Shengren – Chapter 4.1 – Shengren in German Online Sources

‘Die Sprache der Wissenschaft ist Englisch’ was a sobering statement that could be heard all over Germany at the turn of the new millennium: ‘The language of science is English.’ There were even deeper implications for universities: In Germany, the humanities were Wissenschaft—science, too. Therefore, one could easily deduce this: ‘The language of all academia is English.’ The power of the German language in Germany’s academia was already so retarded that by the year 2006, top German academics now had to write English applications to German institutions for German grants.[1] In many disciplines, English as a foreign language was propagated to function as a universal, international medium through which communication with foreigners was made possible, for example in the natural sciences, engineering, and technology. In some disciplines, however, the switching to the English language—or at least welcoming a rich set of English loanwords—was simply a matter of academic survival. The local language of business, media, and entertainment in Germany was poor and underdeveloped. In politics, cultural and social sciences, German was still corrupted by politically incorrect vocabularies—reminiscence of the Nazi language,[2] and in the case of Eastern Germany, German had been abused as communist propaganda tool.[3] Meanwhile, all over the world, billions of students are taught at school that Germany and the Germans are synonyms for horrible crimes against humanity. So, actually the American occupiers believed they did the Germans a favor when they insisted on the total Westernization of Germany. Sounds familiar? That is exactly what the Germans thought of Chinese culture a century ago. Language imperialists universally believe they do their victims a favor. So, now Germany is targeted by a greater power, the Anglo-Saxon world order. And the German scholarship on China (and all other cultures), if not translated into English (which then eliminates the German terms anyway), is made—in hindsight of course—oblivious, redundant, a waste of time and effort. It would have been better for all parties involved—the Germans, the Americans, and the Chinese—if scholars had worked with the correct and original Chinese terms to start with, instead of misappropriating Chinese cultural terminologies for national interest. That said, nations do compete for their terminologies, and the Anglo-Saxon world order is not going to repair China just began Germany goes down.

For historical reasons, apart from being the international lingua franca, American English [not the British one!] was intuitively seen as having more authority on all new world order things that Germany as mere satellite state could have little driver knowledge about: US moon-landing, baseball, rock’n roll, dot-com, cinema and black music, and, it must be said, foreign cultures. It meant that when there were two postmodern textbooks of equal quality written on the same topic, one in English, the other in German, it was always hipper to buy the English one. Now, did this mean that German scholars would now be forced to read English translations of the Lun Yu, notice ‘the sages’ instead of ‘the saints’ [Heilige, in German], see their error and will faithfully adopt the Anglo-Saxon motion and call the shengren ‘die Weisen?’ The answer is: No. Not in the mainstream press because Germany has no concept for sages and because calling the Chinese thinkers ‘die Weisen’ sounds preposterous and misfit. Not in academia because 300 years of China experts are an institution.

It does happen, though. The German Ursula Gräfe, a graduate of Japanese language and English literature, translated Annping Chin’s Konfuzius – The Story of his Life (2009) from English into German. That’s the way it was usually done in Germany, as most Japanese and Chinese best-sellers nowadays—the public and the readers don’t know this—were not translated from the original but from its English translation instead. Whether she did or did not read the Chinese original text, she—as matter of course—translated the English ‘sage’ into German der Weise.[4] That was a clear break away from the German imperialist tradition as an anglicized academic, and it is legitimate: nobody in Germany has the authority to question American dictionaries as the correct German translation of English ‘the sage’ was indeed der Weise. Scholars may be creative with Chinese translations, and be regarded as smart. But if they mistranslate English words, reviewers will think them as unlettered. If she had translated ‘the sage’ as der Heilige, or worse der Göttliche or der Philosoph, the profession would have cried her skills a cheat.

Evidently, in today’s Sinologie, the authority of the English language greatly outweighs the authority of the Chinese language. German students seemed to have huge respect for the English language, but still ridicule Chinese. Yes, a shengren could finally become ‘a Weiser,’ but only indirectly—only after he had been an English ‘sage’ before that; however, a sheng(ren) quoted straight out of a Chinese texts could only be a Heiliger, Göttlicher or Philosoph. Who would have thought that the Cultural sciences could be so discriminatory and hierarchical?

The Chinese-English-German translation triangle was inherently broken, in a semantic way, and the reason for it was that the Germans did not have a concept for sages and sagehood. The Germans, as a matter of spiritual self-preservation, needed the global affirmation of holiness. The Chinese side, meanwhile, was the most stable factor in the translation triangle, because China historically owned the shengren (like the West owned the philosophers), and could not care less about foreign experimentations or venerable titles as long as they were positive and respectful. As a result, to put it into political language: only bilateral agreements with China on meaning could be reached, not a global consent. This has led to pseudo-humanities where Germans try to sell a unique Chinabild of holiness and divine character in the hope that Chinese customers, flattered by the imagery, would prefer Germany over Britain, France, Japan, and the United States as spiritual master and soulmate. Not only does Germany instruct China on Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (in a sane world, it would be the other way round), it also competes with other Western nations for the job as global language instructor. This necessarily includes marketing German Sinologie—its ideas, its champions, its textbooks—and dispatching hundreds of German ‘China experts’ to conference, think tanks, and the press.

Let us go back to the authority of the English language: the evidence is that once sheng(ren) was translated English ‘sage,’ the Germans had to obey established linguistic hierarchy and thus felt obliged to translate sage as Weiser.[5] It did not mean that all of a sudden German culture saw the Weisen in China; only that the logic and rationality behind English-German dictionary conventions forced them to write Weisen down.

So, the younger generations of German intellectuals do translate from English translations of Chinese works. That means they even moved one language further away from the shengren. This show of not knowing what one doesn’t know is tragic, especially if submitted unwittingly to prestigious magazines. Here’s a text from Die Kulturzeitung aus Mitteldeutschland (2009) [underlined by this author]; it says that the ‘philosopher Confucius’ was doing quite ‘un-philosophical philosophy,’ no less:

Purely rational philosophy as in Western philosophy is complete alien to Confucianism; it is a practical, moral philosophy. […] nine Classic books that form the basis of his philosophy. […] special character of the Confucian philosophy, followed by a discussion about ethics, state, and society. [6]

The writer, Michael Lausberg, is trapped in Western categories of which he is intellectually incapable of escaping, owing to his ignorance and lack of Chinese words. China has various xue (disciplines), jia (schools), and jiao (teachings), thus had managed and done without the term philosophy—so why planting the word ‘philosophy,’ which is alien to Confucian (as the writer in part admits!), all over his journalism? Because he had learnt it so. Lausberg used the word ‘philosophy’ in that paragraph five times (!), the one word that was never used in any of the nine Classics he later referred to. Lausberg is not alone. There are thousands of Western journalists who project the Western term philosophy onto China, and are generously paid for to do so. If culture was warfare, they would be press soldiers. In America, were all things at all costs must be Americanized, the philosophy lobby is even bigger. Here is a notorious ‘group blog’ set up by Western ‘China experts’, Warp Weft Way, administered by American professor Stephen Angle, that borders on reckless revisionism and gives new meaning to the dogma of cultural imperialism (underlines by this author):

‘Warp, Weft, and Way is a group blog of Chinese and Comparative philosophy. Its primary purpose is to promote and stimulate discussion of Chinese philosophy and cross-tradition inquiry among scholars and students of philosophy, whatever their level of training. Contributors include active scholars with a variety of philosophical interests and approaches. Readers are encouraged to use the Discussions forum page to submit any questions that they may have about the content, study, or profession of Chinese and Comparative philosophy.’ [7]

These cuckhold philosophers plant their term philosophy into another man’s culture—Confucian culture. It is only beneficial to philosophy: Again, not a single Chinese word or term. Those tenured professors and scholars and journalists are supposed to be our China specialists. Needless to say, they run departments of ‘China studies’ in the US and elsewhere and set up conference, seminars, workshop, and journals that support their agenda. Here an excerpt from the ‘Aims’ of the Frontiers of Philosophy in China (again, underlines by this author):

‘Frontiers of Philosophy in China aims to disseminate new scholarly achievements in the field of broadly defined philosophy, and promote philosophical researches of the highest level by publishing peer-reviewed academic articles that facilitate intensive or extensive communication and cooperation between philosophers in China and abroad. It covers nearly all main branches of philosophy, with priorities given to original works on Chinese philosophy or in comparative studies in Chinese philosophy and other kinds of philosophy in the world.’

Apart from the self-praise for being elite and exclusive (it tacitly offers the title ‘philosopher’ to its members) and essentially an old-boy network, the ‘Aims’ section propagates the Western term ‘philosophy’ no less than eight times (!). If this looks like ideological indoctrination, that’s because it is ideological indoctrination.

But let us return to the Germans who are no less productive. Professor Lausberg, a social scientist, had the right idea that Confucius was not a (Western) philosopher, but had not the right word for what Confucius was – a shengren or sage. That is not entirely the professor’s fault, he lives in a society that censors foreign words and guards itself against the pollution by foreign vocabularies. The following are excerpts from the German Kirchenlexicon, the dictionary of the Church, the German Duden (the most renowned German dictionary), and the German Die Zeit newspaper (underlines by this author):

Kirchenlexicon Der Duden Die Zeit
KONFUZIUS (Kung-fu-tse = »Meister aus dem Geschlechte Kung«), neben Lao-Tse der bedeutendste Philosoph Chinas, ‘ 27.8. 551 v. Chr.


Kon|fu|zi|a|nis|mus, der; -: auf der Lehre des chinesischen Philosophen Konfuzius (551-479 v. Chr.) u. seiner Schüler.


Doch Konfuzius, der chinesische Philosoph, der vor 2500 Jahren lebte und auf den die Lehre zurückgeht, hat sehr wohl die Welt erklärt und normative Verhaltens- und Denkweisen aufgestellt.[8]

The term ‘philosophy’ is not backed by Chinese textual tradition; so, literally, the West had to fabricate ‘philosophers’ first and then re-imported Chinese ‘philosophers’ back to the West. The shengren is banned from entry. No one must know. If Cultural Studies were exact sciences, European scholarship would fall apart right here. There was no adequate excuse for the entire German-speaking world to speak of ‘Philosophen’ when China had sages instead, with one exception: they truly didn’t know that sages and sagehood still existed.

And there is always more: The Chinafokus, a popular webpage about Chinese culture, said this: ‘Konfuzius: Der große chinesische Philosoph.’ Here, too, there was no mentioning of the shengren or sage (Weiser).[9] The editors of the German online authority, didn’t have the patience to study the Chinese Classics either. Instead, they faithfully copied Richard Wilhelm’s incorrect translations into web space. In addition to the many sinologists who learned their profession from Richard Wilhelm, the missionary’s lifework was available to the intellectual public everywhere—just as Legge’s is to the English-speaking world—, for example on, the ‘Largest German Open Library Online.’ Wilhelm was the master theologian and missionary for whom religion was everything, and to whom ‘Heilige’ were preferable and superior to sages. The Kirchenlexicon mentioned above was a German online source meant for students of divinity. It is unashamed Christian propaganda. One must assume that Germany’s students of divinity were either largely incompetent in Chinese language and thus had to rely on the translations they found on the internet, or that they liked what they saw as a confirmation of their religiousness. That the Kirchenlexicon omitted the shengren and sages (Weise) was outrageous; yet who can blame church people for spreading churchspeak? The authoritative German Duden, of all serious dictionaries, omitted sheng and Weiser and said ‘Philosoph;’ yet, all the same, who could blame the German editors for their service to philosopherspeak? With Richard Wilhelm’s translations at hand, a state-sponsored, respected and venerated sinologist, they wouldn’t know any better. Last, these translations had the potential to benefit Germany far beyond its physical abilities to colonize the Asians.

Besides Philosoph, the all-favored German translation, based on Schott, Grube, Wilhelm, Haas, Biallas, Conrady and many others, was the biblical Heilige (saints, holy[men]). The Germans in particular were obsessed with finding philosophers and saints in the East and, if need be, invented them: ‘There was nothing, whether Greek philosophy or Christian morality, that was not supposed to have had its first origin among the sages of China.’[10] The evidence for Germany still not having any concept for sages and sagehood but instead continuing with great German rigidness the former missionary dream of Holy China was overwhelming, and – given the current scientific knowledge[11] – a bit depressing:

Searching for ‘Shengren’ in the German online sources:
Das freie Chinesisch-Deutsche Wörterbuch ‘Exakter Treffer’

圣人 [聖人] (shèngrén)

1. S   Heiliger [Rel][12] – Die freie Enzyklopädie Der Artikel ‘Shengren’ existiert nicht in diesem Wiki.[13]

[no result] – Meine Bibliothek […] heiligen Bräuche […]; Heiligen Buches […]; das heilige Erbe […]; das Heil von einem heiligen Fürsten […]; Heiligen auf dem Thron […]; heiligen Schriften […]; Prinzipien der heiligen Könige des Altertums […][14]
Dehanci[15] ‘圣人shèng rén – Heiliger (Philos)’[16]


[sage, the plant]

To be fair, a few recent alternative German online sources offered German ‘Weise’ as shengren translation, yet that was a mishmash cases precisely because the software also consulted English dictionaries, for example: ( is the same provider) said: ‘圣人shèng rén (pr.) heilige/Weise.’[18] But this English-to-German is still a rare sight. The vast majority of German dictionaries still featured Heilige, while many influential authors such as Stange, Fiederling, or Cordes (see table below) neither mentioned sheng(ren) nor a translation of something—they just freely stipulated there must have been Heilige. On top of that, those China experts often confuse the shengren with the junzi, but more to that later.

Below is a list of some of the leading German translations on the internet today (underlines by this author): [details can be found in the appendix]:

Translation of shengren Source/Year
Philosoph, ein Edler – The Largest German Open Library Online (2011)
Philosoph und Religionslehrer […] Brockhaus Dictionary (1906-1911)
Chinas entthronter Heiliger Robert Paul Kramers (1979)
Konfuzius, der heilige Chinas […] Johann Flad (1904)
Konfuzius, der heilige Chinas […] Werner Schwanfelder (2006)
Der Edle Hans O. H. Stange (1965-2004)
Der Edle Johannes Fiederling (2009)
Chinesische Wandergelehrte,

Ideal des Edlen

Ulrike Cordes (2009)
Der Pädagoge, der verhinderte Politiker, der Philosoph, Moralische Person

[…] als Ziel, ein <sheng-ren>>, ein <Genius> bzw. <Heiliger> zu werden […]

Heiner Rötz (1994, 2006)

To wrap this chapter up, the majority translations in German online sources were ‘Philosoph’ and ‘Heiliger’ – an extraordinary persistence in error over a hundred years is now an internet scheme. One may find that the timing of the internet revolution was impeccable: the erroneous translations could now spread globally, and the total penetration of Chinese tradition by Western biblical and philosophical propaganda now seemed permanent and irreversible.

[1] Unispiegel, 3rd Oct, 2006

[2] Doerr, 2002

[3] Craig, 1982, pp. 342 ff.

[4] Chin, 2009

[5] Pohl, 1999, pp 219, 291; Paul, 2001, pp. 35, 91, 108, 109, 114, 119; Chin, 2009;

[6] Lausberg, 2009: ‘Rein rationales Philosophieren wie in der abendländischen Philosophie ist dem Konfuzianismus völlig fremd, er ist praktische, moralische Philosophie. In der Arbeit werden zunächst die wichtigsten biographischen Daten des Konfuzius näher vorgestellt. Danach wird auf die neun klassischen Bücher eingegangen, die die Grundlage seiner Philosophie bilden. Dann geht es um den besonderen Charakter der konfuzianischen Philosophie, woran Erörterungen über Ethik sowie Staat und Gesellschaft anschließen.’

[7] (last access: 10/2014)

[8] see

[9] see

[10] Stone, 2002

[11] Ibid., pp. 105 ff.; Cheang, 2000

[12] – Das freie Chinesisch-Deutsche Wörterbuch (2001-2010), Chinesisch-Deutsche Gesellschaft e. V. Hamburg

[13] – Die freie Enzyklopädie

[14] – Meine Bibliothek, Kong Fu Zi (Konfuzius) – Lunyu – Einführung, source: Wilhem, Richard (1975), p. 13-30

[15] Dehanci, Chinesisch-deutsches Wort- und Satzlexikon, 2010

[16] – Chinesisch-deutsches Wort- und Satzlexikon

[17] – Google translate, Chinese to German translation of 圣人

[18], 2011

Pattberg, Thorsten (2011), Shengren – Above Philosophy and Beyond Religion, LoD Press, New York

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