Sinological Profiles
Alfred Forke
12 Jan 1867 (Bad Schöningen) - 9 July 1944 (Hamburg)

Alfred Forke

"Am 9. Juli 1944 starb, 77 Jahre alt," wrote Eduard Erkes in 1946, "doch für die Wissenschaft viel zu früh, in Hamburg Alfred Forke, einer der verdienstvollsten Pioniere und Altmeister der europäischen Sinologie." More specifically, Forke was one of the pioneer intellectual historians of China, much of whose work has been forgotten without having been precisely superseded.

He began with the study of law, giving simultaneous attention to Chinese (not to mention Sanskrit, Arabic, and other things) at the Oriental Seminar in Berlin. This pattern suggests a disposition at least partly scholarly, but like many in the German-speaking world in those days, Forke began his career in 1890 with the diplomatic service, first with the German Embassy in Peking, then with the Consulate General in Shanghai. From this period came his first publication on things Chinese, the not always felicitous "Blüten chinesischer Dichtung" of 1899. There followed the first of several English-language studies, "The Chinese Sophists" (1901). In 1903 Forke made the transition to scholarship as Dozent in Chinese at the Oriental Seminar of the University of Berlin.

Berkeley 1913.




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