William Edward Soothill

William Edward Soothill (1861 – 1935) was a Methodist missionary to China who later became Professor of Chinese at Oxford University and a leading British sinologist.


Born in Halifax, Yorkshire in January 1861, Soothill matriculated at London University.[1] He entered the ministry of the United Methodist Free Church arriving in China in 1882 and spent 29 years as a missionary in Wenzhou, China. He founded a hospital, a training college, schools and 200 preaching stations. In 1911 Soothill became President of the Imperial University at Shansi. Upon his return to England in 1920 he was appointed Professor of Chinese at Oxford University. In 1926 he was a member of Lord Willingdon's delegation to China on the settlement of the Boxer Rebellion indemnities.

He is best known for his translation into English of the Analects of Confucius and his Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms with Sanscrit and English Equivalents. He married Lucy Farrar in 1884. She wrote an account of their years in China entitled A Passport to China.

Selected works

  • William Edward Soothill (1900). The student's four thousand [characters] and general pocket dictionary (2 ed.). American Presbyterian Mission Press. p. 420. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  • William Edward Soothill (1903). The student's four thousand ...: characters and general pocket dictionary, Volume 3 (3 ed.). American Presbyterian Mission Press. p. 420. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  • William Edward Soothill (1908). The student's four thousand tzu and general pocket dictionary (6 ed.). American Presbyterian Mission Press. p. 211. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  • The Student's Four Thousand and General Pocket Dictionary (1899)
  • A Mission in China (1906,1907)
  • The Analects of Confucius (1910)
  • China and Education, with Special Reference to the University for China (1912)
  • The Three Religions of China (1913; revised edition 1929)
  • Timothy Richard of China (1924)
  • China and the West: A sketch of their Intercourse (1925)
  • A History of China (1927)
  • China and England (1928)
  • The Lotus of the Wonderful Law: or, The Lotus Gospel (1930)
  • A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms: with Sanskrit and English Equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali Index (1937, with Lewis Hodous)
  • The Hall of Light: A study of Early Chinese Kingship, edited by Lady Hosie and G. F. Hudson (1951)


The Methodist Archives Biographical Index: Minutes of Conference 1958 and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)

External links


  1. ^ Who's who in the Far East. Hong Kong: The China Mail. June 1906. pp. 295–6.

References and further reading


Chinese characters

Chinese characters (simplified Chinese: 汉字; traditional Chinese: 漢字; pinyin: hànzì; literally: "Han characters") are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write a number of other Asian languages. They remain a key component of the Japanese writing system (where they are known as kanji) and are occasionally used in the writing of Korean (where they are known as Hanja). They were formerly used in Vietnamese (in a system known as chữ Nôm) and Zhuang (in a system known as Sawndip). Collectively, they are known as CJK characters. Vietnamese is sometimes also included, making the abbreviation CJKV.

Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world. By virtue of their widespread current use in East Asia, and historic use throughout the Sinosphere, Chinese characters are among the most widely adopted writing systems in the world by number of users.

Chinese characters number in the tens of thousands, though most of them are minor graphic variants encountered only in historical texts. Studies in China have shown that functional literacy in written Chinese requires a knowledge of between three and four thousand characters. In Japan, 2,136 are taught through secondary school (the Jōyō kanji); hundreds more are in everyday use. Due to post-WWII simplifications of Kanji in Japan as well as the post-WWII simplifications of characters in China, the Chinese characters used in Japan today are distinct from those used in China in several respects. There are various national standard lists of characters, forms, and pronunciations. Simplified forms of certain characters are used in mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia; the corresponding traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and to a limited extent in South Korea.

In Japan, common characters are written in post-WWII Japan-specific simplified forms (shinjitai), while uncommon characters are written in Japanese traditional forms (kyūjitai), which are virtually identical to Chinese traditional forms. Interestingly enough, many Chinese simplified forms were copied from shinjitai forms. In South Korea, when Chinese characters are used, they are in traditional form, essentially identical to those used in Taiwan and Hong Kong where the official writing system is traditional Chinese. Teaching of Chinese characters in South Korea starts in the 7th grade and continues until the 12th grade; a total of 1,800 characters are taught, though these characters are used only in certain cases (on names, signs, academic papers, historical writings, etc.) and are slowly declining in use as native alphabetical hangul supplanted them in most aspects of Korean society.

In Old Chinese including Classical Chinese, most words were monosyllabic and there was a close correspondence between characters and words. In modern Chinese, the majority of Chinese words today consist of two or more characters. Rather, a character almost always corresponds to a single syllable that is also a morpheme.

However, there are a few exceptions to this general correspondence, including bisyllabic morphemes (written with two characters), bimorphemic syllables (written with two characters) and cases where a single character represents a polysyllabic word or phrase.Modern Chinese has many homophones; thus the same spoken syllable may be represented by many characters, depending on meaning. A single character may also have a range of meanings, or sometimes quite distinct meanings; occasionally these correspond to different pronunciations. Cognates in the several varieties of Chinese are generally written with the same character. They typically have similar meanings, but often quite different pronunciations. In other languages, most significantly today in Japanese and sometimes in Korean, characters are used to represent Chinese loanwords, to represent native words independently of the Chinese pronunciation (e.g., kunyomi in Japanese), and as purely phonetic elements based on their pronunciation in the historical variety of Chinese from which they were acquired. These foreign adaptations of Chinese pronunciation are known as Sino-Xenic pronunciations and have been useful in the reconstruction of Middle Chinese.

Chinese postal romanization

Postal romanization was a system of transliterating Chinese place names developed by the Imperial Post Office in the early 1900s. The system was in common use until the 1980s, when it was largely replaced by hanyu pinyin.

For major cities and other places that already had widely accepted European names, traditional spellings were retained. With regard to other place names, the post office revised policy several times. Spellings given could reflect the local pronunciation, Nanjing pronunciation, or Beijing pronunciation. Although pronunciation-based arguments were made for each option, using postal romanization to determine any form of Chinese pronunciation was limited by the fact that the system dropped all dashes, diacritics, and apostrophes, to facilitate telegraphic transmission.At a conference held in 1906 in Shanghai, the post office selected a system of romanization developed by Herbert Giles called "Nanking syllabary". Although Beijing dialect had served as a national standard since the mid-19th century, the system adopted was based on Nanjing pronunciation. The system corresponded to various traditional romanizations that were adopted in the 18th century when Nanjing dialect was considered standard. French-appointed administrators ran the post office at this time, and they sought a less-anglicized alternative to Wade–Giles.


Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life. Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE), who considered himself a recodifier and retransmitter of the theology and values inherited from the Shang (c. 1600–1046 BCE) and Zhou dynasties (c. 1046–256 BCE). In the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), Confucian approaches edged out the "proto-Taoist" Huang–Lao as the official ideology, while the emperors mixed both with the realist techniques of Legalism.

A Confucian revival began during the Tang dynasty (618–907). In the late Tang, Confucianism developed in response to Buddhism and Taoism and was reformulated as Neo-Confucianism. This reinvigorated form was adopted as the basis of the imperial exams and the core philosophy of the scholar official class in the Song dynasty (960–1297). The abolition of the examination system in 1905 marked the end of official Confucianism. The intellectuals of the New Culture Movement of the early twentieth century blamed Confucianism for China's weaknesses. They searched for new doctrines to replace Confucian teachings; some of these new ideologies include the "Three Principles of the People" with the establishment of the Republic of China, and then Maoism under the People's Republic of China. In the late twentieth century Confucian work ethic has been credited with the rise of the East Asian economy.With particular emphasis on the importance of the family and social harmony, rather than on an otherworldly source of spiritual values, the core of Confucianism is humanistic. According to Herbert Fingarette's conceptualisation of Confucianism as a religion which regards "the secular as sacred", Confucianism transcends the dichotomy between religion and humanism, considering the ordinary activities of human life—and especially human relationships—as a manifestation of the sacred, because they are the expression of humanity's moral nature (xìng 性), which has a transcendent anchorage in Heaven (Tiān 天) and unfolds through an appropriate respect for the spirits or gods (shén) of the world. While Tiān has some characteristics that overlap the category of godhead, it is primarily an impersonal absolute principle, like the Dào (道) or the Brahman. Confucianism focuses on the practical order that is given by a this-worldly awareness of the Tiān. Confucian liturgy (called 儒 rú, or sometimes 正統/正统 zhèngtǒng, meaning 'orthoprax') led by Confucian priests or "sages of rites" (禮生/礼生 lǐshēng) to worship the gods in public and ancestral Chinese temples is preferred on certain occasions, by Confucian religious groups and for civil religious rites, over Taoist or popular ritual.The worldly concern of Confucianism rests upon the belief that human beings are fundamentally good, and teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor, especially self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucian thought focuses on the cultivation of virtue in a morally organised world. Some of the basic Confucian ethical concepts and practices include rén, yì, and lǐ, and zhì. Rén (仁, 'benevolence' or 'humaneness') is the essence of the human being which manifests as compassion. It is the virtue-form of Heaven. Yì (義/义) is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good. Lǐ (禮/礼) is a system of ritual norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act in everyday life in harmony with the law of Heaven. Zhì (智) is the ability to see what is right and fair, or the converse, in the behaviors exhibited by others. Confucianism holds one in contempt, either passively or actively, for failure to uphold the cardinal moral values of rén and yì.

Traditionally, cultures and countries in the East Asian cultural sphere are strongly influenced by Confucianism, including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Today, it has been credited for shaping East Asian societies and Chinese communities, and to some extent, other parts of Asia. In the last decades there have been talks of a "Confucian Revival" in the academic and the scholarly community, and there has been a grassroots proliferation of various types of Confucian churches. In late 2015 many Confucian personalities formally established a national Holy Confucian Church (孔聖會/孔圣会 Kǒngshènghuì) in China to unify the many Confucian congregations and civil society organisations.

Descent from antiquity

A Descent from Antiquity (DFA or DfA) is a well-researched, historically documented generation-by-generation genealogical descent tracing living persons back to people living in antiquity.

Generation name

Generation name, variously zibei or banci, is one of the characters in a traditional Chinese given name, and is so called because each member of a generation (i.e. siblings and paternal cousins of the same generation) share that character.

Where used, generation names were usually given only to males, although this varies from lineage to lineage and has changed over time.

George Stott

George Stott (1835-1889) was a British Protestant Christian missionary to China with the China Inland Mission.

Despite physical disabilities, Stott was a highly effective mission leader. In China he is widely credited, alongside William Edward Soothill, for laying the groundwork for the large number of Christian adherents in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.

Lewis Hodous

Lewis Hodous (simplified Chinese: 何乐益; traditional Chinese: 何樂益; Pinyin: Hé Lèyì; Foochow Romanized: Hò̤ Lŏk-ék; December 31, 1872 – August 9, 1949) was an American Board missionary to China, educator, Sinologist and Buddhologist.

List of Chinese-English translators

This is a list of Chinese-English translators.

Lists and biographies of translators of contemporary literature (fiction, essays, poetry) are maintained by Paper Republic, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC), and on the Renditions Translator database.

List of Protestant missionaries in China

This is a list of notable Protestant missionaries in China by agency. Beginning with the arrival of Robert Morrison in 1807 and ending in 1953 with the departure of Arthur Matthews and Dr. Rupert Clark of the China Inland Mission, thousands of foreign Protestant missionaries and their families, lived and worked in China to spread Christianity, establish schools, and work as medical missionaries.

List of University of Oxford people in academic disciplines

This is a list of people from the University of Oxford in academic disciplines. Many were students at one (or more) of the colleges of the University, and others held fellowships at a college.

This list forms part of a series of lists of people associated with the University of Oxford; for other lists, please see the main article List of University of Oxford people.

List of lexicographers

This list contains people who contributed to the field of lexicography, the theory and practice of compiling dictionaries.

List of sinologists

A list of sinologists around the world, past and present. Sinology is commonly defined as the academic study of China primarily through Chinese language, literature, and history, and often refers to Western scholarship. Its origin "may be traced to the examination which Chinese scholars made of their own civilization."The field of sinology was historically seen to be equivalent to the application of philology to China, and until the 20th century was generally seen as meaning "Chinese philology" (language and literature). Sinology has broadened in modern times to include Chinese history, epigraphy, and other subjects.

Matteo Ricci

Matteo Ricci, S.J. (Italian pronunciation: [matˈtɛːo ˈrittʃi]; Latin: Mattheus Riccius Maceratensis; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Jesuit priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions. His 1602 map of the world in Chinese characters introduced the findings of European exploration to East Asia. He is considered a Servant of God by the Roman Catholic Church.

Ricci arrived at the Portuguese settlement of Macau in 1582 where he began his missionary work in China. He became the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing in 1601 when invited by the Wanli Emperor, who sought his selected services in matters such as court astronomy and calendrical science. He converted several prominent Chinese officials to Catholicism, such as his colleague Xu Guangqi, who aided in translating Euclid's Elements into Chinese as well as the Confucian classics into Latin for the first time.


Niō (仁王) or Kongōrikishi (金剛力士) are two wrathful and muscular guardians of the Buddha standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asian Buddhism in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are dharmapala manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with Gautama Buddha to protect him and there are references to this in the Pāli Canon as well as the Ambaṭṭha Sutta. Within the generally pacifist tradition of Buddhism, stories of dharmapalas justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil. The Niō are also seen as a manifestation of Mahasthamaprapta, the bodhisattva of power that flanks Amitābha in Pure Land Buddhism and as Vajrasattva in Tibetan Buddhism.

Nirvana (Buddhism)

Nirvana (निर्वाण, Sanskrit: nirvāṇa; Pali: nibbana, nibbāna) is the earliest and most common term used to describe the goal of the Buddhist path. The literal meaning is "blowing out" or "quenching." It is the ultimate spiritual goal in Buddhism and marks the soteriological release from rebirths in saṃsāra. Nirvana is part of the Third Truth on "cessation of dukkha" in the Four Noble Truths, and the summum bonum destination of the Noble Eightfold Path.Within the Buddhist tradition, this term has commonly been interpreted as the extinction of the "three fires", or "three poisons", passion (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidyā). When these fires are extinguished, release from the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra) is attained.

Nirvana has also been deemed in Buddhism to be identical with anatta (non-self) and sunyata (emptiness) states. In time, with the development of Buddhist doctrine, other interpretations were given, such as the absence of the weaving (vana) of activity of the mind, the elimination of desire, and escape from the woods, cq. the five skandhas or aggregates.

Buddhist scholastic tradition identifies two types of nirvana: sopadhishesa-nirvana (nirvana with a remainder), and parinirvana or anupadhishesa-nirvana (nirvana without remainder, or final nirvana). The founder of Buddhism, the Buddha, is believed to have reached both these states.Nirvana, or the liberation from cycles of rebirth, is the highest aim of the Theravada tradition. In the Mahayana tradition, the highest goal is Buddhahood, in which there is no abiding in Nirvana, but a Buddha continues to take rebirths in the world to help liberate beings from saṃsāra by teaching the Buddhist path.

Order of Wen-Hu

The Order of Wen-Hu (English – The Order of the Striped Tiger) was an award for military or naval service awarded by the Republic of China. It was issued in five classes. The badge showed a striped tiger in natural colours on a central medallion. During World War I, a large number of Chinese served with both the Chinese Labour Corps and the Royal Army Medical Corps, and many British officers, particularly in those two corps, received the order. The majority were issued in February 1920.

Protestant missions in China

In the early 19th century, Western colonial expansion occurred at the same time as an evangelical revival – the Second Great Awakening – throughout the English-speaking world, leading to more overseas missionary activity. The nineteenth century became known as the Great Century of modern religious missions.

Beginning with the English missionary Robert Morrison in 1807, thousands of Protestant men, their wives and children, and unmarried female missionaries would live and work in China in an extended encounter between Chinese and Western culture. Most missionaries represented and were supported by Protestant organizations or denominations in their home countries. They entered China at a time of growing power by the British East India Company, but were initially restricted from living and traveling in China except for the limited area of the Thirteen Factories in Canton, now known as Guangzhou, and Macau. In the 1842 treaty ending the First Opium War missionaries were granted the right to live and work in five coastal cities. In 1860, the treaties ending the Second Opium War with the French and British opened up the entire country to missionary activity.

Protestant missionary activity exploded during the next few decades. From 50 missionaries in China in 1860, the number grew to 2,500 (counting wives and children) in 1900. 1,400 of the missionaries were British, 1,000 were Americans, and 100 were from continental Europe, mostly Scandinavia. Protestant missionary activity peaked in the 1920s and thereafter declined due to war and unrest in China. By 1953, all Protestant missionaries had been expelled by the communist government of China.

Sati (Buddhism)

Sati (in Pali; Sanskrit: smṛti) is mindfulness or awareness, a spiritual or psychological faculty (indriya) that forms an essential part of Buddhist practice. It is the first factor of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. "Correct" or "right" mindfulness (Pali: sammā-sati, Sanskrit samyak-smṛti) is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Shaw Professor of Chinese

The position of Shaw Professor of Chinese is one of the permanent professorships at the University of Oxford, England. It was established in 1876 as the Professor of Chinese, and is now associated with a professorial fellowship at University College, Oxford. The professor is part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The chair was renamed the Shaw Professorship in 1993 in recognition of the donation by Run Run Shaw of £3,000,000 to the university for developing Chinese studies, part of which was used to endow the chair.The people to have held the professorship since its establishment are:

James Legge 1876–97

Thomas Lowndes Bullock 1899–1915

William Edward Soothill 1920–35

Homer Dubs 1947–59

David Hawkes 1959–71

Piet van der Loon 1972–87

Glen Dudbridge 1989–2005

Timothy Brook 2007–09

Barend J. ter Haar 2013–18

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