LÉVI, Sylvain

LÉVI, Sylvain. Paris 28.3.1863 — Paris 30.10.1935. French Indologist. Professor in Paris. Son of Louis-Philippe L., a Jewish cloth merchant, family came from Alsace. Studies in Paris, first Greek, but soon Indology under Bergaigne et al. from 1882. From 1885 taught himself Sanskrit at É.P.H.É. (succeeding Hauvette-Besnault). Ph.D. 1890 Paris. After Bergaigne’s death acting Professor at Sorbonne until the election of Henry, in 1889-94. In 1894 succeeded Foucaux as Professor of Sanskrit at Collège de France, where he taught until his death. In 1885-95 Maitre de conf. and 1895-1935 Directeur d’études, Religions de l’Inde, at É.P.H.É., séction V, also taught Sanskrit at Séction IV. He travelled several times in India and was also allowed to enter Nepal, where he visited in 1898, 1922 and 1928. In 1926-28 Director of Maison franco-japonaise in Japan. Also active in Alliance Israélite Universelle, from 1920–35 its President. Died suddenly. Married 1889 with his maternal cousin Désirée Bloch (1867–1943), who wrote a book on their Indian journey of 1921-22 (Dans l’Inde. 244 p. P. 1926), their younger son, Daniel Lévi (1892–1967), became the French Ambassador to India in the 1950s.

SL was an exceptionally many-sided and productive scholar and a much esteemed and influential teacher. Though himself a philologist, he was much interested in archaeology and in his own work mostly tried to elucidate history. In this he often took the parallel evidence – Greek and Latin as well as Chinese and Buddhist – into account. Among his early works the Théatre indien and the Doctrine du sacrifice are great classics of Indology and still much read. His most lasting interest, however, was Buddhism. From 1890 he also studied Chinese. As one of the few Europeans, who were then allowed to visit Nepal, he became a pioneer of Nepalese studies and found there a number of unknown Buddhist Sanskrit texts. He also worked on Central Asian fragments and did a major work in the dechipherment of Tocharian B (Kuchean). Among his students were most of the French Indologist of the late 19th and early 20th century, e.g. Bloch, Lacôte, Renou, Filliozat and Esnoul, also Central and East Asian scholars such as P. Pelliot and many Indian and Japanese students.

Publications: edited & transl.: “La Bṛihatkathāmañjarī de Kshemendra”, JA 8:6, 1885, 397-479 & 8:7, 1886, 178-222; “Le Buddhacarita d’Açvaghoṣa”, JA 8:19, 1892, 201-236 (canto 1).

diss. I. Le théatre Indien. Bibl. de l’É.P.H.É. 83. Paris 1890.

diss. II. Quid de Graecis veterum Indorum monumenta tradiderint. Paris 1890.

– “Notes sur l’Inde à l’époque d’Alexandre”, JA 8:15, 1890, 234-240; “Notes de chronologie indienne I. Çâlivâhana dans Pline (Hist. nat., VI, 104)”, JA 8:16, 1890, 547-551; “La Grèce et l’Inde d’après les documents indiens”, REG 4, 1891, 24-45; “Le bouddhisme et les grecs”, RHR 23, 1891, 36-49; “Notes sur les Indo-Scythes”, JA 9:8, 1896, 444-484 & 9:9, 1897, 5-42: “The Kharoshtri Writing and its cradle”, IA 33, 1904, 79-84.

La doctrine du sacrifice dans les Brāhmaṇas. 181 p. B.É.H.É. Sc. rel. 11. P. 1898.

Le Népal, étude historique d’un royaume hindou. 1-3. A.M.G., Bibl. d’ét. 17-19. P. 1905–08; “Anciennes inscriptions du Népal”, JA 10:4, 1904, 189-239 & 10:9, 1907, 49-114.

– “Les Jātakas. Étapes du Buddha sur la voie de la transmigration”, Conférences du Musée Guimet 19, 1906, 1-60.

ed. & tr.: Asaṅga, Mahāyāna-Sūtrālaṁkāra. 1-2. 191+28+335 p. 15+12 facs. pl. B.E.H.E. P. 1907-11; “Le Sūtrālaṁkāra et ses sources”, JA 10:12, 1908, 57-184.

– “Les missions de Wang Hiuen-ts’e dans l’Inde”, JA 9:15, 1909, 297-341, 401-468.

– “L’Apramāda-varga. Étude sur les recensions des Dharmapadas”, JA 10:20, 1912, 203–294.

– “Documents de l’Asie centrale. Le “Tokharien B”, langue de Koutcha”, JA 11:2, 1913, 311-380; “Le ‘Tokharien’”, JA 222, 1933, 1-30.

– “Auteur du Bāveru-Jātaka”, Annuaire de l’École des Hautes-Études, Sciences philologiques 1913-14, 5-19; “Le catalogue géographique des yakṣa dans la Mahāmāyūrī”, JA 11:5, 1915, 19-138; “Pour l’histoire du Rāmāyaṇa”, JA 11:11, 1918, 5-161; “Notes sur la géographie ancienne de l’Inde”, JA 206, 1925, 46-69 (I. Paloura-Dantapura 46–57; English transl. in IA 55, 1926, 94-99).

with E. Chavannes: “Les seize arhat protecteurs de la loi”, JA 11:8, 1916, 5-50 & 189-304.

– “Sur la récitation primitive des textes bouddhiques”, JA 1915, 401-447.

translated: La légende de Nala et Damayanti. Bois dessinés et gravés par A. Karpelès. 151 p. Les Classiques de l’Orient 1. P. 1920.

– “Pré-Aryen et pré-dravidien dans l’Inde”, JA 203, 1923, 1-57.

– “Deux nouveaux traités de dramaturgie indienne”, JA 203, 1923, 193-218.

edited: Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi. Deux traités de Vasubandhu. 1. 16+45 p. B.E.H.E. 245. P. 1925; Matériaux pour l’étude du système Vijñaptimātra. 6+208 p. B.É.H.É. 260. P. 1932.

– “Ptolemée, le Niddesa et la Bṛhatkathâ”, Études asiatiques II, Publications de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 22, Paris, 1925, 1-55 (English transl. by P. C. Bagchi, Sino-Indian Studies (Santiniketan) 2, 1946-47, 61-105); “Problèmes indo-hébraïques”, Mélanges Israël Lévi (Revue des études juives) 1926, 45-54; “Alexandre et Alexandrie dans les documents indiens”, Mélanges Maspero II, Mém. de l’Inst. fr. du Caire 67, 1934, 155-164 & 189f. (English transl. in IHQ 12, 121-133).

L’Inde et le monde. 175 p. Paris 1928; L’Inde civilisatrice. 268 p. P.I.C.I. P. 1938.

edited: Hôbôgirin. 1928ff.

ed. & tr.: Mahākarmavibhaṅga (La Grande Classification des Actes) et Karma­vibhaṅgopadeśa (Dis­cussion sur le Mahākarmavibhaṅga). Textes sanscrits rapportés du Népal, édités et traduits avec les textes parallèles en sanscrit, en pali, en tibétain, en chinois, et en koutchéen. 6+272 p. 4 pl. P. 1932; “Maitreya le consolateur”, R. Linossier Mem. Vol. 2, 1932, 355-402 (Maitreyavyākaraṇa).

Sanskrit Texts from Bali. 35+112 p. G.O.S. 67. Baroda 1933.

ed. & tr.: Fragments de textes koutchéens publiés et traduits avec un vocabulaire et une introduction sur le “tokharien”. 161 p. Cahiers de Soc. as. 2. P. 1933.

– “Kaniṣka et Śātavāhana, deux figures symboliques de l’Inde au Ier siècle”, JA 228, 1936, 61-121.

numerous articles in JA, etc., 43 republ. in Mémorial Sylvain Lévi. P. 1937.

Sources: *A. Bareau, “S.L.”, REB 3, 1992, 154-159; *J. Bloch, S.L. et la linguistique indienne. 30 p. P. 1937; Buckland, Dictionary; *G. Cœdès & V. Goloubew, BEFEO 35, 1935, 507-515 & 551-567 (with photo) & 567-574 (bibliography); R. Lardinois, D.O.L.F. 594–596; *J. van Manen, JASB 3:2, 1936, 219-221; *M. Maschino, bibliography in *Bibl. Bouddh. 7-8, 1934-36, 1-64; *K. Nag, “S.L. and the Science of Indology”, K. Nag (ed.), Greater India. Bombay 1960, 393–404; *J. Przyluski, JGIS 3, 1936, 18-22; L. Renou, JA 228, 1936, 1-59, with photo, same in Mémorial S.L. P. 1937, xi-li; Ph. Stern, L. Petech, L. Renou, É. Lamotte, J. Filliozat & P.-E. Dumont, Hommage à Sylvain Lévi pour le centenaire de sa naissance (1963). P. 1964 (with photo); *J. Takakusu, A. Foucher, J. Hackin & P. Demiéville, Bulletin de la Maison franco-japonaise 8, 1936, 1-62; Wikipedia (more in French) with photo.

L. Bansat-Boudon & R. Lardinois, S.L. (1863-1935), Études indiennes, histoire sociale. Turnhout 2007; G. M. Bongard-Levin, R. Lardinois & A. A. Vigasin, Correspondances orientalistes entre Paris et Saint-Pétersbourg (1887–1935). 303 p. M.A.I.B.L. 26. P. 2002; *R. Lardinois & G. Weill, S.L. Le savant et le citoyen. Lettres de S.L. à Jean-Richard Bloch et à Jacques Bigart.

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