ERNST SCHWARZ, 1916-2003; OLMÜTZ 2017

Ernst Schwarz was a sinologist, poet, and a translator of literary, poetical and philosophical Chinese texts.

Ernst Schwarz was born in Vienna in a Jewish merchant family. He studied Egyptology and medicine at the Vienna University. In 1938, after the annexation of Austria, he was forced to emigrate, and together with his brother he went to Shanghai. He started to learn Chinese and made his living as a sports instructor. After the Japanese occupation in 1941, Buddhist friends helped him, and in 1943 even hid him in a monastery, where Schwarz got to know the Buddhist life. After the end of World War II, he worked in Nanjing at the National library, served as secretary at the Austrian embassy, was founder of the Sino-Austrian Cultural Association (SACA), and wrote his first text: Buddhism in nuce.

In 1950, he moved to Peking, where he worked as a translator for Russian literature into Chinese, and modern Chinese literature into German, to be published by the Foreign Languages Press. In 1958, he got an appointment at the Hangzhou University as teacher for English.

In 1960, Schwarz managed to leave China with his Chinese wife and daughter, and arrived after a difficult trip in Berlin, German Democratic Republic. He got appointed as a teacher at the Sinology department at the Humboldt University, where in 1965 he got his PhD with a thesis on Qu Yuan research. In 1964, he published his first scholarly publication on classical Chinese literature (Die klassische chinesische Literatur und das Weltbild Chinas im Feudalzeitalter). After leaving the university in 1970, Schwarz dedicated most of his time to translate Chinese literature, and became one of the most renowned translators for classical Chinese novels, poems, and philosophical texts in Germany. His translations were wide-spread and became classics. Some titles are: Chrysanthemen im Spiegel. Klassische chinesische Dichtungen (1969), Der Ruf der Phönixflöte (1973) Shih-fu Wang: Das Westzimmer (1978) Von den müßigen Gefühlen. Chinesische Liebesgedichte aus 3 Jahrtausenden (1978), So sprach der Weise. Chinesisches Gedankengut aus 3 Jahrtausenden (1981), Gespräche des Meisters Kung (A translation of the Lunyu, 1985) Der alte Mönch. Gedichte zu chinesischen Tuschezeichnungen (1990), Die Weisheit des alten China (1994).

In 1981, he was awarded the prestigious F.C. Weiskopf Prize for his translations. All those years, Schwarz has kept contact to Austrian friends and colleagues, and also served as mediator in establishing contacts with China. In 1992, Schwarz got the Honorary Medal of Vienna, and in 1993 he moved to Austria. He published a new edition of his 1970 translation of the Daodejing (1995), a book on the life of the Bodhidharma (2000), and began to write his autobiography, which remained unfinished.

Sources: Konrad Herrmann: Begegnungen mit Ernst Schwarz, Berlin 2012. The following photos are all by courtesy of Dr. Konrad Herrmann
1. Schwarz in the 90ies
2. Cover Photo Konrad Herrmann: Begegnungen mit Ernst Schwarz 2012
3. Cover Photo Die Weisheit des Alten China (The wisdom of Ancient China)
4. Scharz in the early 90ies
5 Schwarz on a journey in Austria 1980?
6.Cover translation of the Daodejing 1970
7.Cover of the Chinese translation of Mikhail Alekseyev: Soldiers 1950ies