Demiéville, Paul

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DEMIÉVILLE, PAUL (18941979), French Sinologist and Buddhologist. Demiéville was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and completed undergraduate studies at Bern in 1911. He subsequently studied in Munich, London, Edinburgh, and Paris, finishing work for a doctorate in music at the University of Paris in 1914. He began his study of Chinese the following year at King's College in London, but he returned to Paris to study first at the École Nationale des Langues Orientales and then at the Collège de France, where he worked with Édouard Chavannes. Demiéville graduated from the École des Langues Orientales in 1918, having mastered not only Chinese but Japanese and Sanskrit as well. In 1920 he moved to Hanoi, and from 1924 to 1926 he taught Sanskrit and Western philosophy at the University of Amoy. From 1926 to 1930 he lived in Japan, where he edited the first four volumes (19291931) of the encyclopedic dictionary of Buddhism Hôbôgirin, compiled under the direction of Sylvain Lévi and Takakusu Junjiro. (The dictionary resumed publication in the 1960s.)

In 1931, Demiéville returned to France to become professor of Chinese at the École Nationale des Langues Orientales, a post he held until 1945, at which time he became director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, teaching courses in Buddhist philology. In 1946 he succeeded Henri Maspero to the chair of Chinese language and civilization at the Collège de France, the position he held until his retirement in 1964.

Demiéville was a corresponding member of the British Academy, the Association for Asian Studies, and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and was an honorary member of Tōyō Bunko and of the Académie du Japon. He was awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Louvain and Rome, and he was elected a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1951. He served as codirector of the journal T'oung pao (Leiden) from 1945 to 1976.

Demiéville was a prolific writer, publishing 179 studies (books and articles) and 104 book reviews. His works are characterized by philological precision and a thorough examination of the sources. They are models of scholarship. He wrote on Chinese language, art, literature, archaeology, history, philosophy, and religion. But he is best known for his work on Buddhism in China, the school of Chan (Zen) in the Tang dynasty in particular, and for his work on the Buddhist materials found at Tun-huang.


Book-length studies by Demiéville include the following: Les versions chinoises du Milindapañha (Hanoi, 1924); Le Concile de Lhasa: Une controverse sur le Quiétisme entre bouddhistes de l'Inde et de la Chine au huitième siècle de l'ère chrétienne (Paris, 1952); and Entretiens de Lin-tsi, translated and edited by Demiéville (Paris, 1972). Demiéville was the author of numerous articles, the most important of which are reprinted in two volumes: Choix d'études sinologiques (Leiden, 1973) and Choix d'études bouddhiques (Leiden, 1973). Both of these volumes contain extensive bibliographies, which are updated in Yves Hervouet's obituary for Demiéville, published in T'oung pao 65 (1979): 112.

New Sources

Gregory, P. N., and Kuroda Institute. Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought. Honolulu, 1987.

Robert G. Henricks (1987)

Revised Bibliography