LESSING, Ferdinand Dietrich. Essen-Altenessen 26.2.1882 — Berkeley 31.12.1961. German Sinologist and Central Asian Scholar in the U.S.A. U.S. citizen 1946. Professor in Berkeley. Gymnasium in Lingen, matriculated in 1902. Studies in Berlin, guided by F. W. K. Müller. From 1907 on spent 17 years in China, conducting ethnographic and linguistic studies. Ph.D. 1926 Berlin on a published work. In 1925-27 he taught Chinese at Seminar der Orientalischen Sprachen in Berlin, in 1928-35 siccessor of F. W. K. Müller in Ostasiatische Sammlungen of Ethnographische Museum in Berlin, in 1930–33 participated in Sven Hedin’s Chinese-Swedish expedition. Leaving Germany, in 1935-49 Agassiz Professor of Oriental Languages at University of California in Berkeley, where he was the first to teach Tibetan and Mongolian. In 1949 emeritus. Twice married, three daughters from the first.
FD was mainly a Sinologist, but also much interested in Tibetan, Mongolian and in Lamaist Buddhism. Among his students was A. Wayman.
Publications: Much on Sinology.
– Mongolen. Hirten, Priester und Dämonen. 211 p. B. 1935 (travel account).
– With G. Montell: Yung-Ho-Kung. An Iconography of the Lamaist Cathedral in Peking. 20+179 p. ill. The Sino-Swedish Expedition Publ. 18:8. Stockholm 1942.
– Mongolian–English Dictionary. 15+1217 p. Berkeley 1960.
– With A. Wayman, edited & translated: Mkhas Grub Rje’s Rgyud sde spyihi rnam par gzg pa rgyas par brjod: Introduction to the Buddhist Tantric Systems. 382 p. 1968, 2nd ed. 1978.
– Ritual and Symbol: Collected essays on Lamaism and Chinese Symbolism. 183 p. Asian folklore and social life monographs 91. Taipei 1976.
Sources: Brief note in JAOS 82, 1962, 473; Dir. Am. Sch. 3rd ed. 1957; Lopez 2008, 188; *R.C. Rudolph, Oriens Extremus 9, 1962, 1-5; *H. Walravens, Ferdinand Lessing (1882–1961): Sinologe, Mongolist und ein Kenner des Lamaismus. Material zu Leben und Werk mit dem Briefwechsel mit Sven Hedin. Osnabrück 2000, 2nd ed. Melle 2006; German Wikipedia briefly (French and Swedish version have also a photo); http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb0580022s&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00016&toc.depth=1&toc.id=.
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