Sinological Profiles
August Conrady
28 Apr 1864 (Wiesbaden) - 4 June 1925 (Leipzig)

Conrady's early training was in classical philology, Sanskrit, and comparative linguistics; via Nepalese he later moved into Tibetan, and from there into Chinese. This combination of large overview and technical skill served as a background for some notable discoveries and conjectures. The departure of von der Gabelentz for Berlin in 1889 had left a Sinological gap at Leipzig that was not immediately filled. Conrady gradually filled the gap, and in the process made a second beginning of Sinology at Leipzig. He became a lecturer (Privatdozent) in East Asian Languages in 1891, was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1897, spent 1903/1904 at Peking University, established the Ostasiatisches Seminar in 1913, and eventually rose to a full professorship at Leipzig (1920). He was one of the first Sinologists to found what could be called a "school," and his students included some notable figures: Gustav Haloun, Otto Maenchen-Helfen, Lin Yutang, Bruno Schindler, and his own nephew and Leipzig successor Eduard Erkes.

The brilliant and humanistically broad Conrady was a puzzlement to his contemporaries (Pelliot remarked that nobody in his time could properly evaluate some of his suggestions), and an inspiration to his successors. He showed the existence of sonant initials in ancient Chinese, and noted their relationship with later tonal developments, a fact incorporated in the work of Karlgren. He identified the phonetic of a character as also its genetic, a point further developed by Reifler. He anticipated the affixation theory of Maspero, a line of inquiry that is only now coming into its own. He was one of the first to suggest Indian influence in classical China. Conrady published relatively little in his lifetime, but Schindler found that, of 390 manuscripts left behind at his death, about half were in publishable condition. Of that half, it stands to reason that many will be either dead ends, or live ends that in the interim have been rediscovered by others. What about the remainder? At last report, the matter had not been pursued.

E Bruce Brooks


Wolfgang Behr contributed to this profile.

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