Ji Xianlin: a Gentle Academic Giant
Ji Xianlin(1911.8-2009.7), a renowned paleographer (one who studies the writing and documents from the past), historian, and writer, was born in 1911 in Qingping County (today's Linqing City) of East China's Shandong Province.
Ji Xianlin studied in Sanhejie Primary School and the No.1 Middle School in Jinan City before entering Shandong University. In 1930, Ji was admitted to Tsinghua University as a major in Western literature.
Ji Xianlin in his youth
In 1935, he went to Germany as an exchange student to study ancient languages such as Sanskrit, Pali, Tocharian, and so on, receiving his PhD degree in 1941.
Jin Xianlin(left) and his schollmate in Germany in 1936
Ji returned to China in 1946, and in the autumn of the same year, became a professor in Peking University under the recommendation of Chen Yanluo. Ji founded the Department of Eastern Languages soon after, acting as dean of the department and blazing a trail in the field of Eastern studies in China.
In 1956, Ji was elected commissioner of the Chinese Academy of Science's Department of Social Science.
Two years after the Culture Revolution (1966-1976), in 1978, he became vice president of Peking University and director of the Chinese Academy of Science's Research Institute on South Asia.
He once served as chairman of various professional organizations, such as the Chinese Foreign Literature Association, the Chinese South Asian Association, and the Chinese Language Society. His Ji Xianlin Collection consists of 24 volumes, including articles on ancient Indian languages, Sino-Indian cultural relations, Buddhism, comparative and folk literature, essays, translations of literary works, and so on.
Ji Xianlin believes, "Cultural exchange is the main drive for humankind's progress. Only by learning from each other's strong points to make up for shortcomings can people constantly progress, the ultimate target of which is to achieve a kind of Great Harmony." Over the past ten years, Ji has actively participated in discussions on the cultural problems between the East and West, based on the same ideology.
According to him, human culture is divided into four parts: Chinese culture, Indian culture, Arabic-Islamic culture, and European-American culture, with the former three constituting the Eastern cultural system and the last the Western one.
Ji Xianlin has been crying for the rejuvenation of the Eastern nations and the rehabilitation of their respective cultures, claiming both the Eastern and Western cultures have experienced enormous ups and downs, which has caused a sensation among the Chinese society. Ji's opinion is of great significance in the understanding of history in China, signalizing an active refute against the predominant "European Centralism" view that prevails in the country.
With his achievements in the history of Sino-Indian cultural relations, Buddhism history, Indian literature, and comparative literature, Ji Xianlin is acclaimed as a master of Eastern studies both at home and abroad.