Hyacinth (Bichurin)

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Bichurin's map of Lhasa.

Nikita Yakovlevich Bichurin (Никита Яковлевич Бичурин) (August 29, 1777 – May 11, 1853), better known under his monastic name Hyacinth, or Iakinf (Иакинф), was one of the founding fathers of Sinology. He was born to a family of Chuvash priests and studied in the Kazan seminary.

In 1802 he was tonsured with the name Hyacinth and sent to promote Christianity in Beijing, where he spent the next 14 years. The genuine objects of his interest were Chinese history and language. He was forthwith accused of lacking religious zeal, stripped of his abbot's rank and incarcerated in the Valaam Monastery. There he translated a number of ancient and medieval Chinese manuscripts, which had previously been unknown in Europe. In succeeding decades he published many volumes on Chinese and Mongolian history, geography, religion, statistics, and agriculture.

It was Bichurin who came up with the idea for the name East Turkestan to replace the term "Chinese Turkestan" in 1829.[1]

In 1837 he opened the first Chinese-language school in the Russian Empire. For his sinological contributions, he was elected to the Russian, German, and French Academies of Sciences.


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  • P. V. Denisov, Nikita Iakovich Bichurin: Ocherk zhizni i nachnoi deitel’nosti. Cheboksary, 1977.
  • L. N. Gumilev, M. F. Khvan (compilers), Sobranie svedenii po istoricheskoi geografii Vostochnoi i Sredinnoi Azii Cheboksary : Chuvashskoe Gos. Izd-vo, 1960.
  • N. IA. Bichurin (Iakinf), Sobranie svedenii o narodakh, obitavshikh v Srednei Azii v drevnie vremena / Собрание сведений о народах, обитавших в Средней Азии в древние времена, 3 volumes, Moscow : Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1950-1953. Originally published: St. Petersburg, 1851. Include map in 3 sheets: Karta k istorii narodov obitavshikh v Srednei Azii v drevnii︠a︡ vremena / Карта к истории народов обитавших в Средней Азии в древния времена

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