Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Terrien De La Couperie, Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste

TERRIEN DE LA COUPERIE, ALBERT ÉTIENNE JEAN BAPTISTE (d. 1894), orientalist, born in Normandy, was a descendant of the Cornish family of Terrien, which emigrated to France in the seventeenth century during the civil war, and acquired the property of La Couperie in Normandy. His father was a merchant, and he received a business education. In early life he settled at Hong Kong. There he soon turned his attention from commerce to the study of oriental languages, and he acquired an especially intimate knowledge of the Chinese language. In 1867 he published a philological work which attracted considerable attention, entitled ‘Du Langage, Essai sur la Nature et l'Étude des Mots et des Langues,’ Paris, 8vo. Soon after his attention was attracted by the progress made in deciphering Babylonian inscriptions, and by the resemblance between the Chinese characters and the early Akkadian hieroglyphics. The comparative philology of the two languages occupied most of his later life, and he was able to show an early affinity between them. In 1879 he came to London, and in the same year was elected a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. In 1884 he became professor of comparative philology, as applied to the languages of South-eastern Asia, at University College, London. His last years were largely occupied by a study of the ‘Yh King,’ or ‘Book of Changes,’ the oldest work in the Chinese language. Its meaning had long proved a puzzle both to native and to foreign scholars. Terrien demonstrated that the basis of the work consisted of fragmentary notes, chiefly lexical in character, and noticed that they bore a close resemblance to the syllabaries of Chaldæa. In 1892 he published the first part of an explanatory treatise entitled ‘The oldest Book of the Chinese,’ London, 8vo, in which he stated his theory of the nature of the ‘Yh King,’ and gave translations of passages from it. The treatise, however, was not completed before his death. In recognition of his services to oriental study he received the degree of Litt.D. from the university of Louvain. He also enjoyed for a time a small pension from the French government, and after that had been withdrawn an unsuccessful attempt was made by his friends to obtain him an equivalent from the English ministry. He was twice awarded the ‘prix Julien’ by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for his services to oriental philology. Terrien died at his residence, 136 Bishop's Road, Fulham, on 11 Oct. 1894, leaving a widow.

Besides the works mentioned, Terrien was the author of: 1. ‘Early History of Chinese Civilisation,’ London, 1880, 8vo. 2. ‘On the History of the Archaic Chinese Writings and Text,’ London, 1882, 8vo. 3. ‘Paper Money of the Ninth Century and supposed Leather Coinage of China,’ London, 1882, 8vo. 4. ‘Cradle of the Shan Race,’ London, 1885, 8vo. 5. ‘Babylonia and China,’ London, 1887, 4to. 6. ‘Did Cyrus introduce Writing into India?’ London, 1887, 8vo. 7. ‘The Languages of China before the Chinese,’ London, 1887, 8vo; French edition, Paris, 1888, 8vo. 8. ‘The Miryeks or Stone Men of Corea,’ Hertford, 1887, 8vo. 9. ‘The Yueh-Ti and the early Buddhist Missionaries in China,’ 1887, 8vo. 10. ‘The Old Babylonian Characters and their Chinese Derivates,’ London, 1888, 8vo. 11. ‘The Djurtchen of Mandshuria,’ 1889, 8vo. 12. ‘Le Non-Monosyllabisme du Chinois Antique,’ Paris, 1889, 8vo. 13. ‘The Onomastic Similarity of Nai Kwang-ti of China and Nakhunte of Susiana,’ London, 1890, 8vo. 14. ‘L'Ère des Arsacides selon les Inscriptions cunéiformes,’ Louvain, 1891, 8vo. 15. ‘How in 219 B.C. Buddhism entered China,’ London [1891?], 8vo. 16. ‘Mélanges: on the Ancient History of Glass and Coal and the Legend of Nü-Kwa's Coloured Stones in China’ [1891?], 8vo. 17. ‘Sur deux Ères inconnus de l'Asie Antérieure,’ 330 et 251 B.C.,’ 1891, 8vo. 18. ‘The Silk Goddess of China and her Legend,’ London, 1891, 8vo. 19. ‘Catalogue of Chinese Coins from the VIIth Cent. B.C. to A.D. 621,’ ed. R. S. Poole, London, 1892, 8vo. 20. ‘Beginnings of Writing in Central and Eastern Asia,’ London, 1894, 8vo. 21. ‘Western Origin of the Early Chinese Civilisation,’ London, 1894, 8vo. Many of these works were treatises reprinted from the ‘Journal’ of the Royal Asiatic Society and other publications. He also edited the ‘Babylonian and Oriental Record’ from 1886.

[Journal of the Royal Asiatic Soc. 1895, p. 214; Athenæum, 1894, ii. 531; Times, 15 Oct. 1894.]

E. I. C.