Von Gabain was particularly interested in the question of the extent to which the religious ideas of the Central Asian peoples had been influenced by Zoroastrianism or other Iranian beliefs, and this perspective is reflected in several of her publications.


GABAIN, ANNEMARIE VON, (b. 7 April 1901, d. 15 January 1993; FIGURE 1), German scholar who worked in the field of Central Asian (primarily Turkic) studies, first as a linguist but later as an art historian. After completing a dissertation in Sinology, von Gabain studied Turcology with Johann Wilhelm Bang Kaup (q.v.), the founder of the Berlin school of Turkic studies, and she began to work on the Old Turkic materials kept at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Although she left Berlin after the Second World War, she remained in close contact with the Academy there. She published the first grammar of Old Turkic in 1941. While still working with Bang Kaup, she also had contacts with Iranologists such as Heinrich Junker and Wolfgang Lentz and gave advice as well on Chinese and Buddhist questions to the editors of Middle Iranian texts (see, e.g., F. Müller, “Soghdische Texte II,” SPAW, 1934, pp. 504, 550 n. 1). Her association with Iranologists continued even while she was working on the objects of art and history from the Central Asian expeditions. During her visits to Berlin she always discussed problems of mutual interest with many scholars, including Iranologists such as Werner Sundermann.

Von Gabain was particularly interested in the question of the extent to which the religious ideas of the Central Asian peoples had been influenced by Zoroastrianism or other Iranian beliefs, and this perspective is reflected in several of her publications. A short chapter of her book Einführung in die Zentralasienkunde, entitled “Elemente aus iranischem Bereich und von Volksreligionen,” was devoted to the question of Iranian-Turkic contacts. There she wrote, “Die genauen Zusammenhänge zwischen iranischem Glauben einerseits und dem der Zentral- und Ostasiaten andererseits sind noch zu klären” (von Gabain, 1979, p. 53). She also authored a general survey of “Irano-Turkish Relations in the late Sasanian Period” (Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 613-24). A third article (von Gabain, 1977) examined general aspects of the Irano-Turkic relationship and suggested a whole set of Turkic beliefs and customs going back to Iranian models; however, some of these ideas are no longer accepted, such as the theory (following Edward Conze) that the concept of the bodhisattva is of Iranian origin (von Gabain, 1977, p. 58).

In connection with the general topic of Iranian-Turkic contacts, von Gabain devoted two studies (1972, 1973) to Kṣitigarbha, the bodhisattva who guides beings through the hells. The apocryphal sūtra on the ten kings who control the different stages of the hells had become popular and widespread at least since the 9th century (see Teiser). However, it can be demonstrated that the textual dependence of the Old Turkic text on the Chinese counterpart is obvious and stronger than von Gabain had thought (cf. Zieme, 1996). Von Gabain (1976) also provided the first extensive information about Old Turkic texts written in Sogdian script. These texts follow more strictly the scribal system used by the Sogdians themselves (the question of the orthography has been reviewed recently by Fedakâr, 1991, 1994)

Von Gabain was personally acquainted with the researchers of the “first generation of Turfan scholars” as she called Friedrich W. K. Müller, Albert von Le Coq and others (von Gabain, 1991), and that area of study remained of great interest to her. She wrote a short survey on the geography of the Tarim Basin and the sites where manuscripts had been discovered (von Gabain, 1970). In this connection she also described active Saka-Turkic relations, although linguistically, despite the Saka-Turkic word-lists, it is difficult to establish or to prove them. In a study of interest to Iranologists, she discussed the historical relationship of the two rather distant regions of Bāmīān and Kuča and demonstrated their resemblance in terms of artistic similarities (von Gabain, 1979-80; cf. BĀMĪĀN). The subject of Maitreya and Mithra was another topic of great importance to her. Through the symbiosis of Indic peoples and the Iranian-speaking population in the Kuṣāṇa realm there developed the imperial manner of depicting the seated bodhisattva, especially of Maitreya. She further argued that the Maitreya belief developed among the Kuṣāṇa through the influence of the Iranian adoration of Mithra (von Gabain, 1987).



Obituaries and articles on von Gabain’s work: R. E. Emmerick, W. Sundermann, I. Warnke, and P. Zieme, eds., Turfan, Khotan und Dunhuang: Vorträge der Tagung “Annemarie v. Gabain und die Turfan-forschung,” veranstaltet von der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin (9.-12.12.1994), Berlin, 1996.

H. Eren, “Annemarie von Gabain (1901-1993),” Türk Dili 495, 1993, pp. 213-15.

D. Fedakâr, “Maryam apa’nın ardında: Annemarie von Gabain (4.7.1901-15.1.1993),” Türk Dili Araştırmaları Yıllığı Belleten, 1993, pp. 135-39.

G. Hazai, “Annemarie von Gabain und die türkische Sprachwissenschaft,” in R. E. Emmerick et al., eds., Turfan, Khotan und Dunhuang, Berlin, 1966, pp. 165-74.

J. P. Laut, “Annemarie von Gabain (4.7.1901-15.1.1993),” Türk Dilleri Araştırmaları 4, 1994, pp. 5-10.

Idem, “Annemarie von Gabain 1901-1993,” Finnisch-ugrische Forschungen 52, 1994, pp. 367-74.

M. Ölmez, “Annemarie von Gabain (1901-1993),” Türk Dilleri Araştırmaları 3, 1993, pp. 289-92.

K. Röhrborn, “Annemarie v. Gabain (1901-1993),” Turkish Linguistics Post 7, 1994, pp. 2-3.

Idem and W. Veenker, “Annemarie v. Gabain (1901-1993),” Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 12, 1993, pp. 1-4.

D. Sinor, “In memoriam Annemarie von Gabain,” Permanent International Altaistic Conference Newsletter 21, 1993, pp. 2-3.

Idem, “In Memoriam Annemarie von Gabain,” Eurasian Studies Yearbook/Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 66, 1994, pp. 171-72.

H. Umemura, “Prof. Annemarie v. Gabain (1901.7.4-1993.1.15),” The Toyo Gakuho 77, 1996, pp. 80-86.

N. Yüce, “Annemarie von Gabain’in eserleri,” Türk Dilleri Araştırmaları 4 (1994), pp. 11-50 (the most complete bibliography of her work but still lacking some studies such as her article, “Maitreya und Mithra,” in W. Heissig and H.-J. Klimkeit, eds., Synkretismus in den Religionen Zentralasiens, Wiesbaden, 1987, pp. 23-32).

P. Zieme, “In memoriam Annemarie von Gabain (4.7.1901-15.1.1993),” Altorientallische Forschungen 20, 1993, fascicle 2.

Idem, “In memoriam Annemarie von Gabain (4.7.1901-15.1.1993),” ZDMG 144, 1994, pp. 239-49.

Idem, “Annemarie von Gabain und die turfanforschung,” Manichaean Newsletter 12, 1995, pp. 6-9.

Idem, “Annemarie von Gabain und die Turfanforschung,” in R. E. Emmerick et al., eds., Turfan, Khotan und Dunhuang, Berlin, 1996, pp. 409-17.

Works by von Gabain related to Iranian studies: Der Buddhismus in Zentralasien, HO VIII/2, 1961, pp. 496-514.

“Historisches aus den Turfan-Handschriften,” Acta Orientalia 32, 1970, pp. 115-24.

“The Purgatory of the Buddhist Uighurs: Book Illustrations from Turfan,” in W. Watson, ed., Mahayanist Art after A.D. 900, Colloquies on Art and Archeology in Asia 2, London, 1972, pp. 25-35.

“Kṣitigarbha-Kult in Zentralasien: Buchillustrationen aus den Turfan-Funden,” in H. Härtel and V. Moeller, eds., Indologen-Tagung 1971, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 47-71.

“Alt-türkische Texte in sogdischer Schrift,” in Hungaro-Turcica. Studies in Honour of Julius Németh, Budapest, 1976, pp. 69-77.

“Iranische Elemente im zentral- und ostasiatischen Volksglauben,” Studia Orientalia 47, 1977, pp. 57-70.

Einführung in die Zentralasienkunde, Darmstadt, 1979.

“Von Kuča (Kuśan) nach Bāmiyā: Eine kulturhistorische Studie,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies III/4, 1979-80, pp. 258-70.

“Irano-Turkish relations in the late Sasanian period,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, 1983, pp. 613-24.

“Maitreya und Mithra,” in W. Heissig and H.-J. Klimkeit, eds., Synkretismus in den Religionen Zentralasiens, Wiesbaden, 1987, pp. 23-32.

“Die erste Generation der Forscher an den Turfan-Handschriften,” in H. Klengel and W. Sundermann, eds., Ägyten Vorderasien Turfan: Probleme der Edition und Bearbeitung altorientalischer Handschriften, Berlin, 1991, pp. 98-105.

Book reviews by von Gabain related to Iranian studies: Indo-skythische Studien: Khotanese Texts IV, in Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 33, 1961, pp. 285-87.

A Catalogue of Iranian Manuscripts in Maniuchen Script in the German Turfan Collection, by M. Boyce, in OLZ 60, 1965, pp. 501-4.

Aus dem Osten des Alexanderreichs: Völker und Kulturen zwischen Orient und Okzident, by J. Ozols and V. Thewalt, in Central Asiatic Journal 29, 1985, pp. 317-19.

Die Seidenstrasse: Handelsweg und Kulturbrücke zwischen Morgen-und Abendland, by H.-J. Klimkeit, in ZDMG 140, 1990, pp. 172-74.

Other references: D. Fedakâr, “Das Alttürkische in sogdischer Schrift: Textmaterial und Orthographie,” I, Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 10, 1991, pp. 85-98; II, Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 13, 1994, pp. 133-57).

S. Teiser, The Scripture on the Ten Kings and the Making of Purgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism, Honolulu, 1994.

P. Zieme, “Old Turkish Versions of the Scripture on the Ten Kings,” G. Stary, ed., Proceedings of the 38th Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC), Kawasaki, Japan, August 7-12, 1995, Wiesbaden, 1996, pp. 401-25).

(Peter Zieme)

Originally Published: December 15, 2000

Last Updated: February 2, 2012

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