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Thomas Wade

Sir Thomas Francis Wade (August 25, 1818 - July 31, 1895) was a London-born British diplomat and Sinologist linguist who invented what was to become the Wade-Giles Romanization for Mandarin Chinese. His Chinese name was Wei Tuoma (威妥瑪).

Like his father, Wade began working in the army. As a soldier, later an official interpreter, Wade went to China in 1842. He became a diplomat in 1845 and served in Nanjing, Beijing, Hong Kong, and other posts.

Table of contents
1 Biography
2 Works
3 External link


Born in London, the son of Major Wade of the Black Watch, by his wife Anne, daughter of William Smythe of Barbavilla, Westmeath. In 1838 his father purchased for him a commission in the 8ist Regiment. Exchanging (1839) into the 42nd Highlanders, he served with his regiment in the Ionian Islands, devoting his leisure to the congenial study of Italian and modern Greek.

On receiving his commission as lieutenant in 1841 be exchanged into the g&ih Regiment, then under orders for China, and landed in Hong Kong in June 1842. The scene of the war had at that time been transferred to the Yangtze-kiang, and thither Wade was ordered with his regiment. There he took part in the attack on Chin-kiang-fu and in the advance on Nanking. In 1845 he was appointed interpreter in Cantonese to the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, and in 1846 assistant Chinese secretary to the superintendent of trade, Sir John Davis. In 1852 he was appointed vice-consul at Shanghai. The Tai-ping rebellion had so disorganized the administration in the neighborhood of Shanghai that it was considered advisable to put the collection of the foreign customs duties into commission, a committee of three, of whom Wade was the chief, being entrusted with the administration of the customs. This formed the beginning of the imperial maritime customs service. In 1855 Wade was appointed Chinese secretary to Sir John Bowring, who had succeeded Sir J. Davis at Hong Kong. On the declaration of the Second Opium War in 1857, he was attached to Lord Elgin's staff as Chinese secretary, and with the assistance of H. N. Ley he conducted the negotiations which led up to the treaty of Tientsin (1858). In the following year he accompanied Sir Frederick Bruce in his attempt to exchange the ratification of the treaty, and was present at Taku when the force attending the mission was treacherously attacked and driven back from the Peiho. On Lord Elgin's return to China in 1860 he resumed his former post of Chinese secretary, and was mainly instrumental in arranging for the advance of the special envoys and the British and French forces to Tientsin, and subsequently towards Peking. For the purpose of arranging for a camping ground in the neighborhood of Tungchow he accompanied Mr (afterwards Sir) Harry Parkes on his first visit to that city.

He was Knighted in 1875, and participated in the Chefoo Convention (1876).

After retiring from working over forty years in the British embassies in China, he returned to England in 1883, and donated 4,304 volumes of Chinese literature to the University Library's Oriental Collection three years later. He was then elected to be the first professor the Chinese language in Cambridge University in 1888. He had the position as a professor until his death in Cambridge at 77.


In addition to diplomatic duties, Wade published books teaching or advancing non-Chinese's knowledge in the language:

In these books, Wade developed a Romanization based on the Beijingese dialect to be the fundamentals of Wade-Giles.

External link

This article incorporates material from a 1911 encyclopedia. Please update as needed.