LIEBENTHAL, Walter. Königsberg 12.6.1886 — Tübingen 15.11.1982. German Indologist, Sinologist and Buddhist Scholar. Professor in Peking and Santiniketan. Son of Robert L., an attorney, and Grete Becken. After a brief period of university studies of law he started in 1907 work as a sculptor. From 1914 in Prussian army, in 1918 heavily wounded and prisoner, remained until 1920 in France. Back in Berlin he took his living from various ventures, but also met Dahlke and became interested in Buddhism. In 1928-33 studies at Breslau (under Strauss) and other universities. Ph.D. 1933 Breslau. Because of his Jewish background he decided to leave Germany in 1933. In 1934-35/37 Assistant at Sino-Indian Institute of Harvard-Yenching University in Peking. In 1935/37-45 Lecturer in Sanskrit and German at Peking University (also in its war-time locations in Changsha and Kunming). He remained in Peking until 1952. In 1952 Visiting Professor and in 1952-55 Fellow at Visvabharati University in Santiniketan, India, in 1955-60 ord. Professor and Director of Sino-Indian Institute there. In 1960 Visiting Professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and in 1960-61 at Sorbonne. In 1964-67 Honorary Professor at Tübingen. Married 1914 with Charlotte Oenike (d. 1958), four children.
Liebenthal started late, but was capable of working both on Indian and Chinese material. In Peking he prepared a Chinese–Sanskrit index of the Kāśyapaparivarta, but the manuscript got lost, when the Japanese occupied the city in 1937. In his later years mainly concentrated on Chinese Buddhism. I.al. he tried to show that the Chan school rather developed from Taoism than was introduced from India.
Publications: Diss. Satkārya in der Darstellung seiner buddhistischen Gegner. 14+152 p. Beitr. z. ind. Sprachwiss. u. Religionsgesch. 9. St. 1933.
– Transl. The Sutra of the Lord of Healing (Bhaishajyaguru Vaiduryaprabha Tathagata). 12+32 p. Buddhist Scriptures 1. Peking 1936.
– Articles on Chinese Buddhism in Monum. Serica (1936, 1941), HJAS (1947), JAOS (1950), Monum. Nipponica (1952), As.St./Ét.as. (1952), Visvabh. Quart. (1952-53), Sino-Indian Studies, IHQ, JASB, TP, etc.
– “Sanskrit Inscriptions from Yünnan”, Monum. Serica 12:1, 1947 & Sino-Indian Studies 3, 1947 & 5, 1955; “The Ancient Burma Road – A Legend?”, JGIS 16, 1956, 1-15.
– “Ding und Dharma. Ein Wort zu Jaspers’ ‘Nāgārjuna‘”, As.St./Ét.as. 14, 1961, 15-32.
– Translated: The Book of Chao. 154 p. Monum. Serica Monogr. 13. Peking 1948; Tao-sheng and his time. 12+34 p. Monum. Nipponica Monogr. 17. Tokyo 1956; Chao Lun, the Treatises of Seng-chao. 41+152 p. Hong Kong 1968; Das Wu-men-kuan: Zutritt nur durch die Wand. 142 p. Heidelberg 1977.
– On world-interpretations. 88 p. Santiniketan 1956 (first in Vi-BhQ 20–21, 1954–56).
Sources: Liebenthal-Festschrift. Sino-Indian Studies 5:3-4. Santiniketan 1957, with brief life, photo and bibliography; D.G.K. 9th ed. 1961, 12th ed. 1976; M. Kämpchen in www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/why-is-so-little-known-about-walter-liebenthal/cid/1675211 with photo; Wikipedia with photo.
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