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Herbert Allen Giles

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Herbert Allen Giles

Herbert Giles
Born (1845-12-08)8 December 1845
Oxford, England[1]
Died 13 February 1935(1935-02-13) (aged 89)
Citizenship British
Fields History, sinology

Herbert Allen Giles (Chinese: 翟理斯; pinyin: Zhái Lǐsī; 8 December 1845 – 13 February 1935) was a British diplomat, sinologist, and professor of Chinese language. Giles was educated at Charterhouse School before becoming a British diplomat in China. He modified a Mandarin Chinese Romanization system earlier established by Thomas Wade, resulting in the widely known Wade–Giles Chinese romanization system. Among his many works were translations of Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and in 1892 the first widely published Chinese-English dictionary.[2][3]


Herbert A. Giles was the fourth son of John Allen Giles (1808–1884), an Anglican clergyman. After studying at Charterhouse, Herbert became a British diplomat to China (1867–1892). He also spent several years at Fort Santo Domingo (1885–1888) in Tamsui, Taiwan. He was the father of Bertram, Valentine, Lancelot, Edith, Mable, and Lionel Giles. In 1897 Herbert Giles became only the second professor of Chinese appointed at the University of Cambridge, succeeding Thomas Wade.[4] At the time of his appointment, there were no other sinologists at Cambridge. Giles was therefore free to spend most of his time among the ancient Chinese texts earlier donated by Wade, publishing what he translated what he chose from his eclectic reading in Chinese literature.[5]

Giles received the Prix St. Julien award from the French Academy in 1897 for his Chinese Biographical Dictionary. He dedicated the third edition of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1916) to his seven grandchildren, but at the end of his life was on speaking terms with only one of his surviving children. An ardent agnostic, he was also an enthusiastic freemason. He never became a Fellow at one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, despite being a university professor for 35 years. He finally retired in 1932, and died in his ninetieth year.

Diplomatic postings

Written works

  • History of Chinese Literature (1901)
  • Chinese Fairy Tales (1911)
  • The Civilization of China (1911)
  • "China" in History of the Nations (1913)
  • Confucianism and Its Rivals (1915)
  • How to Begin Chinese: The Hundred Best Characters (1919)
  • The Second Hundred Best Characters (1922)
  • Revision of Bullock's Progressive Exercises (1922)
  • Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer (1926, Shanghai)
  • The Chinese and Their Food (Zhonghua Fanshi) (1947, Shanghai) (posthumous)
  • "The Memoirs of H.A. Giles," [1] East Asian History 13 (1997): 1–90. Dated 1925.


Additional sources

  • Cooley, James C., Jr. T.F. Wade in China: Pioneer in Global Diplomacy 1842–1882. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981.
  • Template:1911

External links

  • Project Gutenberg
  • LibriVox
  • Images of Herbert Giles and Family
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