Peter A. Boodberg

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Peter A. Boodberg
Native name Пётр Алексеевич Будберг
Born (1903-04-08)April 8, 1903
Vladivostok, Russia
Died June 29, 1972(1972-06-29) (aged 69)
Berkeley, California, United States
Nationality Russian, Baltic German
Fields Chinese language, history; Altaic languages
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley (B.A., Ph.D.)
Doctoral advisor E. T. Williams
Other academic advisors Yoshi S. Kuno, William Popper
Notable students William Boltz, Richard Mather, Edward Schafer

Peter Alexis Boodberg (Chinese: 卜弼德; pinyin: Bǔ Bìdé; April 8, 1903 – June 29, 1972), born Pyotr Alekseevich Budberg (Russian: Пётр Алексеевич Будберг), was a Russian–American scholar, linguist, and sinologist who taught at the University of California, Berkeley for 40 years. Boodberg was influential in 20th century developments in the studies of the development of Chinese characters, Chinese philology, and Chinese historical phonology.


Boodberg was born Pyotr Alekseevich Budberg on 8 April 1903 in Vladivostok, Russia. The Boodbergs were a Baltic German family, originally from Mainz, that had lived in Estonia since the 13th century. After Russia annexed Estonia in 1721, they became a prominent diplomatic and military family in Imperial Russia. Boodberg's father was a nobleman and commanding general of the Russian forces in Vladivostok. His father's position ensured that Boodberg enjoyed a strong education in the Latin and Greek Classics and in the major European languages.[1] Boodberg was a cadet at a military academy in St. Petersburg until the outbreak of World War I, when Boodberg's parents sent him and his brother to Harbin, Manchuria, out of concern for their safety.[1] Boodberg attended the Oriental Institute (modern Far Eastern National University) in Vladivostok, where he studied Chinese, which he had begun learning as a teenager in Harbin, and learned several other Asiatic languages.[1]

While studying in Vladivostok, Boodberg visited Japan twice before finally being forced to flee Russia in 1920 due to the anti-aristocracy violence of the Bolshevik Revolution.[1] He and his family emigrated to the United States, settling in San Francisco.[1] He enrolled as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a B.A. in Oriental Languages in 1924.[1] Boodberg continued studying at Berkeley as a graduate student, earning a Ph.D. in Oriental Languages in 1930 with a dissertation entitled "The Art of War in Ancient China: A Study Based on the Dialogues of Li, Duke of Wei."[2]

In 1932, Boodberg was hired to teach at Berkeley as an instructor in the Oriental Languages department. He was made an associate professor in 1937, Chairman of the department in 1940, and was promoted to full professor in 1948. Boodberg's scholarship won him Guggenheim Fellowships in 1938, 1956, and 1963. In 1963, Boodberg also became President of the American Oriental Society. He continued to teach until his death from a heart attack in 1972. Boodberg influenced several generations of sinologists, notably Edward H. Schafer, who wrote a long obituary article in the Journal of the American Oriental Society that was followed by a full bibliography by Alvin P. Cohen.

Selected works[edit]

  • "Some Proleptical Remarks on the Evolution of Archaic Chinese". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 2 (1937), 329-372.
  • "'Ideography' or Iconolatry?", Toung Pao, 35 (1940), 266-288.
  • "The Chinese Script: An Essay on Nomenclature (the First Hecaton)". Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica 39 (1957), 113-120
  • "The Language of the T’o-Pa Wei"
  • "Two Notes on The History of The Chinese Frontier"
  • "Marginalia to The Histories of The Northern Dynasties"
  • "Chinese Zoographic Names as Chronograms"
  • "Three Notes on the T'u-chüeh Turks", University of California publications in Semitic Philology, Berkeley and Los Angeles, v.11, (1951)
  • "An Early Mongolian Toponym", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 19 (Dec. 1956), 407-408
  • "Philological Notes on Chapter One of The Lao Tzu"
  • Alvin P. Cohen (ed.), Selected Works of Peter A. Boodberg. University of California Press 1979 (Review)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Honey (2001), p. 288.
  2. ^ Schafer (1974), p. 1.
Works cited
  • Honey, David B. (2001). Incense at the Altar: Pioneering Sinologists and the Development of Classical Chinese Philology. American Oriental Series 86. New Haven, Connecticut: American Oriental Society. ISBN 0-940490-16-1. 
  • Schafer, Edward H. (1974). "Peter A. Boodberg, 1903-1972". Journal of the American Oriental Society 94 (1): 1–13. 

External links[edit]