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 of Chinese and Russian in Berlin (diplom 1905), guided by F. W. K. Müller. From 1907 on spent 17 years in China, conducting ethnographic and linguistic studies and working as a teacher. Returned to Germany to complete his doctorate. Ph.D. 1926 Berlin on a published work. In 1925-27 he taught Chinese at Seminar der Orientalischen Sprachen in Berlin, in 1928-35 successor 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 and Mongolian and in Lamaist Buddhism, which he had studied in Chinese and Mongolian monasteries. Beside these three he also knew Sanskrit, Mandchu and Japanese. Among his students was A. Wayman.

Publications: Much on Sinology (including his dr. diss.).

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; *S. Grieder, “Für mich heisst Leben: Arbeiten. F.L. und Sven Hedins sino-schwedische Expedition in Briefen und Zitaten”, Baessler-Archiv N.F. 50, 2002, 121-155; Lopez 2008, 188; U. Maas in zflprojekte.de; oac.cdlib.org; *R.C. Rudolph, Oriens Extremus 9, 1962, 1-5; German Wikipedia briefly (French and Swedish versions have also a photo); http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb0580022s&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00016&toc.depth=1&toc.id=.

*H. Walravens, F.L. (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 and *“Die Hedin-Expedition 1930/1932. Briefe Sven Hedins an seinen sinologischen Mitarbeiter Ferdinand Lessing”, Nachrichten der Ges. für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens 173-174, 2003, 227-254.