Biography


Victor Segalen
(1878, Brest, France - 1919, Huelgoat, France)

Born in Brest in 1878, Victor Segalen is attracted by arts since his youth, especially literature, poetry, music and painting. However, he took medicine classes, but his thesis titled "Medical observation for naturalist writers" is more literary than medical.

Sent in Polynesia to be a doctor, he was dazzled by the Maori culture and deeply affected by its disappearance linked to the arrival of Westerners and Christianity that he described in "Les Immémoriaux". In Gauguin's house, dead little time before his arrival, Segalen discovered paintings, notebooks and furniture. Detecting the whole artistic power of it, he bought it and took it back to France, saving it from destruction. During his travel back to France, he took the time to discover Ceylan and Buddhism, then Djibouti on the traces of Rimbaud, poet that he admired.

In 1908 after having studied Chinese, he became student interpreter and obtained a first detachment in China. There he discovered the importance of traditions and the culture of Middle Kingdom. In 1909 and 1914 he made two archaeological missions in China with Gilbert de Voisins and the future admiral Lartigue, participating to the foundation of French archaeology in China. He discovered for instance funerary monuments of the Han dynasty. You can find his Chinese adventures in numerous texts including « Le grand fleuve », « Equipée », « René Leys » and « Stèles ». On May 21st, 1919, he died in mysterious conditions in the forest of Huelgoat.