The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge's Oriental Pilgrimage

Front Cover
University of California Press, Sep 5, 2002 - History - 780 pages
"Norman J. Girardot's The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge's Oriental Pilgrimage is breathtaking in its scope. James Legge was a giant in Sinology; only a monumental volume such as this one could do justice to him. The publication of this biography of Legge is a major event, not just for the history of Sinology, but for the intellectual history of the late 19th century in general. Indeed, in a sense, the book is almost as much about the great Indologist and comparative philologist Max Müller as it is about the Christian missionary from Aberdeen who produced such epochal translations of the Chinese classics in Hong Kong and at Oxford. Partly inspired by Lytton Strachey’s trenchant insights of into the Victorian mind and character, Girardot's masterpiece deserves to be ranked with the finest examples of the craft of writing about influential persons and interesting eras. But it is more than that; quite simply, this is one of the most outstanding academic biographies of all time and in any field."—Victor H. Mair, translator of Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way and Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu.

"Through a densely annotated translation of the entire Confucian canon and two seminal Daoist texts, James Legge is the single most important individual in making the historical classics of Chinese history and philosophy known to English readership, and through it to the entire Western world. Norman Girardot’s study, surpassing all previous efforts in chronicling the person and assessing Legge’s legacy, is itself a monumental achievement in research, interpretation, and writing. The focalized discussion of the subject in terms of the scholar as missionary, the development of Sinological Orientalism, and the rise and growth of the Comparative Science of Religions or Religionswissenschaft provides unrivalled enormity of scope and depth of understanding. The Victorian Translation of China will remain a definitive work for decades to come."—Anthony C. Yu, author most recently of Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ikkyu2462 - LibraryThing

James Legge is a pivotal figure in the translation of Chinese culture to the Occident. Professor Girardot is one of the pre-eminent scholars of Chinese religions. Yet somehow this book fails to ... Read full review


Pilgrim Legge and the Journey to the West 18701874
Professor Legge at Oxford University 18751876
Caricatures of Max Muller and James Legge at Oxford
Heretic Legge Relating Confucianism and Christianity 18771878
Decipherer Legge Finding the Sacred in the Chinese Classics 1879188o
Comparativist Legge Describing and Comparing the Religions of China 188o1882
Translator Legge Closing the Confucian Canon 18821885
Ancestor Legge Translating Buddhism and Daoism 18861892
Darker Labyrinths Transforming Missionary Tradition Sinological Orientalism and the Comparative Science of Religions after the Turn of the Century

Teacher Legge Upholding the Whole Duty of Man 18931897

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page vii - But the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself, much less to others); the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest.
Page vii - It is well said, in every sense, that a man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him. A man's, or a nation of men's. By religion I do not mean here the church-creed which he professes, * the articles of faith which he will sign and, in words or otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many cases not this at all. We see men of all kinds of professed creeds attain to almost all degrees of worth or worthlessness under each or any of them. This is not what I call religion, this profession and assertion;...
Page ii - This is all the sovereign's business, and how is it that I alone am supposed to have ability, and am made to toil in it?" Therefore, those who explain the odes, may not insist on one term so as to do violence to a sentence, nor on a sentence so as to do violence to the general scope. They must try with their thoughts to meet that scope, and then we shall apprehend it. If we simply take single sentences, there is that in the ode called "The Milky Way," Of the black-haired people of the remnant of...
Page vii - Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest That is his religion ; or, it may be, his mere scepticism and noreligion : the manner it is in which he feels himself to be spiritually related to the Unseen World or...
Page 17 - Q. 40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience ? A. The rule which God at first revealed to man, for his obedience, was the moral law.
Page xiii - THE history of the Victorian Age will never be written: we know too much about it. For ignorance is the first requisite of the historian — ignorance, which simplifies and clarifies, which selects and omits, with a placid perfection unattainable by the highest art.

About the author (2002)

Norman J. Girardot is University Distinguished Professor in the Religious Studies Department at Lehigh University. His previous books include Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism (California, 1983).

Bibliographic information