GUIGNES, Joseph de. Pontoise (Seine-et-Oise) 19.10.1721 — Paris 19.3.1800. French Orientalist, a Pioneer of Sinology and Precursor of Indology. Professor in Paris. Son of Jean Louis de Guignes and Françoise Vaillant. Recommended by his cousin, Professor le Vaillant, he was accepted as a student by the Sinologist E. Fourmont in 1736. In 1742 he accompanied Fourmont to the king, when this presented his Chinese grammar, and was granted a continuous scholarship. When Fourmont died in December 1745 JdeG succeeded him at Royal Library, where his title was “sécrétaire-interprète pour les langues orientales”. Founded his fame by the study about the origin of the Huns, which brought him the membership of English Royal Society in 1752 and of A.I.B.L. in 1753. From 1753 also Royal Censor and contributor to the JS. In 1757 he succeeded Jault as Professor of Syriac at Collège Royal, from 1769 also Garde des antiquités in Louvre. In 1773 pensionnaire de l’A.I.B.L., in the same year put down his chair in protest to the plans to unite Collège to the university. From 1785 among the editors of the series Notices des manuscrits. The revolution deprived him of the means of living, but somehow he managed to go on until his death. He married Marie Anne Louise de Gassonville and had one son, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de G. (1759–1845), who was long time French consul in Canton and wrote a travel account in three parts and a good (in its time) dictionary of Chinese.
JdeG was an Arabic, Syriac, and Chinese scholar, a historian, who was also much interested in Central Asia and India. He was the first to compare Chinese and Western historical sources and equated Huns with Xiongnu. He believed in the common origin of Chinese and Phoenicean writing as well as of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and explained Chinese signs as monograms formed of three Phoenicean letters each. In this he was rightly criticized by Deshautesrayes. He sought for traces of contacts in philosophy, but also considered Indian influence in China. He found the Arabic original for the Chinese travel account translated by Renaudot. He was the first to suggest the identity of Greek Σανδρόκοττος with Candragupta Maurya (Sandragouten of the Bhagavadam) and thus founded ancient Indian chronology (publ. MAIBL 38, 1777).
Publications: Abrégé de la vie d’Etienne Fourmont. 1747; 28 articles in MAIBL, other articles and reviews in JS, Notices et extraits des MSS., etc.
– Mémoire historique sur l’origine des Huns et des Turcs. P. 1748.
– Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols et des autres Tartares occidentaux, avant et depuis J.-C. jusqu’à présent. 1-5. P. 1756-58; also in German translation, 1768-71.
– “Recherches sur quelques événements qui concernent l’histoire des rois grecs de la Bactriane et particulièrement la destruction de leur royaume par les Scythes, l’établissement de ceux-ci le long de l’Indus et les guerres qu’ils eurent avec les Parthes”, MAIBL 25, 1759, Mémoires 17-33; “Recherches sur les philosophes appelés samanéens”, MAIBL 26, 1759, 770-804; “Observations historiques et géographiques sur le récit de Pline, concernant l’origine, l’antiquité des Indiens et la géographie de leur pays”, MAIBL 45, 1793, 150-206.
– “Reflexions sur un livre Indien intitulé Bâgavadam”, MAIBL 38, 1777, 312-336.
– Mémoire dans lequel on prouve que les Chinois sont une colonie égyptienne. 1759/60 & MAIBL 29; Le Chou-King trad. par P. Gaubil, revue et corrigée d’après le texte chinois, avec notes. 144+474 p. P. 1770; “Mémoire sur le commerce des français dans le Levant avant les croisades”, MAIBL 37, 1774, 467-527; “Essai historique sur l’origine des caractères orientaux de l’imprimerie royale”, Notices et extraits 1 & sep. P. 1787.
Sources: J–n, Biogr. Univ. 1817, 99-104; briefly I. Landry-Deron, D.O.L.F. 468; Wikipedia (more in German version).