The Early Dutch Sinologists (1854-1900)

Training in Holland and China, Functions in the Netherlands Indies


In The Early Dutch Sinologists Koos Kuiper gives a detailed account of the studies and work of the 24 Dutchmen trained as “interpreters” for the Netherlands Indies before 1900. Most began studying at Leiden University, then went to Amoy to study southern Chinese dialects. Their main functions were translating Dutch law into Chinese, advising the courts on Chinese law and checking Chinese accounts books, later also regulating coolie affairs. Actually their services were not always appreciated and there was not enough work for them; later many pursued other careers in the Indies administration or in scholarship. This study also analyses the three dictionaries they compiled. Based on a wealth of primary sources, it gives a fascinating picture of personal cross-cultural contacts.

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Koos Kuiper (P.N. Kuiper, 1951), Ph. D. Leiden 2016, curator of old Chinese and Japanese books in Leiden University, retired in 2016. He published Catalogue of Chinese and Sino- Western Manuscripts in the Central Library of Leiden University (Leiden: 2005).
'This is a painstakingly careful study that not only details the history of Dutch Sinology during a fifty-year period, but also provides glimpses of Dutch colonial administration in the Indies. While it is well documented and packed with information, it nonetheless makes for good reading. The appendices and indices allow easy access to the copious amount of information in this massive publication. This well-designed book, which honors both the author and the publisher, is essential for better understanding the language situation and the development of the administration in the Netherland Indies up to 1900.' Hartmut Walravens, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, T'oung Pao, 105 (2019)
Anyone interested in the history of sinology, Dutch colonial history, Sino-Dutch contacts, the Chinese in Indonesia, early Western Chinese dictionaries, interpreting and translation, Chinese dialect studies, and the history of Leiden University.
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