Ernst Faber

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Ernst Faber (1839–1899)

Ernst Friedrich Ludwig Faber , usually short Ernst Faber (born April 25, 1839 in Coburg , † September 26, 1899 in Tsingtau ), was a German sinologist , missionary and plant collector .

Faber worked for the Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft since 1864 and was in the service of the General Evangelical-Protestant Missions Association in Shanghai ( China ) from 1885 . Faber was an excellent expert on the Chinese language and literature . He published several works in Chinese and translated the Gospel of Mark of the Bible into Chinese. He was also an attentive naturalist, especially a plant collector in China.

Live and act

1839 to 1864: training and ordination

Ernst Faber was born on April 25, 1839 in Coburg at Nägleinsgasse 6 as the son of master plumber Johann Lorenz Faber (* 1801) and his wife Sophie Wilhelmine Christine Faber (née Fischer, * 1806). He was the third born of eleven children, eight of whom died earlier than their parents. From 1846 to 1852 he attended the citizens' school in Coburg. He has received four awards for his above-average academic performance. From 1852 to 1855 he was then an apprentice to a master plumber in Coburg.

After completing his apprenticeship, Faber went on a hike. He came to Berlin through the Kingdom of Saxony and Silesia. There he wanted to attend the technical training school, which he was unable to do due to lack of money. So he moved on until he found a job in Oldenburg in March 1856 . Soon after, he moved on and found a job in Münster . There he joined the evangelical youth association and moved - together with a like-minded comrade from this youth association - to Barmen (now part of Wuppertal ) with the intention of doing missionary service. In the mission house he found a job as an untrained assistant teacher and worked as an assistant teacher in Elberfeld from September 1857 to September 1858 . He then endeavored to work towards the teacher's exam. A year later he was accepted into the missionary seminary in 1858, where he studied until 1862. In 1862 he enrolled at the University of Basel and was housed in the Alumneum there. Here he was further trained for the future missionary profession. During this time he was very interested in philosophy and philology.

Around Easter 1863 he moved to Tübingen , where he studied two more semesters. He was then informed that he was to be a missionary to China. To this end, he returned to the mission house in Barmen at the end of March 1864. Due to the serious illness of his planned companion, Brother Hanff, the mission broadcast was postponed. So Faber was first sent to the Zoological Museum in Berlin; he stayed there and at the observatory until mid-May 1864; then followed a short stay at the Geographic Institute Perthes in Gotha until he returned to Barmen at the end of May. There he passed his exam.

Faber was drafted in Coburg for military service in the Duchy of Saxony-Coburg and declared fit. However, by referring to his planned missionary work in China, he was able to obtain his release from military service.

On August 10, 1864 he was ordained in the main church to under mercy.

1864 to 1899: Missionary in China

In mid-August he started his missionary journey in China. He drove to London via Holland ; from there he traveled with the ship "Arab Steed" to Hong Kong , where he arrived on April 25, 1865. He began his work as a missionary in early 1866 at the mission station in Fumun , which is near Taipeng on the Pearl River . He practiced as a doctor on his ward and, according to his own account, treated around 4,000 to 6,000 cases a year. His achievements as a doctor are remarkable in that Faber never studied medicine and only reports on a "practical course" he took, about which it is not yet known where it took place.

In 1870 Faber's letter of engagement to a pastor's daughter from Appenzell took place. However, she died of tuberculosis in 1874 and Faber remained single for the rest of his life.

In 1876/77 he returned to Germany for a one-year vacation, where he made numerous lecture tours.

Back in China, he worked in Canton from 1878 to 1883 . From Canton Faber undertook several scientific excursions to the Lo-fau Mountains. He devoted himself increasingly to botany and was mainly active as a plant collector on his excursions . In the course of his activity his herbarium grew to the extent of 4000 plant species. According to his own statement, he discovered around 120 new plant species and some new genera. He also discovered that the sundew species Drosera lumata is a carnivorous plant.

In 1880 there was a falling out with the Barmer Mission Committee and Faber was dismissed from the Rhenish Mission Society. In 1881, during his time in Canton, he stayed again for a summer vacation in Germany.

Faber worked in Hong Kong from 1883 to 1886 . In September 1885 he joined the General Evangelical Protestant Mission Association, which was founded in Weimar in 1884 (later the East Asia Mission ). In the same year he was also a co-founder of an independent Chinese community in Hong Kong.

Faber then worked in Shanghai from 1886 to 1898 . In 1887, together with VC Hart, he went on an excursion to Chongqing and the Emei Mountain , which is considered the most significant of his botanical collecting trips. During the excursion, Faber also sold Christian scriptures in Chinese. In 1890 he went on an excursion to the Manchurian Qian Mountains .

In a fire disaster on August 22, 1892 in Shanghai, Faber's herbarium (and most of his library) was lost. It turned out to be lucky in misfortune that Faber had published his botanical research results shortly beforehand in his work Botanicon Sinicum. Notes on chinese botany from native and western sources .

In 1893 Faber took part in the so-called Religious Parliament, the International World Congress of Religions, in Chicago , USA, where he gave a lecture on Confucianism . In the same year he went on an excursion to Hawaii .

In 1897 he made a trip to Linschan .

In April 1898, Faber moved to Tsingtau ( Qingdao ), the German colony that had recently emerged. From here he made trips to Tianjin , Beijing and Shandong Province . That year he fell ill. Ernst Faber died in Tsingtau on February 26, 1899. In 1900 he was given a tomb in the German cemetery (later called "European Cemetery") in Tsingtau. The inscription on the tombstone read:

A pioneer of Christian faith
and Christian culture.
A German researcher in a foreign country.

Faber's grave disappeared during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976.


On July 18, 1888, he received - in absentia - his theological doctorate from the University of Jena . At times he was Vice President of the Society for the Improvement of Education in China, founded in 1890 . In 1928 a street name was dedicated to him in his hometown of Coburg, Ernst-Faber-Straße. In 1962 the old people's home of the Diakonisches Werk in Ernst-Faber-Strasse was named Ernst-Faber-Haus in his honor.


Works on Sinology and Philosophy:

  • The doctrinal concept of Confucius . Hong Kong (1873)
  • The basic ideas of ancient Chinese socialism or the teaching of the philosopher Micius . Elberfeld (1877)
  • The naturalism in the ancient Chinese or the complete works of the philosopher Licius  : translated and explained . Elberfeld (1877)
  • A doctrine of the state based on ethics or the doctrine of the Chinese philosopher Mencius . Elberfeld 1877
  • Images from China . 2 booklets. Barmbek (1877)
  • Prehistoric China . 1890.
  • China in historical lighting . Berlin (1900)

Works on pedagogy:

  • Western schools and examinations . 1873.
  • The schools in Germany . 1873 (published in Chinese).
  • The principles of education . 1875.
  • Current Education Emergencies in China . 1903 (posthumously).
  • Treatment of the Chinese classics and Wentschang in teaching at mission schools . 1903 (posthumously).

Works on botany:

  • Botanicon Sinicum. Notes on chinese botany from native and western sources. Part II. The botany of the cinese classics, with annotations, appendix and index . Shanghai 1892.


  • Max Christlieb:  Faber, Ernst . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 48, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1904, pp. 469-472.
  • Gerhard Rosenkranz:  Faber, Ernst. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0 , p. 718 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Rainer Axmann: "Outline of the life of E. Faber" . In: Yearbook of the Coburg State Foundation . tape 34 , December 1989, pp. 393-422 .
  • Kin Pan Wu: An Introduction to the Intellectual Commentary on the Gospel of St. Mark by Dr. Ernst Faber (1839-1899) . In: Coburger Geschichtsblätter 27 (2019), pp. 33-41, ISSN 0947-0336

Single references

  1. The birth house was demolished in 1981; s. Axmann, p. 394.
  2. Axmann, p. 414.
  3. ^ E. Bretschneider: History of European Botanical Discoveries in China . London 1898, new edition 1962, Volume II, p. 954. Quoted in Axmann, p. 413.

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