中文 | Русский | The Chinese Recorder. Vol. XX. No. 10. pp 449-454
[pinyin used in this internet edition]

The Archimandrite Palladius.


Photo courtesy of
Boris Aleksandrov

THE unveiling of a statue is often an occasion for bringing into view the facts of the life of its subject. A monument less perishable than marble has just been erected to the memory of this eminent scholar, on the completion of his dictionary by Mr. Paul Popoff, First Interpreter to the Russian Legation in Beijing. It is a large work of over twelve hundred folio pages, and sixteen years of life, eight for each of its author's, are embodied in it. It was printed at the press of the Imperial College in Beijing; Russian type, paper and compositors being imported for the purpose, and the expenses being defrayed by the Russian Government, which finds its interest in promoting the learned labors of Russian scholars.

It was Mr. Popoff's privilege to accompany the Archimandrite on his homeward voyage, twelve years ago, and by kindly services to comfort the last hours of the distinguished missionary. The unfinished dictionary he accepted as a kind of legacy, and instead of appropriating the labors of his predecessor, as some would have done, we see him consecrate eight years of toil to the completion of the task, and then with noble disinterestedness ascribe the whole honor to the original author. Filial piety may wrong itself, but the world, when informed of the facts, will not be unjust in its judgment. While honoring the memory of him who laid the foundation, it will not forget what is due to the architect who completed the superstructure. Finis opus coronat. With the general learning of the one are combined special studies of the other, which result in a complete whole, the value of which Russians only can properly appreciate. Though both names appear on the title page, Mr. Popoff accepts for himself the humbler office of editor, conceding to Palladius the honors of authorship; prefixing to the work a copy of his likeness, aud devoting a long introduction to a narration of the facts of his life.

It is from this introduction that I derive the contents of the following pages. The easy task of abridgment I undertake with the more pleasure, as for many years I enjoyed the friendship of the worthy man whom they commemorate. I first met him in 1858 at Tianjin, during negotiation of the treaties, when he was acting as special interpreter for the Russian legation as I was for that of the United States. He was ten years my senior, and in my youth and inexperience I looked up to him with great reverence, a sentiment that was augmented rather than diminished by the more intimate acquaintance of succeeding years.

Among the Russian sinologues of recent times, says Mr. Popoff, one of the most prominent places belongs to the Archimandrite Palladius, late chief of the Ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing. His laic name was Petre Ivanovitch Koporoff, and he was born on the 17th of September, 1817, in the province of Kason, where his father was a parish priest. The young Petre, having received the elements of a sound secular education, resolved to enter the service of the Church, and with this view obtained admission to the Ecclesiastical Seminary of Kason. Here he soon distinguished himself, and as a reward was sent to pass the last year of his curriculum at the Theological Academy in St. Petersburg. Just then the twelvth mission to China was in process of organization, and Petre Koporoff, whether from zeal for the propagation of the faith, or from a desire to advance his Oriental studies, it is not easy to say, expressed a wish to join the mission.

Becoming a monk, he took the name Palladius and arrived in Beijing in September, 1840. Here he gave himself to unremitting study, and being possessed of unusual powers of acquisition his attainments were prodigious. In the department of Buddhism alone, as Professor Wassilieff informs us, he read through no fewer than 750 volumes of Chinese books, comprising in fact the entire literature of the subject.

Owing to his extraordinary proficiency in learning, taken in connexion with other high qualities, Palladius was selected as a candidate for the headship of the next decennial mission. Returning to Russia, he was raised to the dignity of Archimandrite in June, 1848, and arrived in Beijing as chief of the new mission in October, 1849.

Here he labored with exemplary fidelity for ten years, winning fresh distinction in his three-fold character of ecclesiastical chief, diplomatic representative and Oriental scholar. By recommendation of the Foreign Office, His Majesty the Emperor of Russia conferred on him an order of St. Anne of the second class, and that of St. Wladimir of the third class, together with a life pension of 2,000 roubles.

Such was his reputation as a scholar and as the successful chief of a mission which required tact and ability that he had before him the most tempting offers of ecclesiastical preferment. The dignity of Bishop was in fact offered to him, as also the post of superior in one of the richest of Russian monasteries, but averse to pomp and splendor and perhaps fearing that they would withdraw him from his favorite studies, he declined both.

In August, 1860, he was appointed chaplain to the embassy in Rome, and during the four years spent in the eternal city, he not only mastered the Italian language, but spent much time in studying the antiquities of the Christian Church. The results of these investigations appeared in a series of letters published in the pages of a Russian Ecclesiastical Review. A jewelled cross from the Imperial cabinet was conferred on him as a mark of approval of his services in Rome.

Meanwhile the period having come round for a new mission to China, the position of chief was offered to Palladius and by him gladly accepted; his choice of a post no higher than the one which he had held ten years before showing how strong was his attachment to the mission. On its religious side it fulfilled the aspirations of a pious soul, while in its Scientific aspects it presented invaluable facilities for extending his Oriental studies.

It was in April, 1865, that he entered Beijing for his third mission, and there he remained, with one brief interval, for thirteen years, until age and infirmities compelled him to vacate his post to return no more. The interval referred to was a voyage of exploration in 1870-71 through the Manchurian provinces of the Northeast. Undertaken at the instance of the Imperial Geographical Society of Russia, its results in respect to ethnography and archeology were deemed so important that he was awarded a medal by the International Congress of Geography in Paris in 1875. "The rest of his sojourn in Beijing" (from the spring of 1871), says Mr. Popoff, "was devoted almost exclusively to his Chinese-Russian Dictionary—a work which he regarded, not without reason, as a resume of his knowledge of China, acquired by more than thirty years of patient labor. The hand of death which struck him at Marseilles, on his homeward voyage, in the spring of 1878, left the undertaking far from complete. It fell to my lot to finish it, as it had fallen to me to close the eyes of this corypheus of sinology."

As to his character, its leading features show themselves in the preceding outline—an insatiable thirst for knowledge, indefatigable patience in the pursuit of it and conscientious devotion to the duties of his office; but it may not be out of place to add a few words on the same subject.

His spiritual charge consisted chiefly of a small colony of Christian Tartars brought to Beijing by the Emperor Kangxi from the town of Albazin, much as the tribes of Israel were carried away by their Babylonian conquerors. It was this colony that gave occasion for the Ecclesiastical Mission, and it was adroitly used by the Russian Government as a means for keeping up diplomatic relations with a shy and exclusive neighbor. Not only did the Archimandrite Palladius show himself a good pastor in providing for the spiritual wants of his flock; he was freehanded and liberal in giving them material aid whenever it was required. A tablet to his memory, suspended in their Church and bearing the inscription 以永终譽, attests their gratitude.

"He was," says Professor Wassilieff, "a man of the utmost modesty. Discreet and kind he treated everybody with Christian indulgence; never condemning anybody and never roused to fanaticism. In a word he was a man whom it was impossible not to love and respect."

Holding a high place in the affections of his own countrymen, he was esteemed and loved by many of other nationalities, and the representatives of other nations sometimes sought his advice on questions of diplomatic importance.

It only remains to append here a list of his principal writings:—

  1. A Life of Buddha, published in 1852, and afterwards translated into German. It contains a masterly sketch of the philosophic doctrines of India, contemporaneous to Buddha, showing how the doctrines of that great reformer were derived from teachings and conditions anterior to his time.
  2. A Historical Sketch of Ancient Buddhism.—This is a sequel to the preceding. It presents the reader with a general picture of Buddhism from the death of Buddha to the time of Christ, comprising a period of about six centuries.
  3. An Ancient Mongol Account of Genghiz Khan.—This is a translation from the Chinese of a very rare book —Yuanchao Mishi—or " Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty."
  4. An Ancient Chinese Account of Genghiz Khan.—This is a translation of a rare manuscript containing a biography of the famous conqueror.
  5. Ancient Traces of Christianity in China.—Besides giving an account of the Nestorian Christians under the three dynasties of Tang, Song and Yuan, the author supplies much valuable information as to the Guebers, Manicheans and Jews in China.

Besides the above works, a number of important articles of less extent may here be mentioned:—

  1. Journey of Changchun, a Daoist monk, to the Court of Genghiz Khan.
  2. Trade Routes across China and her Dependencies.
  3. My Beijing Diary—a Record of Events connected with the signing of the Treaties of Tianjin.
  4. Mohammedans in China.
  5. The Road from Beijing to Blagoveschinsk.
  6. Elucidations of Marco Polo's Travels in North China.
  7. Historical Sketch of the Usuri Country.
  8. A Week in a Chinese Temple.

"This little narrative," says Mr. Popoff, "exhibits the author's powers of narration to great advantage. Clothed with poetic charms, yet truthful and simple, it gives us a vivid picture of Chinese life and superstition."

In looking over this double list it is impossible to repress a sigh of regret that the most of these works remain locked up in the Russian language. Would it not be a meritorious performance for some Russians from the shores of the Baltic to put them into German and so render them accessible to the rest of mankind?

The Dictionary, which he left unfinished, is after all the magnum opus of the Archimandrite's prolific pen. Mr. Popoff gives a formidable catalogue of native and foreign dictionaries on which the joint authors have drawn for assistance, and adds that "not one of them gives as such complete, exact and full definitions of all terms connected with the three great religions of China as does this work of the lamented Archimandrite."

In bestowing eight years of patient labor on the completion of that work, Mr. Popoff has not merely erected a monument to the sainted missionary, but added much to his own reputation, and done honor to his country. Happy the author who finds for his literary executor a man of like mind; capable, conscientious, laborious, and far more solicitous to lay immortelles on the tomb of the departed, than to gather fresh laurels for his own brow!

W. A. P. M.

Pearl Grotto, near Beijing, 6th August, 1889.