The History and Development of Monumenta Serica Sinological Research Center

The establishment of Monumenta Serica Institute is inseparable from the history of Fu Jen University since it was first founded in Peking. On November 1st 1925, the Archabbot Aurelius Stehle, O.S.B. (1877-1930) of American the Benedictines of St. Vincent Archabbey, Pennsylvania and Ying Lianzhi (1876-1926) cofounded Fu Jen Academy, also known as MacManus Academy of Chinese Studies in English. The academy was the predecessor of the Catholic University of Peking which later became known as Fu Jen University. 

On April 29th 1933, S.V.D. began to be the head of Peking Fu Jen University. At the time, the Sinologist Franz Xaver Biallas (1878-1936) and Fr. Herman Köster (1904-1978) of S.V.D. showed their interest toward Sinology. Henceforth, since the establishment of Fu Jen University, numerous devoted western Sinologists had adapted Fu Jen University as the base for their teachings and research. The Bulletin of Catholic University of Peking, published in English, was the major journal to publish their research.  After S.V.D. took charge of the administration of Fu Jen University, Fr. Franz Xaver Biallas, who played a key role in the school management, became indispensable to the school. Fr. Franz Xaver Biallas went to China after receiving his degrees from Leipzig, Paris, and Berlin. He was offered a position by Fu Jen University in 1933. In 1935, in order to integrate the research of Sinologists and promote Sinology studies, Fr. Franz Xaver Biallas founded a scholastic journal titled Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies of the Catholic University of Peking. Since the journal was no longer published by Fu Jen University of Peking after 1955, its title was adapted to Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies. The journal was known later for its abbreviated title Monumenta Serica (MS). The Monumenta Serica Institute has derived its name from the title of the journal. In Chinese, the Latin term “Monumenta Serica” was translated into the “heritage of the silky land.” The term “silky land” refers to China and thus the term can be interpreted into “the relics of Chinese culture.” The title of the journal had made manifest the purpose and goal of the journal—to introduce the legacy of Chinese culture and history to the western world. At that time the president of Fu Jen University Chen Yuan (1880-1971) considered the appearance of the journal as a very important event, and himself chose a Chinese name for it—Hua-yi with the meaning “China and her neighboring countries.”The journal has been published under this title up to the present. 

The premiere issue of Monumenta Serica was published in 1936 under the editorship of Fr. Franz Xaver Biallas. One can tell from the table of contents of the premiere issue that the editor in chief had devoted to all aspects of Chinese culture. The journal can be regarded as the first periodical regarding every aspect of Chinese culture. Studies contributed by Chinese scholars were under the editorships of prominent scholars whose concerns were the pioneering exchanges between Chinese and western cultures such as Chen Yuan, Chang Shin-lang (1888-1951), and Shen Jian-shi (1887-1947). Studies contributed by European scholars were under the editorship of associate editors such as the scholar of Mongolian studies, Antoine Mostaert, C.I.C.M (1881-1971), A. von Staël-Holstein, Gustav Ecke (1896-1971) and Ernst Stierlitz (1902-1940).

However, when the long awaited Monumenta Serica was finally available, Fr. Franz Xaver Biallas suddenly passed away. His unfinished editorial work was shouldered by the Principal of Fu Jen University, anthropologist Rudolf Rahmann (1902-1985). Thanks to the successive help from Fr. Franz Xaver Biallas’s friends, the ideal of Monumenta Serica was able to continue. Nevertheless, in the turbulence of China’s civil wars and the taking over of China by the Communist Party, Monumenta Serica had to suspend publishing from 1948 on. The publishing business was transferred to Japan in 1949. After moving to Japan, the journal was not republished until 1954 in Tokyo. The chief editor of the issue was Heinrich Busch (1912-2002). In 1957, the institute was moved to the Nanzan University in Nagoya, run by the Society of the Divine Word and a graduate institute was set up in the university with the moving of the editorship. 

In 1963, in response to the invitation of University of California in Los Angeles, especially to Chinese Archeologist Prof. Richard Rudolph, the institute was moved to and merged with the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department of UCLA in 1963. In 1972 the institute was moved again, this time to St. Augustin (Sankt Augustin, near Bonn/Germany), where it was first a part of the renown ethnological Institute “Anthropos,” and later became an independent unit. The new location was also where a S.V.D. institute of Missiology, das Missionswissenschaftliche Institut, a theological and philosophical seminary and an abbey located. Later the Monumenta Serica Institute (Institut Monumenta Sericainstitute) became an independent unit. After settling down at St. Augustin, members of Monumenta Serica Institute, especially Wilhelm Mülle and Roman Malek, began to rearrange the precious book collections of the institute and actively add collections to set up a valuable library. Eventually the library collected over 80,000 books in both Chinese and foreign languages. Microfilms were also available to readers with inquiries. The library was considered one of the most prestigious in Germany. Fr. Roman Malek had devoted himself to the publishing of Monumenta Serica Monograph Series and Collectanea Serica. Moreover, in order to further the exchanges between Chinese and western cultures, between Chinese traditional religious beliefs and Christianity, and to promote the understandings and appreciations of China for Germans, Monumenta Serica Institute had supported the setup of a new institute, China Center (China-Zentrum e.V) at the same location.   

Through the publishing of Monumenta Serica was influenced by various causes, on the other hand, the point of view and the stance of the journal were expanded through its journey from China, Japan, and the United States to Germany. With different frames of reference from Asia, America, Europe and Australia, Monumenta Serica is able to be regarded as an important academic journal among international Sinology scholarship. 

In 2002, in order to inherit the achievement in Sinology of former Fu Jen University in Peking and further the exchanges between Chinese and western cultures, Fu Jen Catholic University and the Monumenta Serica Institute founded together at the College of Foreign Languages and Literature “Monumenta Serica Sinological Research Center” (also known as Monumenta Serica Taipei Office) at Fu Jen Catholic University. This establishment has its historical meaning and anew marks an intimate relationship between the Institute Monumenta  Serica, run by the Society of the Divine Word, and Fu Jen Catholic University. Carrying on the Monumenta Serica editors’ ideals when they first founded the journal and the institute in Fu Jen University in Peking, this cooperation helps Fu Jen University achieve its goals, serving to facilitate cultural exchange between China and the West. It also facilitates dialogue and mutual growth of Chinese culture and Christian faith through contributions of Taiwanese Sinologists.