8 December 1845|
|Died||13 February 1935(aged 89)|
Herbert Allen Giles (Chinese: 翟理斯; pinyin: Zhái Lǐsī; 8 December 1845 – 13 February 1935) was a British diplomat, sinologist, and professor of Chinese language. Giles was educated at Charterhouse School before becoming a British diplomat in China. He modified a Mandarin Chinese Romanization system earlier established by Thomas Wade, resulting in the widely known Wade–Giles Chinese romanization system. Among his many works were translations of Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and in 1892 the first widely published Chinese-English dictionary.
Herbert A. Giles was the fourth son of John Allen Giles (1808–1884), an Anglican clergyman. After studying at Charterhouse, Herbert became a British diplomat to China (1867–1892). He also spent several years at Fort Santo Domingo (1885–1888) in Tamsui, Taiwan. He was the father of Bertram, Valentine, Lancelot, Edith, Mable, and Lionel Giles. In 1897 Herbert Giles became only the second professor of Chinese language appointed at the University of Cambridge, succeeding Thomas Wade. At the time of his appointment, there were no other sinologists at Cambridge. Giles was therefore free to spend most of his time among the ancient Chinese texts earlier donated by Wade, publishing what he chose to translate from his eclectic reading in Chinese literature.
His later works include a history of the Chinese Pictorial Art in 1905 and his 1914 Hibbert Lectures on Confucianism which was published in 1915 by Williams and Norgate (de). He dedicated the third edition of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1916) to his seven grandchildren, but at the end of his life was on speaking terms with only one of his surviving children. An ardent agnostic, he was also an enthusiastic freemason. He never became a Fellow at one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, despite being a university professor for 35 years. He finally retired in 1932, and died in his ninetieth year.
Legacy and reputation
Giles received the Prix Julien award from the French Academy in 1897 for his Chinese Biographical Dictionary. Generally considered unreliable among modern academics, Endymion Wilkinson described it as:
full of inaccuracies and the selection leaves much to be desired. Between one third and and a half of the dates are wrong because Giles supposed that if somebody is recorded as having died in 1200 aged 63 he or she must have been born in 1137 (in most cases 1138 would have been a better guess).
He also ran afoul of the Chinese scholar Gu Hongming, who declared
Dr. Giles' Chinese biographical dictionary, it must be admitted, is a work of immense labour. But here again Dr. Giles shows an utter lack of the most ordinary judgment. In such a work, one would expect to find notices only of really notable men.
Nor did Gu appreciate Giles' great Chinese-English Dictionary describing it as
... in no sense a dictionary at all. It is merely a collection of Chinese phrases and sentences, translated by Dr. Giles without any attempt at selection, arrangement, order or method," and "decidedly of less value than even the old dictionary of Dr. Williams.
- British Vice Consul at Pagoda Island, Mawei (1880–1883)
- British Vice Consul at Shanghai (1883–1885)
- British Consul at Tamsui (1885–1891)
- British Consul at Ningpo (1891–1893)
- Giles, Herbert Allen (1872). Chinese Without a Teacher. A.H. de Carvalho.
- — (1873). A Dictionary of Colloquial Idioms in the Mandarin Dialect. A.H. De Carvalho.
- — (1874). Synoptical Studies in the Chinese Character. Kelly & Company.
- — (1876). Chinese Sketches. Trübner & Company.
- — (1877). Handbook of the Swatow Dialect: With a Vocabulary. [Published with the assistance of the Straits' Government].
- — (1877). From Swatow to Canton: (overland). Trübner.
- — (1878). A glossary of reference, on subjects connected with the Far east.
- — (1879). On Some Translations and Mistranslations in Dr. Williams' Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language. A.A. Marçal.
- — (1892). A Chinese-English Dictionary. B. Quaritch.
- — (1892). A Chinese Biographical Dictionary. B. Quaritch.
- — (1898). Chinese Poetry in English Verse.
- — (1901). History of Chinese Literature.
- — (1901). Chinese Without a Teacher: Being a Collection of Easy and Useful Sentences in the Mandarin Dialect, with a Vocabulary. Kelly & Walsh, limited.
- — (1902). China and the Chinese. Columbia University Press, The Macmillan compay agents.
- Thomas Lowndes Bullock; Herbert Allen Giles (1902). Progressive Exercises in the Chinese Written Language. Kelly & Walsh, limited.
- Launcelot Cranmer-Byng; Herbert Allen Giles (1902). The never-ending wrong: and other renderings of the Chinese from the prose translations of Herbert A. Giles. Grant Richards.
- Giles, Herbert Allen (1905). An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art. Keloy & Walsh, ld.
- — (1911). Chinese Fairy Tales.
- — (1911). The Civilization of China.
- — (1912). China and the Manchus. The University Press.
- "China" in History of the Nations (1913)
- Confucianism and Its Rivals (1915)
- How to Begin Chinese: The Hundred Best Characters (1919)
- The Second Hundred Best Characters (1922)
- Revision of Bullock's Progressive Exercises (1922)
- Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer (1926, Shanghai)
- The Chinese and Their Food (Zhonghua Fanshi) (1947, Shanghai) (posthumous)
- "The Memoirs of H.A. Giles,"  East Asian History 13 (1997): 1–90. Dated 1925.
- Songling Pu (1880). Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. T. De la Rue & Company.
- Laozi (1886). The Remains of Lao Tzu.
- "Herbert Allen GILES (1845–1935)" on the Cambridge University Library website
- "Giles, Herbert Allen (GLS932HA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Aylmer, Charles, East Asian History 13–14, 1997, pp. 1–7; Sterckx, Roel, In the Fields of Shennong: An inaugural lecture delivered before the University of Cambridge on 30 September 2008 to mark the establishment of the Joseph Needham Professorship of Chinese History, Science and Civilization. Cambridge: Needham Research Institute, 2008.
- "An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art by Herbert A. Giles". The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 7 (29): 405. August 1905. JSTOR 856445.
- Chavannes, Ed. (1905). "An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art by H. A. Giles". T'oung Pao. Second Series 6 (2): 251. JSTOR 4525813.
- "Confucianism and Its Rivals by Herbert A. Giles". The Journal of Race Development 6 (3): 350. January 1916. JSTOR 29738158.
- Schlegel, G. (1897). "古今姓氏族譜, A Chinese Biographical Dictionary by Herbert A. Giles". T'oung Pao 8 (4): 438–441. JSTOR 4525305.
- Kennedy, George A. (July–September 1950). "Dates in Giles' Biographical Dictionary". Journal of the American Oriental Society 70 (3): 188–189. JSTOR 596269.
- Endymion Porter Wilkinson (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard University Asia Center. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4.
- "A Great Sinologue," in The Spirit of the Chinese People Wikisource
- Cooley, James C., Jr. T.F. Wade in China: Pioneer in Global Diplomacy 1842–1882. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981.
- Minford, John and Tong Man. "Whose Strange Stories? P'u Sung-ling (1640-1715), Herbert Giles (1845-1935), and the Liao-chai chih-i" (Archive).East Asian History 17/18 (1999), pp. 1–48. Accessed February 1, 2014.
- Giles, Herbert, Edited and with an Introduction by Charles Aylmer, "The Memoirs of H.A. Giles, The," East Asian History.13 (1997): 1-90. 
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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