Chinese collections

Michel Soymié Collection

Michel Soymié</br>(1924-2002)Expert in Chinese popular religions and literature, as well as religious iconography, Professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) of Paris, head of the Research Team on Dunhuang manuscripts (nowadays Centre de recherche Civilisation chinoise - Center for Research of the Chinese Civilization), Michel Soymié (1924-2002) has been one of the greatest French sinologist of his generation.

A graduate in Chinese (1947) and Japanese (1952) at the School of Oriental Languages, followed by a master’s degree, he entered the CNRS as an intern (1951-1952) and subsequently became an assistant researcher from 1953 to 1956. He spent two periods in Japan where he spent nine years, first from 1957 to 1959 and then from 1960 to 1966: in Tokyo, where he stayed at the Franco-Japanese House, and at Kyoto and Tokyo as a member of the French School of Far Eastern Studies.

Upon his return to France, he became director of studies in the 4th section of the EPHE, and was appointed to the Chair of "History and Philosophy of Mediaeval China". He occupied this post until 1992. In 1973, he founded a joint research team (EPHE-CNRS) on the manuscripts of Dunhuang which he directed until 1985 in order to complete the production of the Catalogue of the Chinese manuscripts of Dunhuang (Chinese Pelliot collection of the French National Library). With his team, he wrote the descriptive notes for the reproductions of Chinese paintings in the collections of the Musée Guimet.

His personal library, donated to the BmL by his widow, Nicole Soymié, covers the areas he favoured in his research on classical China: popular religion, literature, the syncretic pantheon of popular religions, Buddhism, Taoism, and also the history, iconography and palaeography of Dunhuang.

The Michel Soymié collection supplemented the BmL’s collections on pre-1911 China. Estimated at over 8,000 volumes, it comprises monographs and journals in Western languages, in Chinese and in Japanese. This final section reflects the scope and the achievements of his sinological research in Japan. When in Japan, he tirelessly visited the libraries in the Kanda district of Tokyo, the location of the capital’s main universities and an important centre for the trade in rare and second-hand books.

Michel Soymié’s private collection testifies to his passion for libraries. This is what prompted him to study the collections of the Asiatic Society, to swell the collections — in particular the Japanese collections — of the EFEO’s library, and to set up that of the team working on the manuscripts of Dunhuang; the latter is today the largest in Europe in this specialist field.

Bibliographical references

  • Jean-Pierre Drège, «Un sinologue et ses livres: Le Fonds Michel Soymié rejoint les collections chinoises enrichissant ses livres religieux», Gryphe: revue de la Bibliothèque de Lyon, no 9, 2004, p. 37-43.

In memoriam

  • Jean-Pierre Diény, «L’Œuvre de Michel Soymié», Journal Asiatique, vol. 290, no 2, 2002, p. 349-374.
  • Jean-Pierre Drège, «Michel Soymié (1924-2002)», BEFEO, vol. 89, 2002, p. 7-14.
  • Jacques Gernet, «Michel Soymié (1924-2002)», Journal Asiatique, vol. 290, no 2, 2002, p. 341-348.
  • KUO Liying, «Michel Soymié (1924-2002)», Études chinoises, vol. 22, 2003, p. 9-17.

Selective bibliography of Michel Soymié’s publications

  • «Un Calendrier de douze jours par an dans les manuscrits de Touen-houang», BEFEO, vol. 69, 1981, p. 209-229.
  • «L’Entrevue de Confucius et de Hiang T’o», Journal Asiatique, vol. 242, no 3-4, 1954, p. 311-392.
  • «Le Lo-feou chan: étude de géographie religieuse», BEFEO, vol. 48, no 1, 1956, p. 1-13.
  • «Sources et sourciers en Chine», Bulletin de la Maison franco-japonaise, n. s. vol. 7, no 1, 1961, 56 p.
  • «Ketsunbonkyô no shiryôteki kenkyû» [Étude documentaire sur le sûtra du bassin de sang], Dôkyô kenkyû / Études taoïstes, no 1, 1965, p. 109-166.
  • «Jizô no shishi ni tsuite» [Quelques remarques sur le lion de Ti-tsang], Tôhô shûkyô / The Journal of Eastern Religions, no 19, 1962, p. 37-52.
  • «Notes d’iconographie chinoise: les acolytes de Ti-tsang» - I et II, Arts asiatiques no 14, 1966, p. 45-78 et Arts asiatiques no 16, 1967, p. 141-170.
  • «Les Dix jours de jeûne du taoïsme», dans Yoshioka hakase kanreki kinen: Dôkyô kenkyû ronshû [Mélanges offerts à M. Yoshioka lors de son soixantième anniversaire], Tôkyô, Kokusho kankôkai, 1977, p. 1-23.
  • «Les Dix jours de jeûne de Ksitigarbha», dans M. Soymié (dir.), Contributions aux études sur Touen-houang, Genève, Droz, 1979, p. 135-159.
  • «Un Recueil d’inscriptions sur peintures: le manuscrit P. 3304 verso», dans M. Soymié (dir.), Nouvelles contributions aux études sur Touen-houang, Genève, Droz, 1981, p. 169-204.
  • (dir.), Catalogue des manuscrits chinois de Touen-houang, fonds Pelliot de la Bibliothèque nationale, vol. 3, Paris, Fondation Singer-Polignac, 1983 ; vol. 4 et 5, Paris, EFEO, 1991 et 1995.
  • «Quelques représentations de statues miraculeuses dans les grottes de Touen-houang», dans M. Soymié (dir.), Contributions aux études de Touen-houang, 3, Paris, EFEO, 1984, p. 77-102.
  • «Observations sur les caractères interdits en Chine», Journal Asiatique, vol. 278, 1990, p. 377-407.
  • Jacques Giès (dir.), Les Arts de l’Asie Centrale. La collection Paul Pelliot du Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux, 2 vol., 1994-1995. [Co-auteur et responsable scientifique des notices sur les peintures de Dunhuang].
  • «Trésors de Dunhuang: peintures mobiles et peintures murales», Archéologia, no 317, 1995, p. 60-65.