Groot, J. J. M. de

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GROOT, J. J. M. DE (18541921), Dutch Sinologist and ethnographer. Born in Schiedam, Holland, Johannes Jacobus Maria de Groot enrolled in the polytechnic school at Delft in 1872. He subsequently studied Chinese with Gustave Schlegel at the University of Leiden.

In 1876 de Groot went to Amoy (present-day Xiamen, China) to continue his study of Chinese, and his stay in Amoy led to the publication of his first book, Les fêtes annuellement célébrées à Emoui (Amoy): Étude concernant la religion populaire des Chinois (translated from Dutch into French by Édouard Chavannes and published in 1886). From 1878 to 1883 de Groot traveled through Java and Borneo working as a Chinese interpreter. De Groot returned to Holland in 1883, but was likely working for the government of the Dutch East Indian Colonies since 1878, and in their employ he returned to China and lived there from 1886 to 1890, collecting the data later published in six volumes as The Religious System of China: Its Ancient Forms, Evolution, History and Present Aspect; Manners, Customs and Social Institutions Connected Therewith (18921910).

De Groot was appointed professor of ethnography at the University of Leiden in 1891. In 1904 he succeeded his mentor Schlegel as professor of Chinese, and in 1912 he assumed the chair of professor of Chinese at the University of Berlin.

De Groot was made a corresponding member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences in 1887 and a full member in 1891. His election to membership in the Dutch Society of Literature came in 1893. In 1894 de Groot shared the prestigious Stanislas Julien Prize with Édouard Chavannes. He was named correspondant de l'institut by the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1908. In 19101911 de Groot came to the United States to deliver the American Lectures on the History of Religions, a traveling lecture series, and at that time was awarded an honorary doctorate by Princeton University. In 1918 the kaiser presented him with the Service Cross for his help during World War I.

De Groot's two most important works are The Religious System of China and Religion in China: Universism, a Key to the Study of Taoism and Confucianism (1912; a revised and enlarged edition appeared in German in 1918), which is the published form of the lectures delivered in the United States in 19101911. The former is a detailed description of the funeral customs of the Chinese and of their ideas concerning the soul. It remains an important source of information on funeral rites, ancestor worship, geomancy (feng-shui), exorcism, and possession. In Religion in China: Universism, de Groot argues that worship of the universe and its ways, its fluctuations between yin and yang, constitutes the root religion of the Chinese, from which Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism developed as three branches from a common stem. When Confucianism assumed the dominant position during the Han dynasty, it failed to develop as a religion and prevented religious growth of Daoism and Buddhism as well.


Besides those mentioned in the text, other works by de Groot include Le code du Mahâyâna en Chine: Son influence sur la vie monacale et sur la monde laïque (Amsterdam, 1893); Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China: A Page in the History of Religions, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 19031904); and The Religion of the Chinese (New York, 1910). Le code du Mahâyâna includes a translation of Fo-shuo fan-wang ching (The sūtra of Brahma's net preached by the Buddha). In Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, de Groot draws attention to the genuinely religious nature of rebel sects in the Qing.

Robert G. Henricks (1987)