The Eastern Hemisphere of Pēteris Šmits

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Excerpt from the book: An Investigation of Ancient Sites (Guji kaozheng 古蹟考證) from P. Šmits' collection in the NLL
Excerpt from the book: An Investigation of Ancient Sites (Guji kaozheng 古蹟考證) from P. Šmits' collection in the NLL

The Eastern Hemisphere of Pēteris Šmits: Celebrating the Professor's 150th Anniversary, an exposition from the library's collection will be opened on Tuesday, 17th of December 14.30, in the Baltic Research Centre for East Asian Studies (AsiaRes) Reading Room (Level M) of the National Library of Latvia (NLL). It will be on display until 28th March 2020 during the AsiaRes reading room opening hours. Admission is free.

In Latvia, Professor Pēteris Šmits (a.k.a. Peter Schmidt, 1869–1938) is best known as a linguist, ethnographer, and folklorist, as well as the author of multi-volume editions of Latvian Folk Tales and Legends and Latvian Folk Beliefs. Outside the country, however, Šmits' name is best associated with his research work in China, Manchuria, and the Russian Far East. Educated in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Šmits initially underwent practice in Beijing, where he became one of the first teachers at the newly-founded Peking University. His main achievements in Asian studies, such as publishing the first systematic Chinese language grammar textbook in Russian pertain to Šmits’ stint at the Eastern Institute in Vladivostok, where he had worked for 20 years. Even after his return to Latvia in 1920, Šmits continued to work in this field, educating students and society members about Asian literatures and cultures. Šmits' attainments were highly valued among his colleagues and he was considered to be the only living specialist of the moribund Manchu language in his time. Acknowledging Professor Šmits' contributions towards the development of Latvian and universal culture and education, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) has included Pēteris Šmits' 150th birthday into the list of celebrated anniversaries for 2019.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts section of the NLL Lettonica and Baltic Centre possesses a collection of Pēteris Šmits' documents, manuscripts, and texts, which primarily deal with Šmits' work in the field of Asian Studies. While the collection is of great interest and value to researchers, in view of the peculiarity of its contents it is less known and accessible to the general public. This exposition offers visitors a chance to get acquainted with unique materials from the Šmits' collection and get an insight into the essence of Asian studies scholarship. Besides the materials from Šmits’ collection, the exposition is supplemented with materials from the Archives of Latvian Folklore of the Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art (ILFA) of the University of Latvia, as well as NLL book stock.

Following the opening of the exposition, there will be a session of academic readings, titled Professor Šmits and his Contemporaries in Latvian and English.

15.30–16.00 Pēteris Šmits un citi pasaku publicētāji un pētnieki
Guntis Pakalns, Archives of Latvian Folklore, ILFA, University of Latvia

16.00–16.30 The Empty Pavilion: Sinology as Western Academic Utopia in the Times of Pēteris Šmits
Frank Kraushaar, AsiaRes

16.30–17.00 An Introduction to the Thought of Baron Roger Budberg, a Baltic German Confucian in Harbin
Mark Gamsa, Tel Aviv University

Attendance of academic readings is free of charge. We kindly ask you to register your attendance beforehand by sending an e-mail to


Information prepared by:
Georgijs Dunajevs
National Library of Latvia
Phone: +371 67716172