Eminent Chinese Of The Ch’ing (Qing) Period (1943), Arthur W. Hummel

Dr. Arthur W. Hummel with a Chinese Colleague At the Library of Congress

My grandfather, Dr. Arthur W. Hummel edited the biographical dictionary called Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period. This landmark book drew together scholars from all over the world to collaborate on this important work.

The editor of the book Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period is my grandfather, Dr. Arthur W. Hummel. But he did not work alone but had the help of two very accomplished Chinese scholars, Dr. Chao Ying Fang and Dr. Tu Lein Che Fang. Together, as a team, they spent over 9 years and thousands of hours to compile this very important work about eminent people during the Chinese Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty. This book continues to be used and remains an important Chinese scholarly work. There is also an online version available.

I grew up hearing about the book my grandfather edited called the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period. But like many great works that have withstood the test of time, this book brought together some of the best Chinese scholars of its day.

About Dr. Arthur W. Hummel, Sr.

Arthur W. Hummel, Sr was born in Warrenton, Missouri, on the 6 March 1884 with his twin brother, William Arthur Hummel. For both of these twin brothers, their life’s work was China.

Here are some basic facts about Arthur W. Hummel’s life and some key events that lead up to the publishing of the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period:

  • Chicago Educated – Arthur and his twin brother William Hummel, graduated from Morgan Park Academy in Chicago in 1905. He then received a bachelor’s degree in 1900, a master’s degree in 1911, and a Bachelor of Divinity in 1914, All from the University of Chicago.
  • Taught in Japan– Through the Student Volunteer Movement at the University of Chicago, he decided to go to Kobe, Japan. At the time his twin brother William was teaching at the University of Nanking in China. He spent several summers in China with his brother and then decided to move to China.
  • Married Ruth Bookwalter in 1914 – In 1914 he returned to the United States to marry Ruth Bookwalter. Together they both moved back to China.
  • Fenchow China – Arthur taught at a high school in Fenchow, Shaanxi, China from 1915 to 1924. During this time his daughter Carol (1917) and son Arthur (1920) were born.
  • Collection Maps, Coins, and Proverbs – During his time in China and in particular Fenchow, he started to amass a collection of Chinese maps, coins, and proverbs. He collected these so that he could learn many of the Chinese characters including the very old Chinese script. His coins eventually had over 2,000 different kinds and he had an extensive collection of Chinese maps, some very valuable and old. The proverbs and Chinese stories he collected, he wrote down and translated into English.
  • Moved to Beijing (Peking) – In 1924 he moved to Bejing to teach at the newly formed school of Chinese studies at Yenching University. Yenching University is the present-day Peking University in Beijing, China.
  • China’s Northern Unrest 1927 – During 1927, the Chinese National Revolutionary Army (NRA) of the Kuomintang (KMT) had a military campaign concerning the Beiyang Government and the regional Chinese landlords. Because of the unrest, Arthur and his family left China for the United States, They never expected it to be long term as they thought they would one day return, but the political situation in China continued to deteriorate. Their youngest son Sharman, my father, was born in Washington DC in 1928.
  • Maps and the Library of Congress – Arthur showed the Library of Congress his extensive map collection he had amassed during his time in China. Herbert Putnam, the head of the Library of Congress was so impressed with his knowledge of the Chinese language and the map collection that they purchased the map collection and offered him the job to become Chief of the newly formed Orientalia (Asian) Division of the Library of Congress.
  • Mortimer Graves – In 1930 that he met Mortimer Graves of the American Council of Learned Societies. Mortimer and Arthur worked to build up the Library of Congress Asian collections but to also promote the study of Asian Studies in colleges and universities around the United States.
  • J.J.L. Duyvendak – He then met J.J.L. Duyvendak, (Jan Julius Lodewijk Duyvendak) a Dutch Sinologist and professor of Chinese at Leiden University. He convinced Arthur to turn his appreciation of the scholar Chinese Gu Jiegang into a serious scholarly work and study. Arthur did so and earned his Ph.D. on September 23, 1931, for his Dissertation called “The Autobiography of a Chinese Historian.”
  • Funding of Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period – After his dissertation was completed, Mortimer Graves helped arrange the funding with the Rockefeller Foundation for the work to be continued in the form of the Eminent Chinese of Ch’ing Period. The book the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period was published by the United States Printing Office (Library of Congress) in 1943.

About Dr. Chao Ying Fang and Dr. Tu Lein Che Fang

Chao Ying Fang and Tu Lein Che Fang were married and were both Chinese scholars. They made significant contributions to the work of the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period.

Here are some basic facts about their life and some key events:

  • Married – Dr. Chao Ying Fang met Dr. Tu Lien Che in New York in 1933 and they were married. They had both studied at the Yenching University in Beijing, China where Arthur Hummel had previously taught.
  • Library of Congress – As a newly married couple, in 1934, they were invited by Dr. Hummel to come to the Library of Congress to work with him to compile the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period.
  • Chinese History Department Columbia– After the nine years of working on the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period, they left the Library of Congress, and worked side-by-side in the Chinese History Project that was conducted under the directorship of Karl A. Wittfogel at Columbia.
  • Oher Universities – They left Columbia for a time and were employed by the University of California Berkley and the Australian National University of Canberra. At Berkeley, Dr. Fang produced a category of Korean Books.
  • Returned to Columbia – In the mid-1960s they returned to Columbia to participate in new biographical research sponsored by the Association of Asian Studies.
  • The Dictionary of Ming Biography (1364-1644) – This same husband and wife team worked together to publish the very important work known as The Dictionary of the Ming Biography (1976). Like the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period, this work is considered another major Chinese scholarly reference work.
  • Honorary Doctorates – In 1976 Columbia University awarded honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters to this husband and wife team. When giving them the reward they called them “scholars of a rare magnitude.
  • Returned China – Dr. Chao Ying Fang returned to China in 1985 to lecture. He died of a heart attack while lecturing at his old alma mater of Yenching University or present-day Peking University.

Facts About the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period

Here are some facts about this landmark book that was produced by Dr. Arthur W. Hummel, Dr. Chao Ying Fang and Dr. Tu Lein Che Fang.

Facts About the Book – Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period

The book Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period consists of:

  • Two Volumes
  • 1103 pages
  • 800 biographical sketches on the leading figures of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty
  • Covers the period of China from 1636 – 1912.
  • Has articles on the Han Chinese, Manchu, Mongol, and other Inner Asia figures as well as some Europeans.
  • Each article has a shortlist of sources and then also a secondary scholarship.
  • They list out the personal name, book names, and other subjects.
  • More than 50 scholars collaborated on the book.
  • Dr. Chao Ying Fang and Dr. Tu Lein Che Fang wrote 410 of the 800 biographical sketches in the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period.
  • Dr. Arthur W. Hummel edited the entire book and spent countless hours debating about the clarity and precision of the book and writing.
  • It took nine years to complete all the research.
  • The first edition was published at the United States Printing Press (Library of Congress) in 1943.

Dr, Hummel, Dr. Fang, and Dr. Tu were not the only ones who worked on this huge undertaking of scholarly work known as the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period. Some of the other more notable names that also contributed to this work were Dr. Knight Biggerstaff (Cornell University), Dr, Meribeth E. Cameron (Mount Holyoke College), Chi Ssu-Ho, Dr. John K. Fairbank (Harvard), Dr. Luther Carrington Goodrich (Columbia), Hu Shih (Chinese Scholar), Dr. George A. Kennedy (Library of Congress and Yale), Li Man – Kuei, Hiromu Momose, Dr. Nancy Lee Swann (Princeton). Teng Ssu Yu (Indian University), Earl Swisher, Dr, C. Martin Wilbur (Columbia), Dr. Hellmut Wilhelm (University of Washington), and J.C. Yang.

As you can see from this long and very extensive list that many of the top Chinese scholars of the day helped contribute to the work of the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period. These scholars came from all over the world including the United States, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Europe.

Printing the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period

The actual printing of the book Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period proved to be challenging. The book was printed in 1943 at the United States Printing Press. At the time the U.S, government printers did not have any knowledge of Chinese or any Chinese character type that would be essential to print these two volumes of works.

Dr. Tu had to compile a master file of each Chinese character for the text. Then the Chinese characters had to be sent to Hong Kong to be cast into metal for the actual Chinese type. Once she received the type back from Hong Kong, then she had to place all the Chinese type on a wooden frame and number them one-by-one so that the typesetter would know what character was to be used for what section of the printed text. This was extremely laborious work that was all done by hand.

What is interesting about this, is that despite this extremely labor-intensive work, the first print run of the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period was almost entirely free of any errors.

This book is still available today for purchase on Amazon by clicking here. All major libraries and universities around the world should have a copy of the book. The book has been translated into many languages, including Chinese.

Review of the Eniment Chiense of the Ch’ing Period

Many said that my grandfather, Arthur Hummel, wanted to be sure that the book had clarity and at the same time precision. I remember how he always emphasized these two things in the English language – clarity and precision. He was known to have read the entire text out loud a few times to ensure the book passed his clarity and precision requirements. I smiled when I learned this, as I tend to read out loud my own writings.

In speaking to the New York Times in 1976, Dr, Chao Ying Fang said this about the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period book:

“It will stand for a hundred years, ..It’s like the Webster dictionary—there are no mistakes in it.”

Dr. Chao-Ying Fang

C.K. Kang wrote a book review of the Enimment Chinese of the Ch’ing Period in 1946 in the Pacific Review Magazine and said the following:

“No other work since the translation of China’s classics in the late nineteenth century can measure up to these two volumes in their great significance in bringing reliable knowledge of China to the Western world. In genuine scholarship, in the wide range of events covered, in intimate accounts of leading happenings, in the voluminous amount of Chinese source materials employed, the ambitious scale and the success of these two volumes surpass any other single attempt made by the Western world to understand China in over half a century.”

C.K Kang

Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period Online

Dr. Pamela Kyle Crossley, a professor of Chinese history at Dartmouth College, has written free software so that the book Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period can be available and searched online by scholars. You can use her software to search and read the articles online or to download the text to use them offline on the Qing Research Portal she has developed.

The original book used the Wade-Giles system of romanization for Mandarin Chinese. The Wade-Giles system is not used much today so many readers may not be familiar with the Wade-Giles use of romanization. The software Dr. Crossley has developed uses the pinyin romanization which is the Chinese romanization that most readers of Chinese use today.

Dr. Crossley is also author to the historiographical preface using the new pinyin edition of the work Eminent Chinese of the Qing Period that was published in 2018 by Berkshire.

You can find out more about the free online software of the Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing (Qing) Period by clicking here.

The story of the book Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period is really a story of scholarly collaboration. It was the vision of Arthur W, Hummel, but he would be the first to admit that he did not do it alone. Without the help of Chinese scholars like Dr. Chao Ying Fang and Dr. Tu Lein Che Fang, along with the countless other emiment Chinese scholars of the day, this important book would not have been possible.

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