem MS. C des Ladrags rgyalrabs, hrsg. und übers.”, ZDMG 64, 1910, 537-552; articles in Epigr. Ind.

Antiquities of Indian Tibet. 1. Personal Narrative of a Journey in 1910 from Simla to Srinagar, through Kinnaur, Spiti and Ladakh. 473 p. A.S.I. New Imperial Series 38. Calcutta 1914, 2. The Chronicles of Ladakh and Minor Chronicles of Indian Tibet. 133 p. A.S.I., N.I.S. 50. Calcutta 1926.

Durch Zentralasien in die indische Kriegsgefangenschaft. 172 p. Herrnhut 1921.

Articles on the Tibetan Vetālapañcaviṁśati: ZDMG 75, 1921, 72-96 and 77, 1923, 239-254, ZII 6, 1928, 244-254; further articles in IA, JRAS, SBeAW, ZDMG, etc.

Tibetische Hochzeitslieder, übersetzt nach Handschriften von Tag-Ma-Cig. 74 p. 16 pl. Hagen 1923; “gZer-Myig, A Book of the Tibetan Bonpos”, Asia Major 1, 1924, 243-347; 3, 1926, 321-339; 4, 1927, 161-239, 481-539; 5, 1930, 1-40; 6, 1930, 299-314; N.S. 1, 1950, 163-188.

Geistesleben in Tibet. 80 p. Allgem. Missionsstudien. Gütersloh 1925.

– “Felseninschriften in Ladakh”, SBeAW 1925, 366-370.

Sources: *M. Hahn, “A.H.F. (1870–1930) und sein Beitrag zur Tibetologie”, J. Triebel (ed.), Der Missionar als Forscher. Gütersloh 1988, 87-121; H.-W. Jannasch, N.D.B. 5, 1961, 234f.; P. Pelliot, TP 27, 1930, 243f.; Stache-Rosen 1990, 173-175; *H. Wallravens & M. Taube, A.H.F. und die Westhimalaya-Mission der Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde: eine Bibliographie. 531 p. 281 pl. VOHD Suppl. 34. St. 1992; briefly in D.B.E. 3, 1996, 404; Wikipedia with photo (more details in German version).

*J. Bray, “A.H.F.’s Letters from Ladakh 1896-1906: The Making of a Missionary School”, The Tibet Journal 33, 2008, 3-28.

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