Sinological Profiles
J J M de Groot
1854 - 1921

De Groot

Jan Jakob Maria de Groot was essentially a historian of religion. Like many then and since, he thought that one spiritual essence could be detected beneath a great variety of religious, philosophical, and even political expressions in China, and his lifework was the discovery and exposition of that essence. At the end of the 19th century, he and Schlegel were the chief ornaments of Sinology at Leiden. de Groot in 1902 moved to Berlin, and a bid by the young Otto Franke to succeed him at Leiden came to nothing (at Berlin, he was eventually succeeded in 1923 by an older Otto Franke). de Groot was of the stiff authoritarian school, which recognized no place in Sinology for criticism of Sinologists, and the efforts of Haenisch to find a role at Berlin in de Groot's time for the undoubtedly rude von Zach came to nothing. For that matter, Haenisch's own role at Berlin came in the end to not very much.

De Groot's works are his contribution. They indicate a capacity for synthesis, which Franke also had, and which the no less authoritarian Pelliot conspicuously lacked. They show a beginning in observation and an end in abstraction, which is undoubtedly the correct procedure. At any rate the reverse method has so far not produced results commensurate with the claims made for it. As to the soul of China, the conclusions of Creel, who started roughly where de Groot ended, and wound up in an altogether different corner of things, may usefully be compared.

E Bruce Brooks



Back to Profiles Index Page

9 June 2004 / Contact The Project / Exit to Sinology Page