Sinological Profiles
J J L Duyvendak
28 June 1889 (Harlingen) - 9 July 1954 (Leiden)

Duyvendak first studied Dutch philology at Leiden. He soon began Chinese with de Groot (who had not yet left Leiden for Berlin) and continued in Paris, 1910-1911, under Chavannes and Cordier. He was an interpreter for the Dutch embassy in Peking during 1912-1918, in the first days of the new Chinese Republic. In 1919 he began his academic career as a lecturer in Chinese at Leiden. This was something of a break with the earlier tradition of Dutch Chinese studies, since Duyvendak had never held a position in the Dutch colonial administration in Indonesia.

Duyvendak originally planned to do a thesis on Sywndz, but this was abandoned when it was learned that Dubs was preparing a translation, a preliminary version of which he presented as his Chicago doctoral dissertation in 1928. Duyvendak turned instead to the Shang-jywn Shu. On that text he did a thorough philological job, going well beyond what Dubs had accomplished with the Sywndz. Using such recent tools as Karlgren's list of discriminant words, he found that the SJS essays were not the work of one man, and were mostly of 03rd rather than (as the ascription to Lord Shang would have required) of 04th century date. This was an important first step, even if it did not develop a scenario for the text, or assign it a firm place in the history of Chinese statecraft. Duyvendak's interest in statecraft was logical, given his own diplomatic background.

An early but unsuccessful foray into more modern philology was his translation of The Diary of His Excellency Ching-shan (Acta Orientalia, 1924), a forgery which deceived Duyvendak and much of the rest of the scholarly world at the time. Acknowledging the force of arguments presented by others, Duyvendak later conceded that the Diary had been written by a rogue and adventurer, Sir Edmund Backhouse.

Other writings on contemporary China, mostly in Dutch, were more successful. The best of them were collected in "China Tegen de Westerkim" or "China Against the Western Horizon." The range of topics is considerable, and includes a knowledgeable survey of the Literary Renaissance of 1917 and afterward, an essay on the influence of Wang Yang-ming in contemporary China, and a sketch of the warlord Jang Sywn, who had fled to the safety of the Dutch legation following his unsuccessful attempt to restore the Ching Dynasty, and with whom Duyvendak had had many conversations during that period. This collection appeared in 1927, followed in 1928 by the formally published version of his Shang-jywn Shu thesis. These were his credentials, both classical and contemporary. On the strength of them, Duyvendak was made Professor at Leiden in 1930.

That same year, he established the Sinological Institute, as a place where students could be brought together on a working basis with the relevant library materials. The library itself at that time consisted of slightly over 1,000 volumes in Chinese and Western languages. It was rapidly expanded, and a student, Tjan Tjoe Som, a Chinese from Indonesia, was hired as librarian. The initial funds for the operation of the Sinological Institute were found when the Boxer Indemnity payments were converted to a Foundation for the Advancement of Cultural Relations between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and China. This in turn established a Foundation for the Advancement of Chinese Studies at Leiden University, which paid the librarian's salary and provided for book purchases. Also in 1930, Duyvendak created the Sinica Leidensica series, with Brill as the publisher, in which Leiden theses and other important monographs could be published. Like Alexeev in Russia at a somewhat earlier period, Duyvendak created around him a system of Sinological activity which included library resources, teaching activity, and publication possibilities. 1930 was thus the foundation year for Dutch Sinology as an organized enterprise, rather than a matter of solitary erudition.

The enterprise immediately began producing results. The first published theses included Arthur Hummel (the Autobiography of Gu Jye-gang from Gu Shr Byen 1, in 1931) and Esson M Gale (the Discourses on Salt and Iron, also 1931). As confirmation of the importance of Leiden, and of Duyvendak as its guiding figure, in 1932 Duyvendak became co-editor of T'oung Pao with Pelliot, thus resuming a Franco-Dutch cooperation which went back to Cordier and Schlegel, but had lapsed with Schlegel's death in 1903. Duyvendak published a popular history of China in 1935, and in that same year made a visit to China. His newspaper sketches from that trip were gathered into a popular book in 1936.

Derk Bodde, whom Duyvendak had invited to Leiden after meeting him in Peking, completed his thesis on Li Sz as "China's First Unifier" (1938). In that same year appeared G W Overdijkink's "Lin Tse-hsü," focusing on his role in the outbreak of the Opium War. William Acker defended his thesis in 1940, but then the war intervened, and the series came to a halt.

Duyvendak had always been friendly, and always available (though also always rigorous), toward his students. With the German occupation of the Netherlands, Duyvendak's open spirit showed itself in his opening his home to Jewish refugees, a crime for which he was arrested, though later released on the representations of international scholars, including Haenisch in Germany.

The Crab Nebula

It also found wider horizons. In 1940 Duyvendak collaborated with his friend, the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort, on the question of the Crab Nebula. Oort had become interested in this on a trip to the US, from which he returned in July 1939, weeks before the outbreak of WW2. Mayall had made a better determination of the expansion velocity of the Nebula, and derived a more accurate value for its age. One historical record of the appearance of the Nebula was already known. Oort asked Duyvendak to go over the Chinese and Japanese records in search of further mentions of a new ("guest") star. Duyvendak wrote back from Oegstgeest (a small town near Leiden) on 30 July 1940:

Amice, I have succeeded in finding another place where your Nova is mentioned. There exists an extensive work, of which a facsimile edition was published only a few years ago (and which could not have been known to earlier researchers), treating the institutions of the Sung dynasty, which includes the year 1054. The name is Sung Hui Yao. In vol. 54 of this work, . ..

On this, Oort added in pencil, "Must write an airmail letter about this to Mayall and Baade, as soon as I am back in Leiden." Oort concluded that the new Sung star was not a nova but a supernova. This was Oort's last work as a Leiden astronomer. He resigned his professorship in 1942 in protest against the Nazification of the university, and that summer moved with his family to a cottage called ‘De Potbrummel’ in the village of Hulshorst, a very quiet part of the country, some 100 km to the east of Leiden. There he sat out the war, although he kept contact with the Observatory throughout, cycling to Leiden with stops in Utrecht, and supported in ways that are still something of a mystery. One of his letters does mention the discovery of a load of potatoes he managed to find and send to Leiden during the last hungry winter of the war. Tulip bulbs from the famous fields around Leiden, when properly boiled, were another resource of survival for the residents of Leiden at this time.

Duyvendak's other wide horizon was the interior one. An anthology of translated selections from classical Chinese philosophy was published for his fellow citizens in 1941, as Uren met Chineesche Denkers ("Hours with Chinese Thinkers"). More personally, the Dau/Dv Jing became for him, as it had been for many over the years, a mental refuge in externally limiting times. The first version of his reconstruction and translation appeared in a Dutch magazine in 1942, the same year as Hellmut Wilhelm's private lectures on the Yi Jing, composed on the other side of the world, but under similar constraints, were given in Peking.

Dutch Sinology opened out again after the war, with both new and resumed work. J Vixseboxse's thesis on a Dutch Embassy to China in the 17th Century (Een Hollandisch Gezantschap naar China in de Zeventiende Eeuw), done under Duyvendak's direction, appeared in 1946. T'oung Pao resumed publication in 1947, renewing the Paris-Leiden axis which is still in place today. In that same year, Anthony Hulsewé, who had been interned as a prisoner of war in Batavia during 1942-1945, returned to the Netherlands and (with leverage from the fact that Duyvendak had been offered the Chair of Chinese at Oxford) was appointed a Lecturer to assist Duyvendak. In 1948, an Institute of Social Studies was founded as a center of development studies for Third World students in The Hague, with Duyvendak as its Rector. Robert Kramers' study and partial translation of the Kungdz Jya-yw was published in 1949. In that same year appeared the first volume of longtime librarian Tjan Tjoe Som's thesis on the Discussions in the White Tiger Hall, following which he was appointed to a newly created Chair of Chinese Philosophy. His second White Tiger volume appeared in 1952, and thereafter, disregarding the pleas and cautions of his colleagues, who begged him to stay, Tjan left Leiden for his native Indonesia, to take up the Chair of Chinese at the University of Indonesia. Also in 1952, Duyvendak republished his Dutch translation of the Dau/Dv Jing; a French translation followed in 1953. Acker's thesis, long delayed after his defense in the crisis year 1940, was finally published in 1954 as Some T'ang and Pre-T'ang Texts on Chinese Painting, a subject outside Duyvendak's usual range, and illustrating his personal generosity as well as his Sinological breadth. The definitive English version of Duyvendak's Dau/Dv Jing also appeared in 1954.

This was the pet project of Duyvendak's later years. He regarded the recurring lines in the text as spuria, caused by damage to the bamboo slips on which it had been written. In his reconstruction of the text (somewhat following Ma Syw-lun) he excised some passages and transferred others to new locations. Of this scenario, it suffices to note that (a) damage to bamboo slips does not cause multiplication of bamboo slips, and that (b) disordered texts are rarely cured by the transposition of literarily integral passages. Bodde's exceedingly restrained review of 1954, written shortly after Duyvendak's death, ends with the thought that the meaning of some passages of the DDJ "must probably remain forever veiled in mystery." It may be so. But to the extent that the veil can be lifted, it will probably be at different corners than those twitched by Duyvendak, in the course of trying to put its chapters, and his own life, back together under hostile circumstances.

Hulsewé, who had switched thesis topics in 1946 on learning of a competing German thesis in progress on his topic of first choice (Tang law), defended his second topic, Remnants of Han Law, in 1956, the year after Duyvendak's death. He was appointed to the Professorship in 1957. The tradition continued.

Duyvendak, both early and late, was not infallible. He was gulled by the Jingshan Diary in his early days, and wrong about the Dau/Dv Jing at the end. But there is more to Sinology than personal infallibility. Unlike Pelliot, his T'oung Pao colleague and in a way his inverse, Duyvendak showed a gift for institution building. He not only gathered students around him, he gathered books around the students, and through the combination of books and students, plus energetic advocacy and sympathetic guidance, he secured his own succession, and the continuity of his vision. It is owing to his vision and enterprise, continued under other hands, that Leiden today is a major center of world Sinology.

E Bruce Brooks



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