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Walter Liebenthal – A Life in Exile

Exhibition at the Confucius Institute at Freie Universität Berlin / Vernissage on October 28, 2015

№ 328/2015 from Oct 23, 2015

The story of the life of the German Indologist and sinologist Walter Liebenthal (1886–1982) as well as his research priorities are being depicted for the first time in an exhibition at the Confucius Institute at Freie Universität. In the exhibition, his life and research are analyzed in the context of emigration and exile. Entitled "Walter Liebenthal (1886-1982) und seine Forschungen zum chinesischen Buddhismus – Ein Leben im Exil" (Walter Liebenthal (1886-1982) and His Research on Chinese Buddhism – A Life in Exile), the exhibition will be opened on October 28, 2015, with lectures by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Mechthild Leutner, professor emerita at the Institute of East Asian Studies at Freie Universität and director of the Confucius Institute at Freie Universität Berlin, and Roberto Liebenthal, the grandson of Walter Liebenthal. The vernissage and the exhibition are public, and admission is free.

Walter Liebenthal was one of the first European scholars to deal intensively with Chinese Buddhism. While searching for alternative philosophical frameworks, he began to take an interest in Buddhism. In 1933, after the seizure of power by the Nazis, Liebenthal, who had just completed his doctorate, was forced to emigrate from Germany because of his Jewish origins. China offered him and his family shelter and an opportunity to continue his research, first at the Sino-Indian Institute in Beijing, and then, following the Japanese aggression further inland in Kunming, and still later during the period from 1945 to 1952, back in Beijing. In his numerous writings Liebenthal primarily addresses the characteristics of Chinese Buddhism and analyzes which basic ideas of Buddhism are still important in the present day.

The exhibition was designed by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Mechthild Leutner and Roberto Liebenthal.

Further Information

Time and Location

  • Vernissage: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 6 p.m.
  • Exhibition: Thursday, October 29, 2015, to January 12, 2015, Monday through Thursday, 2 to 6 p.m.
  • Confucius Institute at Freie Universität Berlin, Goßlerstraße 2-4, 14195 Berlin. S-Bahnhof Lichterfelde West (S1).


Sören Vogler, Confucius Institute at Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838 72 885, Email: