STAËL-HOLSTEIN, Alexander Wilhelm, Baron von (Aleksandr Avgustovič fon Stal’-Gol’štejn). Waist/Livonia (now Tõstamaa in SW Estonia) 20.12.1876 (1.1.1877) — Peiping (Peking) 16.3.1937. Russian/Estonian (German of Livonia) Indologist and Buddhist Scholar, after the revolution in China. Professor in Beijing. Born in a family of Livonian German nobility he was educated at Kollmann Gymnasium in Dorpat (Tartu) and in 1894-96 studied classical philology and Sanskrit (under L. Meyer) at Dorpat University. Further studies at Berlin (Weber) and Halle (Pischel). Ph.D. 1900 Halle. Back at home he entered Russian foreign service and in 1903-04 visited India. From 1909 (1911?) Docent at St.Petersburg, in 1913 degree at Oriental Faculty there. In 1912 visited Harvard. In 1915 he was sent to Tokyo by Russian Imperial Academy and in 1918 he was nominated Lecturer (1922 Professor) of Sanskrit and Tibetan at Peking High School and from 1929 full Professor of Central Asian Philology and Director of the Harvard Sino-Indian Institute in Peking (Beijing, then called Peiping). From 1921 also Adviser to Chinese Government in higher education. From 1932 member of Chinese Academy. In 1918 he had lost the most part of his family estate in Estonia, but took nevertheless Estonian citizenship. In the 1930s visited Europe including his native Estonia. In 1929 married in Beijing with Olga von Grave, also a member of Baltic German nobility, had one son and one daughter.
Staël-Holstein was a notable Buddhist scholar, best known of his work on the Kāśyapaparivarta, edited from a Central Asian manuscript in St.Petersburg. After his Vedic dissertation, a continuation of the edition, begun by Schrader, of a Pariśiṣṭa to the Gobhilīyagṛhyasūtra, he turned completely to Central Asian studies. In addition to Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese, he was interested in Central Asian fragments in Turkic and Tocharian. In Peking he was the first foreigner, who was allowed to visit and study the Forbidden Town. As a nobleman he is said to have been imperious nature and often difficult to his subordinates.
Publications: Diss. Karmapradīpa. Prapāṭhaka 2. 63 p. Halle 1900.
– Edited with W. Radloff: Ṭišastvustik. Ein in türkischer Sprache bearbeitetes buddhistisches Sutra. 1. Transcription und Übersetzung von W. R. 2. Bemerkungen zu den Brāhmīglossen des Tišastvustik-Manuscripts von A. v. St.-H. 8+143 p. Bibl. Buddh. 12. St.P. 1910 (p. 79-143 by St.-H.).
– Edited: Kien-Ch’ui-Fan-Tsan (Gaṇḍīstotragāthā). 29+289 p. Bibl. Buddh. 15. St.P. 1913 (from Chinese transcription).
– Edited: The Kāśyapaparivarta. A Mahāyānasūtra of the Ratnakūṭa Class. 26+234 p. Shanghai 1926 (in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese); Sthiramati’s commentary on the same. 24+340 p. Peiping 1933 (in Tibetan and Chinese).
– On a Peking edition of the Tibetan Kanjur which seems to be unknown in the West. 20 p. 8 pl. Peiping 1934; “On the Sexagenary Cycle of the Tibetans”, Monum. Serica 1, 1935, 277-314, 2 pl.
– Two Lamaistic Pantheons. Edited with introduction and indexes by W. E. Clark from materials collected by the late Baron A. von St.-H. 1-2. 24+169 p. 314 pl. Harvard-Yenching Inst. Monogr. Ser. 3-4. Cambridge, Mass. 1937.
– Articles in Mél. as., HJAS, etc.
Sources: Deutsch-Baltisches Biographisches Lexicon 1710-1960; S. Elisséeff, HJAS 3, 1938, 1-8 with photo; *Hallik & Klaassen 2003, 157-160; *E. Schierlitz, Monum. Serica 3:1, 1938, 286-291: *J. Schubert, AA 7, 1937, 227-230; Mart Läänemets, Homeland (Kodumaa) April 8, 1987; *Vigasin et al., Istorija otečestvennogo vostokovedenija s serediny XIX veka do 1917 goda. Moscow 1997, 426-428; *Vigasin 2008, 503-506; Wikipedia (Russian version with photo).