Skip to main content

Demiéville, Paul


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

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Demiéville, Paul." Encyclopedia of Religion. . 17 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Demiéville, Paul." Encyclopedia of Religion. . (February 17, 2019).

"Demiéville, Paul." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved February 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.