National Institute of Informatics - Digital Silk Road Project
|France / Paris|
|Oriental Studies ; Sinology ; Linguistics|
|French orientalist and linguist. Pelliot was a student of the famous orientalist Sylvain Levi. A linguistic genius, he spoke 13 languages including Chinese, Manchurian, Mongolian, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian and Turkish. While still a young man, he received a scholarship to study at an Indochina archaeological mission in Saigon, Vietnam (currently Ho Chi Minh City). Aged just 22 he became a professor of Chinese literature at the French Far East Institute in Hanoi, Vietnam. In August 1905 (aged 27), he became the leader of a French government expedition to Central Asia. The expedition conducted archaeological surveys in Central Asia, traveling east along the southern Tianshan route of the Silk Roadthrough Kashgar, Kucha, Tunchuq, and Turfan, finally reaching the Mogao caves in Dunhuang. Pelliot visited the caves in February 1908, and is famous for following the British explorer Stein in purchasing over 6000 manuscripts from the Cang Jing cave and bringing them back to France. Pelliot spent three weeks in the cave, during which time he examined over 15,000 documents. Creating a document inventory, he then selected the documents that seemed to be of particular value (such as those that were dated, and manuscripts in ancient ethnic alphabets). The documents he selected were indeed found to be of high quality. Unlike the other European explorers, not only could Pelliot read and write Chinese without difficulty, but because he had a deep knowledge of Chinese education, he was also able to form close relationships with local bureaucrats. After returning to France, his achievements were recognized, and he became senior professor of Central Asian history and languages at the Collège du France.|
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