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lang Studies 13 (1995) The Life and Work of Robert des Rotours DONALD HOLZMAN DENIS TWITCHEIT p~s CAMBroDGE Robert des Rotours occupies a special place in the lives of all those who study the Tang dynasty. In spite of the extraordinary great leap forward in Chinese (both continental and Taiwanese) Sinology and indeed in world Sinology, his pioneering works are still consulted constantly and look as if they will remain so for a long time to come. Because of his importance to us all and because the obituaries at his death in 1980 elicited relatively little biographical detail, we have decided, in our tribute to another Sinologue, Hans Frankel, to share our appreciation of Robert des Rotours with our colleagues. Donald Holzman is responsible for the first part of this article, concerning the life of Robert des Rotours, and Denis Twitchett for the second, concerning his work. THE LIFE OF ROBERT DES ROTOURS Born in 1891,Robert des Rotours was of the same generation as the great French disciples of Edouard Chavannes (1865-1918):Paul Pelliot (1878-1945),Henri Maspero (1883-1945),Marcel Granet (18841940 ), and Paul Demieville (1894-1979). It is difficult today to imagine oneself, as a Sinologue, in such company. Paul Pelliot was, in every sense of the word, a genius, and the numerous stories told about his ability to learn languages, to speak them, the enormous reuvre he has left full of incomparable erudition showing his unrivaled grasp of Chinese bibliography, and his legendary bad temper must have made him a daunting colleague. Henri Maspero was son of the greatest French Egyptologist France had produced, after Champollion. Granet and Demieville both had brilliant university careers (Granet, who did not receive a professorship in the prestigious College de France, as the other two had, was still the maltre a penser of some of the most prominent minds of the last decades, e.g., Dumezil, who said, IIIowe him everything," the literary critic Etiemble , the poet and novelist Claude Roy). But des Rotours did not 13 Holzman and Twitchett: Robert des Rotours follow the usual curriculum for someone destined to become a scholar, never had a university position, and had few students. Yet, after the War, in America at least, he was considered, together with his friend Paul Demieville, as one of the last representatives of the great French Sinological tradition that reached back to the seventeenth century, a time when the early missionaries helped revolutionize European thought with the descriptions of China they sent back to Paris. Perhaps a brief look at des Rotours' origins, his early life, and education will help us to understand how he was able to achieve so much during his most unusual academic career. The des Rotours belong to the oldest French nobility. They enter into history in the twelfth century when the earliest known member of the family, Willelmes des Rotours (Guillaume des Rotours), is mentioned in two charters, both dated 1191;these documents show that Willelmes took part in the Third Crusade.! The original family seat was located in Les Rotours, a tiny locality in Normandy, on the right bank of the Orne River, north of a small town called Putanges. Members of the family are mentioned in the histories of Normandy as warriors and as nuns and priests until the nineteenth century, when the great-grandfather of Robert des Rotours married a rich heiress from the departement of the Nord, MIle Seraphique Eugenie Plichon. The history of the family from that time forward was centered around Avelin, a small town about ten kilometers to the south of Lille. The family soon became very eminent in the region, furnishing four representatives (deputes) to the National Assembly from 1863to 1945. It was there that Robert Marie Piat des Rotours was born on July 19, 1891,the last child of the Baron and Baroness des Rotours. He was of delicate health throughout his life. His father died of measles when Robert was eight years old. The liveliness of the bois 1 My information about the history of the des Rotours family comes from H.Desmarchelier, cure d' Avelin, Les Trois des Rotours (Lille: Imprimerie L. Danel, 1901),6. I would like...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1759-7633
Print ISSN
0737-5034
Pages
pp. 13-31
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-08
Open Access
No
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