Henri Cordier

Portrait of Henri   Cordier

Henri Cordier (8 August 1849, New Orleans (Louisiana, USA) – 16 March 1925, Paris) was a French linguist, historian, ethnographer, author, editor and Orientalist who largely contributed to the development of French Sinology (even if he knew very little of the Chinese language) and Asian studies.

Coming from the US to France in 1852, Cordier studied in Paris and in England before sailing for Shanghai in 1869, where he worked at a British bank. In 1872, he was made librarian of the North China branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. In 1876, he was named secretary of a Chinese government program for Chinese students studying in Europe.

Back in Paris, Cordier taught at the Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO) from 1881 to 1925. He authored a giant bibliography of 70,000 Chinese texts, the Bibliotheca Sinica, and the Histoire générale de la Chine et de ses relations avec les pays étrangers: depuis les temps les plus anciens jusqu'à la chute de la dynastie Mandchoue (4 vol.,1920-1921).

In 1912-1915, he published with EFEO the four volumes of the Bibliotheca Indosinica, Dictionnaire bibliographique des ouvrages relatifs à la péninsule indochinoise, a compendium of texts and studies related to China and Southeast Asia.

With Dutch Orientalist Gustaaf Schlegel (1840-1903)-- and the scientific guidance of sinologist Edouard Chavannes --, he founded in 1890 T'oung Pao, the first international journal of Chinese studies. When Schlegel left the journal in 1903, Chavannes took his seat from 1904 to 1916, before Paul Pelliot took over in 1920-1944 (with J.J.L. Duyvendak in 1936-1944).