Thursday, 11 August 2011
Sir Aurel Stein, Lajos Ligeti and a case of mistaken identity
From "Chinese Manuscripts" by Imre Galambos from June 21, 2011
Another Hungarian looting China’s treasures? Sir Aurel Stein, Lajos Ligeti and a case of mistaken identity
Tonkō shahon kenkyū nenpō 敦煌写本研究年報, no. 4 (March 2010): 195-207.
The voluminous publication Zhonghua minguo shi dang’an ziliao huibian 中華民國史檔案資料匯編 (Archives of the History of the Chinese Republic) includes a group of documents called “Report related to the theft of historical artefacts in the Xinjiang and Gansu region by the British national Stein (May 1830–December 1931).” One of the files in the group is titled “Report of the Government of Jehol province regarding the coping of Buddhist scriptures by the Hungarian national Stein (September 9)”. In a recent article, the Chinese historian HUO Yunfeng 霍雲峰 scrutinized the details of Sir M. Aurel Stein’s (1862–1943) visit to China during 1930–1931 and came to the conclusion that the telegram from Jehol could not have been written about Stein. He concluded that the person mentioned therein must have been just an unrelated “ordinary man” (一小人物) who was investigated only because he was engaged in copying Buddhist writings and happened to have a Hungarian passport.
HUO was, of course, correct in pointing out the mistake of the editors of the archives in associating this telegram with Stein, he was, however, unable to determine the identity of the person referred to in the telegram dispatched by the Jehol Government. In reality, this was the young Lajos Ligeti (1902–1987) who was to become one of the giants of Mongolian and Turkic studies, and who subsequently served for 20 years as vice president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. From the 1980s, his name, transliterated as Li Gaiti 李蓋提 , became well-known in academic circles in China, as he gradually became one of the trusted authorities in the field of Mongolian linguistics and history. But at the time of his first visit to China he was still in his late twenties, and completely unknown to anyone there. He had just completed his studies in Paris with Paul Pelliot (1878-1945) and Henri Maspero (1882-1945), and upon his return to Hungary succeeded in obtaining a three-year scholarship to visit the lamaseries of Inner Mongolia to study Tibetan Buddhist texts…
Read the whole article here: Sir Aurel Stein, Lajos Ligeti and a case of mistaken identity