According to its face value, 汉学家 should mean someone who has made great accomplishments in the research of subjects in relation to the Han people, like John King Fairbank (费正清)or even the former US Secretary of State Dr. Kissinger, who have made in-depth researches of China as a whole.

But recently someone like Howard Goldblatt (葛浩文)is introduced to Chinese readers as a 汉学家, but what he has done is no more than translating a couple of Chinese novels, and even in his loose style translation, he has added some of his own things and deleted some of the original texts, so in this sense he is not even up to a hundred percent translator.

What does the phrase 汉学家 really mean?

  • A man interested in traditional Chinese culture and devoted himself into studying it.
    – Spin Lee
    Jul 5 at 4:40

Sino- before vowels Sin-, word-forming element meaning "Chinese," 1879, from Late Latin Sinæ (plural) "the Chinese," from Ptolemaic Greek Sinai, from Arabic Sin "China," probably from Chinese Ch'in, name of the fourth dynasty of China

汉学家:sinologist, a foreign scholar of things Chinese (not just of Chinese language or translation)

[should really be Qinologist!?!]




It means sinologist, i.e. someone expert of Chinese matters.

Usually it refers to scholars or researchers with formal education in such areas as Chinese history, language and linguistics, politics, economics, etc. People who study China and things related to China. Many users here are sinologists.

Technically, someone who does not hold a degree in Chinese studies should not be referred to as a sinologist, just as much someone who doesn’t have a degree in medicine should be called a doctor.

However the term can be loosely applied to people who have good understanding of Chinese matters even if they don’t have an academic background. How freely you want to use that term kinda depends on your agenda and what you are trying to convey.

Howard Goldblatt according to Wikipedia does have a PhD in Chinese studies, so it’s accurate to define him a sinologist.


汉学家 = sinologist

a person who studies or is an expert in sinology (= Chinese language, literature, history, society, etc.)

Notice it wrote: 'studies or is an expert in sinology'

So even someone who isn't an expert, as long as he is seriously studying Chinese language, literature, history, society. He can still qualified as a sinologist (汉学家)

Edit: When I said 'seriously' I meant doing it full time.


I think there is a misunderstanding of 汉学家 and 汉学学者.

Anybody can be called a 汉学学者 if he posses broad knowledge on Chinese studies with a thorough understanding of the Sinology through the relentless studies and continued researches, however, very few can be called 汉学家.

汉学家 is the award from the vast 汉学学者 to the person who is an outstanding 汉学学者 with distinct knowledge (to the tiniest details), significant contributions and broad influences to the Sinology.

I don't know who is 葛浩文, but if his work has mainly been "translation", though he could be outstanding in his works, possess a distinct style that has influenced, and respected by, many others, I don't consider he has a significant contribution to the Sinology in the sense that his line of work lacks the broadness expected of Sinology. Therefore, he could be awarded the title "翻譯(名)家 but not 汉学家.

But, if he is a known and well-respected 汉学学者 who specialized in translation, then 汉学家 could be justified, as the outstanding in translation may not be his "sole" accomplishment in the field of Chinese study (Sinology).

At the end of the day, we can award anybody with "xx家", only if the bag holds the water, which means without or with minimal objections, it may stick.

  • Some of them might be known as 中国问题专家. There is another confusing phrase 国学, because it is hard to define what is 国学. Some people teach their kids some texts written in the old-style Chinese, then they are known to be teaching their kids 国学, and if you look carefully, you can find some nursery schools are branded 国学幼儿园 where the same ancient poems and adages are taught. Jul 6 at 14:42
  • @NanningYouth 中国问题专家 is an expert in China issues, main political matters. He/she is not necessarily familiar with Sinology. There is no confusion about the teaching of ancient literature to young kids, it is the breadth and depth of the teaching that counts.
    – r13
    Jul 6 at 15:25
  • 中国问题专家may focus on contemporary issues of China, not necessarily on political issues, they may be the experts on economic, financial, cultural, educational, military, etc, issues. But 国学 is not limited to ancient literature, as far as I know, it is a very broad subject because traditional Chinese medicine is also included, so are astrology, Feng Shui and other interesting things. Jul 7 at 1:41
  • @NanningYouth 中国"问题(事務)专家" - Expert in "Chinese affairs". Yes, it can be comprehensive, but usually his/her expertise leans heavily on political matters such as policies and foreign relations. If I didn't make mistake, this title is usually given to foreigners rather than the domestic experts who excel in the fields you have mentioned.
    – r13
    Jul 7 at 4:49

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