LEGGE, James

LEGGE, James. Huntly, Aberdeenshire 20.12.1815 — Oxford 29.11.1897. British (Scottish) Missionary and Sinologist. Professor in Oxford. Son of Ebenezer L. and his wife Elspeth (d. 1817). Graduated from King’s College, Aberdeen, and after theology studies in London worked as a missionary of the London Missionary Society in Malacca (among Chinese) in 1839-43, in China (Hong Kong) in 1843-45 and, after a while in England (with his three Chinese pupils seen in the famous picture), again in 1848-73, at Anglo-Chinese College in Hong Kong. In 1867-70 on furlough in Scotland, LL.D. Aberdeen. In 1876-97 Professor of Chinese Language and Literature and Fellow of Corpus Christi College at Oxford (a new chair). Twice married, first 1843 Mary Isabella Morison (d. 1852), then Hannah Mary Willetts (née Johnstone, d. 1881), several children.

He had well mastered the Chinese language so that his translation of the entire corpus of the Chinese classics soon became a standard work, but his relation to Chinese civilization was ununderstanding and condemning and notwithstanding his efforts his Christian prejudice occasionally twisted his judgement. But he also opposed to British opium trade and at Oxford promoted female university education.

Publications: The Notions of the Chinese concerning God and Spirit. 7+166 p. Hong Kong 1852; Christian works in English and Chinese.

Translated with parallel Chinese text: Analecta & Mencius. Hong Kong & L. 1861; Shoo-king. Ibid. 1865; She-king. Ibid. 1871; Ch’un Ts’ew. Ibid. 1872 – with the general title The Chinese Classics. Hong Kong & London.

Translated: The Book of Ancient Chinese Poetry in English Verse. 1876; Texts of Confucianism. S.B.E. 3, 16, 27-28. Oxford 1879–85 (Shû king, Yî king, Lî Kî); Texts of Taoism. S.B.E. 39-40. Oxford 1891 (Tâo Teh King, Chuang Tzŭ, and shorter works).

The Life and Teachings of Confucius. 6+338 p. L. 1867; The Life and Teachings of Mencius. L. 1875; The Religions of China. 9+310 p. L. 1880; several further books on China.

The Nestorian Monument of Hsî-an Fû in Shen-hsî, China. 4+65 p. L. 1888.

Edited & translated: The Travels of Fa-hsien: A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms. 14+ 123+45 p. Oxford 1886.

Sources: briefly Arberry, British Orientalists. L. 1943, 46 (with photo of a painting from 1843); T.W[atters], JRAS 1897, 223–225; *TP 9, 1898 (with photo); Wikipedia with drawing; parents in geni.com.

*N.J. Girardot, The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage. UCLA Press 2002; *H.E. Legge, James Legge, Missionary and Scholar. L. 1905; *L.F. Pfister, Striving for ‘The Whole Duty of Man’: James Legge and the Scottish Protestant Encounter with China. 1–2. Mainz 2004.

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