Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste Terrien de Lacouperie
|Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste Terrien de Lacouperie|
|Died||11 October 1894
Fulham, London, England
|Fields||Oriental studies, specialising in philology|
Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste Terrien de Lacouperie (died 11 October 1894) was a French orientalist, specialising in comparative philology. He published a number of books on early Asian and Middle-Eastern languages, initially in French and then in English.
Early life and education
Biographical detail on Terrien is scant, some notices drawing on Royal Asiatic Society records and prefaces. He is sometimes noted as born in 1845, although his date of death is firmly established.
He was born in Normandy, a descendant of the Cornish family of Terrien, which emigrated to France in the 17th century during the civil war,[clarification needed] and acquired the property of La Couperie in Normandy. Some bibliographies append "Baron" to his name. His father was a merchant, and he received a business education.
In early life he settled at Hong Kong, where he soon turned his attention from commerce to the study of oriental languages, and he acquired an especially intimate knowledge of the Chinese language. In 1867, he published a philological work, Du Langage, Essai sur la Nature et l'Étude des Mots et des Langues (Paris, 8 volumes), which attracted considerable attention. Soon after, his attention was attracted by the progress made in deciphering Babylonian inscriptions, and by the resemblance between the Chinese characters and the early Akkadian hieroglyphics.
The comparative philology of the two languages occupied most of his later life, and he was able to show an early affinity between them. In 1879, he went to London, was elected a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and began to write works in English. In 1884, he became professor of comparative philology, as applied to the languages of South-Eastern Asia, at University College, London.
In the 1880s, he was also employed on several short-term contracts to work on the East-Asian coin collection at the British Museum. In 1892, he published his Catalogue of Chinese Coins from the VIIth Century BC to AS 621 including the Series in the British Museum, for which the Académie des Inscriptions, France, awarded him the Stanislas Julien Prize, worth 1,500 French francs, "for the best work relating to China".
His last years were largely occupied by a study of the "Yh King", or Book of Changes, the oldest work in the Chinese language. Its meaning had long proved a puzzle both to native and to foreign scholars. Terrien demonstrated that the basis of the work consisted of fragmentary notes, chiefly lexical in character, and noticed that they bore a close resemblance to the syllabaries of Chaldaea. In 1892, he published the first part of an explanatory treatise The Oldest Book of the Chinese (London, 8 volumes), in which he stated his theory of the nature of the "Yh King", and gave translations of passages from it. The treatise, however, was not completed before his death.
In recognition of his services to oriental study he received a Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Leuven. He also enjoyed for a time a small pension from the French government, and after that had been withdrawn an unsuccessful attempt was made by his friends to obtain him an equivalent from the English ministry. He was twice awarded the prix Stanislas Julien by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for his services to oriental philology.
Evaluations of Terrien's theories
Terrien's translations and theories that the origins of Chinese civilisation lay in Mesopotamia impressed the public but were criticised or dismissed by sinologists then and in following years. James Legge, whose translations of the Chinese Classics appeared at the same time as Terrien's and are still considered standard, questioned Terrien's sinological competence. Legge's review of Terrien's translation of the I Ching charged that only "hasty ignorance" could have led to the mistakes, which included failing to consult the basic reference, the Kangxi Dictionary. Another reviewer at the time labelled Terrien a "specious wonder-monger." But the final decline of Terrien's comparativist theories of the origins of Chinese civilisation was marked by the attacks of University of Leiden sinologist, Gustav Schlegel. Schlegel and following Orientalists insisted on the independent origin and growth of Chinese civilisation. In particular, these scholars pointed out that monosyllabic Chinese characters could not be equated to polysyllabic Chaldean words; that in any case, Assyriological knowledge was "dangerously uncertain" and too unreliable to make such claims; and that it had not even been established that Babylonian civilisation was earlier than Chinese.
Terrien's theory on the Babylonion origins of the sixty year ganzhi cyclical calendar system has fared little better, as the two systems differed both in concept and function: the Babylonion decimal system was used to count up to 60, where the cycle started again, while the Chinese system combined a cycle of twelve and a cycle of ten.
Lacouperie's ideas received attention from some Chinese intellectuals and nationalists, in support of anti-Manchu racist theories (founded on those of Herbert Spencer and the Yellow Book) that were current at the beginning of the 20th century. His theory of a Western origin of Chinese civilisation had reached Japan around the same time, the academic refutation did not stop it becoming a prevalent and populist notion. The idea for a mythical script, native to Formosa, was founded on a formulation of the author, though he also noted the paucity in quality of information from that region.
Besides the works mentioned, Terrien was the author of:
- Early History of Chinese Civilisation, London, 1880, 8vo.
- On the History of the Archaic Chinese Writings and Text, London, 1882, 8vo.
- Paper Money of the Ninth Century and supposed Leather Coinage of China, London, 1882, 8vo.
- Cradle of the Shan Race, London, 1885, 8vo.
- Babylonia and China, London, 1887, 4to.
- Did Cyrus introduce Writing into India? London, 1887, 8vo.
- The Languages of China before the Chinese, London, 1887, 8vo; French edition, Paris, 1888, 8vo.
- The Miryeks or Stone Men of Corea, Hertford, 1887, 8vo.
- The Yueh-Ti and the early Buddhist Missionaries in China, 1887, 8vo.
- The Old Babylonian Characters and their Chinese Derivates, London, 1888, 8vo.
- The Djurtchen of Mandshuria, 1889, 8vo.
- Le Non-Monosyllabisme du Chinois Antique, Paris, 1889, 8vo.
- The Onomastic Similarity of Nai Kwang-ti of China and Nakhunte of Susiana, London, 1890, 8vo.
- L'Ère des Arsacides selon les Inscriptions cunéiformes, Louvain, 1891, 8vo.
- How in 219 B.C. Buddhism entered China, London [1891?], 8vo.
- Mélanges: on the Ancient History of Glass and Coal and the Legend of Nü-Kwa's Coloured Stones in China [1891?], 8vo.
- Sur deux Ères inconnus de l'Asie Antérieure, 330 et 251 B.C., 1891, 8vo.
- The Silk Goddess of China and her Legend, London, 1891, 8vo.
- Catalogue of Chinese Coins from the VIIth Cent. B.C. to A.D. 621, ed. R. S. Poole, London, 1892, 8vo.
- Beginnings of Writing in Central and Eastern Asia, London, 1894, 8vo.
- Western Origin of the Early Chinese Civilisation, London, 1894, 8vo.
- Carlyle, Edward Irving (1898). "Terrien De La Couperie, Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
[Journal of the Royal Asiatic Soc. 1895, p. 214; Athenæum, 1894, ii. 531; Times, 15 Oct. 1894.]
- Carlyle, E.I. "Albert Terrien De Lacouperie". rev. Janette Ryan, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
- Brooks, E. Bruce (9 June 2004). "Albert Terrien de Lacouperie". Sinologists (biography project). University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Hacker, Edward A.; Moore, Steve; Patsco, Lorraine (2002). I Ching – An Annotated Bibliography. Psychology Press (via Google Books). p. 12. ISBN 978-0-415-93969-0. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Wang, Helen. "A History of the Japanese Coin Collection at the British Museum", in Sakuraki et al., Catalogue of the Japanese Coin Collection (pre-Meiji) at the British Museum, British Museum Research Publication 174, 2010 [ISBN 978-086159-174-9], pp. 1–12; Wang, Helen. "How did Kutsuki Masatsuna's Coins Come to the British Museum", ibid, pp. 13–16.
- Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1893 (July), p. 652.
- Norman J. Girardot, The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge's Oriental Pilgrimage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 388–390. Girardot describes the controversies in detail, pp. 382–393.
- Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History: A New Manual (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), pp. 497–498.
- Charlotte Furth, "Intellectual Change, 1895–1920,in Fairbank, John King; Twitchett, Denis Crispin (1983). "1". The Cambridge History of China: Republican China, 1912–1949 12. Cambridge University Press. pp. 355–6. ISBN 978-0-521-23541-9. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Yoshihiro, Ishikawa (2003). "Anti-Manchu Racism and the Rise of Anthropology in Early 20th century China". Sino-Japanese Studies. chinajapan.org. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Lubotsky, Alexander; Schaeken, Jos; Wiedenhof, Jeroen (2008). Evidence and Counter-Evidence: Essays in Honour of Frederik Kortlandt. Volume 2: General Linguistics.. Rodopi (via Google Books). p. 217. ISBN 978-90-420-2471-7. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "Terrien de Lacouperie: Catalogue of Chinese Coins". Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0. Archived from the original on 11 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "Terrien De La Couperie, Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Works written by or about Albert Terrien de Lacouperie at Wikisource
- Works by or about Albert Terrien de Lacouperie in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Titles of papers in The Academy, etc. "Bibliography: 'Transmission to the Far East'". Mesopotamian Astronomy & Astrology. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "The Metallic Cowries of Ancient China (600 B.C.)" Terrien de Lacouperie The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland New Series, Vol. 20, No. 3 (July 1888), pp. 428–439
- E. Bruce Brooks, "Albert Terrien de Lacouperie 1845–1894" Warring States Project, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.