Henri Cordier

Henri Cordier (8 August 1849  16 March 1925) was a French linguist, historian, ethnographer, author, editor and Orientalist. He was President of the Société de Géographie (French, "Geographical Society") in Paris.[1] Cordier was a prominent figure in the development of East Asian and Central Asian scholarship in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century. Though he had little actual knowledge of the Chinese language, Cordier had a particularly strong impact on the development of Chinese scholarship, and was a mentor of the noted French sinologist Édouard Chavannes.

Henri Cordier
Portrait of Henri Cordier at work, by Gustave Caillebotte (1883)
Born(1849-08-08)8 August 1849
Died16 March 1925(1925-03-16) (aged 75)
Known forEast Asian studies

Early life

Cordier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States. He arrived in France in 1852; and his family moved to Paris in 1855. He was educated at the Collège Chaptal and in England.[2]

In 1869 at age 20, he sailed for Shanghai, where he worked at an English bank. During the next two years, he published several articles in local newspapers. In 1872, he was made librarian of the North China branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. In this period, about twenty articles were published in Shanghai Evening Courier, North China Daily News, and Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.[2]


In 1876, he was named secretary of a Chinese government program for Chinese students studying in Europe.[2]

In Paris, Cordier was a professor at l'École spéciale des Langues orientales, which is known today as the Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (L’Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, INALCO).[3] He joined the faculty in 1881; and he was a professor from 1881-1925.[2] He contributed a number of articles to the Catholic Encyclopedia.[4]

Cordier was also a professeur at l'École Libre des Sciences Politiques, which is today known as the National Foundation of Political Studies (Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques) and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris).[3]

Contributions to Sinology

Although he had only a slight knowledge of the language, Cordier made major contributions to Sinology.

"Cordier," as the Bibliotheca Sinica "is sometimes affectionately referred to," is "the standard enumerative bibliography" of 70,000 works on China up to 1921. Even though the author did not know Chinese, he was thorough and highly familiar with European publications. Endymion Wilkinson also praises Cordier for including the full titles, often the tables of contents, and reviews of most books.[5]

Cordier was a founding editor of T'oung Pao, which was the first international journal of Chinese Studies. Along with Gustaaf Schlegel, he helped to establish the prominent sinological journal T'oung Pao in 1890.[3]


Selected works

Cordier's published writings encompass 1,033 works in 1,810 publications in 13 languages and 7,984 library holdings.[6]


  1. La Société de Géographie Archived 2007-02-07 at the Wayback Machine, List of Presidents Archived 2010-07-02 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Aurousseau, L. (1925). Nécrologie, Henri Cordier," Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient, Vol. 25, Issue 25, pp. 279-286.
  3. T'oung Pao, Vol. I, first issue cover page, 1890.
  4. "Cordier, Henri", The Catholic Encyclopedia and Its Makers, New York, the Encyclopedia Press, 1917, p. 34 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. Endymion Wilkinson. Chinese History: A New Manual. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 2013 ISBN 9780674067158) p. 986
  6. WorldCat Identities Archived 2010-12-30 at the Wayback Machine: Cordier, Henri 1849-1925


  • Cordier, Henri. (1892). Half a Decade of Chinese studies (1886-1891). Leyden: E.J. Brill. OCLC 2174926
  • Pelliot, Paul (1925). "Henri Cordier (1849-1925)". T'oung Pao (in French). 24 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1163/156853226X00011. JSTOR 4526773.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Ross, E. Denison (1925). "M. Henri Cordier". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (3): 571–2. JSTOR 25220805.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Yetts, W. Perceval (1925). "Obituary Professor Henri Cordier". Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London. 3 (4): 855–6. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00000781. JSTOR 607118.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Ting Chang, “Crowdsourcing avant la lettre: Henri Cordier and French Sinology, ca. 1875–1925”, L'Esprit créateur, Volume 56, Number 3, Fall 2016, Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 47-60.
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