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Of Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water: Leiden University’s Early Sinologists (1854–1911)

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Chapter Summary

The Leiden school of Sinology was basically a one-teacher training institution for Chinese interpreters in the service of the Dutch colonial government, and it comes as no surprise that its main contribution lay in the practical study of Chinese overseas communities in the Dutch East Indies and their relationship to their homelands in China, the coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian. A general history of the Dutch corps of Chinese interpreters in the East Indies still remains to be written. This chapter selects the most important research themes which arose from the colonial experience of the interpreters. The only career that cannot easily be passed over is that of Gustaaf Schlegel. In this oratio pro domo, Schlegel stressed "that every three or four years, two students should be trained by one specially appointed professor in order to keep the staff of interpreters at its full strength".

Keywords: Chinese interpreters; Dutch colonial government; Gustaaf Schlegel; Leiden school of Sinology; oratio pro domo



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