Wolfram Eberhard

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Wolfram Eberhard (born March 17, 1909 in Potsdam , † August 15, 1989 in El Cerrito , California) was a German sinologist and ethnologist .


Eberhard came from a family of astronomers and astrophysicists. His parents were Gustav Eberhard and Gertrud, née Müller. The architect and court building officer Gustav Eberhard was his great-grandfather. Wolfram Eberhard studied Sinology, Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Berlin from 1927 and secretly attended courses on modern Chinese at the Seminar for Oriental Languages , as his professors at the Berlin University did not approve of this interest.

Eberhard completed his studies in 1929 and received his doctorate in Sinology in 1933 with Professor Richard Thurnwald . In 1934 Eberhard married Alide Römer († 1994 in Berkeley) and moved with her to China, where he taught German and Latin at Peking University and Baoding University . There they had their first son Rainer .

In 1936 Eberhard became curator for the Asian section at the Grassimuseum in Leipzig , but emigrated while fleeing from the National Socialists and in 1937 became a Chinese teacher at Ankara University , a position he held for eleven years. He was significantly involved in the expansion of Turkish Sinology and taught in Turkish. He studied the folklore of Turkey. In 1938 he had his second son, to whom he borrowed the name Anatol from the Anatolian region .

The National Socialist and sinologist Fritz Jäger spread his word about WE with an official letter dated June 11, 1943 as an expert as follows:

Eberhard ... studied sinology and ethnology in Berlin from around 1927 and received his doctorate in 1933 with an important work “Contributions to the cosmological speculation of China in the Han era” that was published in the Bäßler archive. After completing his doctorate, he temporarily worked as a voluntary scientific assistant at the Berlin Museum of Ethnology, then held a position as curator at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig for several years and was appointed professor of Sinology at the Turkish State University in Ankara in 1937 ... Eberhard is ... the greatest hope of German sinology. A high level of intelligence and tireless labor have enabled him to publish an astonishing amount of valuable works, including works of considerable size, in the short decade that has passed since his doctorate. Some of these works have directly opened up new territory for our science. Two problem areas in particular deserve mention: first, the research into the world of Chinese fairy tales, to which Eberhard dedicated two fundamental works (types of Chinese folk tales and folk tales from Southeast China, both published in Helsinki in 1941), and secondly, the focus of sinology on the other Ask about the origin and structure of Chinese culture. His working hypothesis, developed in a Leipzig lecture in 1936, according to which what we call Chinese high culture had grown together from a number of local early cultures, has recently been published by Eberhard in two important volumes: Culture and Settlement of the Marginal Peoples of China and Local Cultures in Ancient China (both Leiden 1942) sought to support. Even if specialist science has not yet commented on the content of the two volumes, so much can be said today that Eberhard has shown our science in a new direction with this work. During a visit to the Reichsdozentenführung last year I found out that there were serious complaints from Ankara against Eberhard's attitude as a German. It would mean a great loss for German Sinology if its further development were to make it impossible for this important scholar to be appointed to a German chair.

In 1948 he was appointed to a chair in the United States, where he taught at the University of Berkeley as a professor of sociology until 1976 . Eberhard later held visiting professorships at the universities of Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Munich, Berlin and Taipei and wrote numerous articles and books on Chinese cultural history. In 1985 he married Irene Ohnesorge.

His best known work is the Lexicon of Chinese Symbols , which is still being reissued. His works on Chinese folk tales drew the interest of the educated classes to this aspect of Chinese culture.

Academic memberships


Wolfram Eberhard liked to schedule his lectures at the University of Berkeley at eight in the morning to test the seriousness of the students.


  • Contributions to the cosmological speculation of the Chinese of the Han period. In: Baessler archive . Volume 16, Issue 1/2, 1933, pp. 1-100 , (Berlin, University, dissertation, 1933).
  • Chinese folk tales (= island library . 484). Selected and transferred. Insel, Leipzig 1936.
  • China's history (= Bibliotheca Sinica. 1, ZDB -ID 419856-6 ). Francke, Bern 1948, (3rd, expanded edition: Chinas Geschichte. = History of China. From the beginnings to the present (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 413). Kröner, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-520-41303-5 ).
  • with Pertev Naili Boratav: Types of Turkish folk tales (= publications of the Oriental Commission. 5, ISSN  0568-4447 ). Steiner, Wiesbaden 1953.
  • as translator: Li Yü: The perfect woman. The Chinese ideal of beauty. The scales, Zurich 1963.
  • Guilt and Sin in Traditional China. University of California Press, Berkeley CA et al. 1967.
  • About how the Chinese think and feel. Eleventh Werner Heisenberg lecture, given in Munich-Nymphenburg on January 21, 1982 (= Carl-Friedrich-von-Siemens-Stiftung. Topics. 39, ISSN  2511-2864 ). Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, Munich 1984.
  • Lexicon of Chinese symbols. The imagery of the Chinese (= Diederichs Yellow Row. 68). Diederichs, Cologne 1987, ISBN 3-424-00878-8 .


Individual evidence

  1. Klemens Wittebur: The German Sociology in Exile, 1933–1945. A biographical cartography (= sociology. 20 = contributions to the history of sociology. 1). Lit, Münster et al. 1991, ISBN 3-88660-737-2 , p. 76.
  2. Alide Eberhard in memory , obituary by Hartmuth Walravens.
  3. DMG website
  4. ^ A b Alvin P. Cohen: In Memoriam: Wolfram Eberhard, 1909-1989. In: Asian Folklore Studies. Vol. 49, No. 1, 1990, pp. 125-133.

Web links