1817  — 1878

Petr Ivanovich Kafarov

Russian Orthodox sinologist and missionary.

In 1840, after study at the Kazan seminary, Kafarov was ordained and sent as a missionary to Peking (Beijing). On a second mission to China in 1849, he was made archimandrite. In 1864, at the time of the launching of his third mission, he was made head of the mission. His major contribution to missionary work was through his philological and cultural studies, for he spent more time on academic pursuits than on the preaching and teaching work of the mission.

He made an expedition with the (Russian) Imperial Geographic Society to Ussurisk, and frequently visited Buddhist temples. He mastered Chinese and translated several Chinese and Mongolian texts into Russian, as well as various Christian texts into Chinese. These included Scriptures, service books, teaching materials, and missionary literature. His translations proved of value not only for the China mission but also for those in Korea, Japan, and the Russian Far East. Not only were the translations used as such, but they helped greatly the work of translating such materials into Korean and Japanese. Kafarov died en route back to Russia. He is best known for his Chinese-Russian dictionary, which was completed after his death by the consul general in Peking and published in 1889.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


Kafarov’s translations include Starinoe mongol’skoe skazanie o Chingis-khane, Puteshestvie daosskogo monakha Chuan-chunya na Zapad, in Rossiiskaya dukhovnaya missiya. Pekin. Trudy, vol. 4 (1853), and Kitaiskaya literatury magometan (1887). Some biographical information is in S. A. Arkhangelov, Nashi zagranichnye missii (1899). Further information on his publications appears in A. Vinogradov, Kitaiskaya biblioteka i uchenye trudy Imperatorskoi dukhovnoi i diplomaticheskoi missii v g. Pekine ili Dei-Tszine (v Kitae) (1889).

About the Author

Karen L. Gordon

Independent Scholar, Moscow, Russia