Matthias Hermanns

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P. Matthias Hermanns (1899-1972) was a missionary of the SVD and a German Tibetologist.[1]


Father Matthias Hermanns was a member of the Society of the Divine Word (Societas Verbi Divini or SVD), a German-Dutch Catholic congregation which managed to send some 90 missionaries into the Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang provinces of north-west China between 1922 and 1953, where they established some thirty missions.[2] Together with Dominik Schröder and Johan Frick, he was one of the SVD missionaries who took a lively interest in ethnology, an activity which was supported by the congregation.[3]

The principal area of his research was the Kokonor area of the Amdo (as Tibetans call it) region, the present-day Chinese province of Qinghai, and in particular the nomadic herders. Part of his work involved supplying them with medical care. This subsidiary role gave him an excellent opportunity to study both the social position of Tibetan women and acquaint himself with the intimate side of their lives.[4]

Towards the end of the 1930s, around the time the future 14th Dalai Lama was found, Hermanns had the opportunity to meet him, still a child, since he knew the family well. According to Hermanns, the child did not know Tibetan at that time. On being asked his name, he replied in a Chinese dialect that he was called « Chi », the local Chinese name of the village of Taktser).[5]


In a research career that extended over four decades, Hermanns published over twenty books and articles, mainly on the pastoral peoples of the Amdo and their dialects, religion, culture and nomadic way of life. He also published on the Indo-Tibetan populations of the Himalayas.

He also authored a German translation of the Epic of King Gesar, based on manuscripts collected from the Amdo region.


  1. ^ D. Schröder D., ‘P. Matthias Hermanns SVD (1899-1972),’ in Anthropos, vol. 67, n° 1-2, 1972, pp. 1-8.
  2. ^ Bianca Horlemann, ‘The Divine Word Missionaries in Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang, 1922–1953: A Bibliographic Note,’ in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland (Third Series) (2009), 19, pp. 59-82.
  3. ^ Bianca Horlemann, op. cit.
  4. ^ Matthias Hermanns, ‘The Status of Woman in Tibet, in Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 26, No. 3, July 1953, p. 67.
  5. ^ P. Matthias Hermanns, Mythen und Mysterie. Mage und Religion der Tibeter, Cologne, 1956, p. 319.



  • Matthias Hermanns, Vom Urmenschen zur Hochkultur: Chinas Ursprung und Entwicklung, Missionsdruckerei Yenchowfu, 1935, 316 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, ‘Uiguren und ihre neuentdeckten Nachkom-men,’ in Anthropos, Bd 35-36 (1940-1944), pp. 78–99 (aussi Paulusdruckerei, 1941, 22 p.)
  • Matthias Hermanns, Schöpfungs- und Abstammungsmythen der Tibeter, 1946, 55 p.
  • Le mystère autour du Dalaï Lama, 1948
  • Matthias Hermanns, Die A mdo Pa-Grosstibeter: Die sozial-wirtschaftlichen Grundlagen der Hirtenkulturen Innerasiens, Freiburg in der Schweiz., 1948, 325 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Ueberlieferungen der Tibeter nach einem Manuskript aus dem Anfang des 13. Jahrh. n. Chr, 1948
  • Matthias Hermanns, Die Nomaden von Tibet. Die Sozial-Wirtschaftlichen Grundlagen der Hirtenkulturen in Amdo und von Innerasien. Ursprung und Entwicklung der Viehzucht, Herold, Wien, 1949, 325 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, ‘Tibetan Lamaism up to the Time of the Reform by Tzon kha pa,’ in The Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, new series, vol. 5, 1951, no. 2, pp. 7–36.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Tibetische Dialekte von A mdo, in Anthropos, 47 (1952), pp. 193–202 (aussi Paulusdruckerei, 1952, 10 p.)
  • Matthias Hermanns, The Status of Woman in Tibet, in Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 26, No. 3, July 1953
  • Matthias Hermanns, The Indo-Tibetans: The Indo-Tibetan and Mongoloid Problem in the Southern Himalaya and North-Northeast India (vol. 11 of Human Relations Area Files: Lepcha), K. L. Fernandes, Bombay, 1954, xvi + 159 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, The evolution of man: a challenge to Darwinism through human biogenetics, physical and cultural anthropology, prehistory, and palaeontology, Society of St. Paul, 1955, 139 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Himmelstier und Gletscherlöwe: Mythen, Sagen und Fabeln aus Tibet, 1955, 259 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Mythen und Mysterien. Magie und Religion der Tibeter, Cologne, B. Pick, 1956, 400 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, The A Mdo Pa greater Tibetans: the socio-economic bases of the pastoral cultures of Inner Asia (Human Relations Area Files), 1956, 354 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Madhya Pradesh (Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee), Hinduism and tribal culture: an anthropological verdict on the Niyogi Report, K. L. Fernandes, 1957, 59 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Die Familie der A mdo-Tibeter, Freiburg, Karl Alber, 1959, 403 p.
  • Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, Matthias Hermanns, Die Religiös-Magischen Weltanschauung der Primitivstämme Indiens, Band I, Die Bhagoria Bhil, Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1964, XI-543 p., 26 pl.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Das National-Epos der Tibeter Gling König Ge Sar, Verlag Josef Habbel, Regensburg, 1965, 962 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Die Religiös-Magischen Weltanschauung der Primitivstämme Indiens, Band II, Die Bhilala, Korku, Gond, Baiga, Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, 1966, 571 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Schamanen, Pseudoschamanen, Erlöser und Heilbringer: Eine vergleichende Studie religiÖser Urphänomene, 3 vol., Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1970, 1291 p. (vol. I : Schamanen, xxii + 705 p. ; vol. II : Pseudoschamanen, ix + 346 p. ; vol. III : Erlöser and Heilbringer der Tibeter, ix + 240 p.)
  • Matthias Hermanns, Der Mensch: Woher, wohin?, Verlag Bonifacius-Druckerei, 1971, 282 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Die Oraon, F. Steiner, 1973, 420 p.
  • Matthias Hermanns, Mythologie der Tibeter: Magie, Religion, Mysterien (réimpression de Mythen und Mysterien. Magie und Religion der Tibeter, 1956), Phaidon Verlag, Essen, 1997