HIRTH, Friedrich

HIRTH, Friedrich. Gräfentonna, Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha 16.4.1845 — Munich 9.1.1927. German Sinologist in the U.S.A. Spent 25 years in China, then Professor in New York. Son of Georg H. (1807–1857), a lawyer, and Louise Drevelle du Frênes (1819–1860). Educated at Gotha Gymnasium, in 1865-68 studies of classical philology at Leipzig, Berlin and Greifswald. Ph.D. 1868. Then further studies at Rostock. In 1870-97 served in Chinese Customs Service in different parts of China and Taiwan: 1870-75 in Canton, 1875-77 in Amy, 1878-88 in Shanghai, then in various places, on furlough in Europe 1880-82 and 1888-90. In 1895-97 on a furlough in Munich, where he decided to resign. Member of Bavarian A.W. 1897-1902 and 1920-27. Unable to find proper academic position in Germany he moved to the U.S.A. in 1902 and taught in 1902-17 at Columbia University in New York as Professor of Chinese and Head of Department of Chinese. In 1917 retired and in 1920 returned to Munich, where he lived until his death. Married 1871 Hermine Schnare (1850–1915), two daughters, two sons.

In China Hirth learned Chinese and became a Sinologist. He  was a famous specialist of ancient relations between China and the Western world, who did important pioneer work. Now his works are naturally badly antiquated.

Publications: China and the Roman Orient: Researches into their ancient and medieval relations as represented in Old Chinese records. 16+329 p. Shanghsi – Hong Kong 1885 (repr. Chicago 1975).

– “Zur Geschichte des antiken Orienthandels”, Verhandlungen des Gesellschafts für Erdkunde zu Berlin 16, 1889, 46-64; “The Mystery of Fu-lin”, JAOS 30, 1909-10, 1-31 & 33, 1913, 193-208; “Early Chinese notices of East African territories”, JAOS 30, 1909-10, 46-57; “The story of Chang K’ién, China’s pioneer in Western Asia. Text and translation of chapter 123 of Ssï-ma Ts’ién’s Shï-ki”, JAOS 37, 1917, 89-152.

– With M. J. de Goeje: Die Länder des Islâm nach Chinesischen Quellen. TP 5, 1894 Suppl. Issue, 1-64

– “Chao Ju-kua, a new source on Medieval Geography”, JRAS 1896, 57-82; “Chao Ju-kua’s Ethnography: Table of contents and Extracts”, JRAS 1896, 477-507; translated: “Das Reich Malabar nach Chao Ju-kua”, TP 6, 1895, 149-164.

Translated with W. W. Rockhill: Chao Ju kua: His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the 12th and 13th centuries, entitled Chu Fan Chï. 10+288 p. St.Petersburg 1912.

Further works and articles on Sinology.

Sources: *AM Probeband (Fs. Hirth) 1923, ix-xxxxvii (autobiography) & xlix-lvii (bibliography); *E. Erkes, Art. As. 2, 1927, 218; *O. Franke, OstasZ N.F. 3, 192?, 197-207; R. Trauzettel, N.D.B. 9, 1972, 238f.; Who Was Who in America 1; short note in JAOS 47, 1927; bibliography and photo, OstasZ 8, 1919-20, 1-6; Wikipedia with photo (another in German version).

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