Eberhard, Wolfram

Wolfram Eberhard (March 17, 1909 – August 15, 1989)



On August 15, 1989 Professor Wolfram Eberhard died following a long illness. Professor Eberhard’s links with the PIAC were tenous. He probably attended only one or two of our meetings but regularly informed us that he wished to remain on our mailing list.

Although his main interest was focused on China, his contribution to Inner Asian studies is most significant. Of his relevant publications one could mention “Chronologische Übersicht über die Geschichte der Hunnen von der späteren Han-Zeit (25 n.Chr. -220 n.Chr.)” Türk Tarih Kurumu Belleten IV, 1940,387-425; Das Toba-Reich Nordchinas. Eine soziologische Untersuchung, (Leiden 1949) and – first and foremost – his two magnificent volumes Kultur und Randvölker Chinas (Leiden, 1942), and Lokalkulturen im alten China (Leiden, 1942), both published as supplementary volumes to the T’oung Pao, edited by Paul Pelliot who – in those difficult years of World War II – wished to have no contacts with Germans. On my enquiring about why he made an exception with Professor Eberhard, he revealed to me his respect for this man’s very courageous opposition to Hitler.

In the late 1960s Professor Eberhard approached me with a project. He had considerably enlarged the data-base of his Randvölker and suggested that, if the Asian Studies Research Institute of Indiana University, of which I was then the director, would finance the preparation of an enlarged card-catalogue (those were pre-computer times) he would be happy to have it kept in Bloomington. He was worried that the vandals disguised as students, who at that time roamed Berkeley, might destroy this valuable material. As it turned out, the additional data collected by Professor Eberhard were not very significant – a compliment to the thoroughness of the original Randvölker – but these cards do contain some supplementary material. They can be consulted in the Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies (successor of the Asian Studies Research Institute). The official name of the collection is “Chinese Frontier Tribes Data.” There are 3254 cards on North and Western, and 1550 cards on South China Frontier tribes.

Sometime in the late 1970s, in Taipei, I had the privilege of spending some days with Professor Eberhard. I cherish the memory of our long conversations. His vast knowledge notwithstanding, he was a man of genuine modesty with impeccable manners: those of a true gentleman.

Denis Sinor

(Source: Permanent International Altaistic Conference Newsletter No. 19, February 1990, p. 2)