The Dutch mandarin: Robert van Gulik

Robert van Gulik
Robert van Gulik (© Wikimedia)

In his time, Judge Dee, a historical figure of the Tang Dynasty, earned fame as a magistrate, detective and statesman. Though never forgotten in his own country, it was only in the 20th century that he strode into the world’s eye with his flowing robes, long beard and unerring judgement, revived by the pen and brush of one man: not a Chinese novelist, but a Dutch diplomat and scholar who reincarnated Judge Dee as the detective hero of 16 novels that have gained an international cult following. Robert van Gulik once remarked “I am Judge Dee, and Judge Dee is me”.

But it could be argued that the creator was a far more fascinating study than the creation. Diplomat, scholar, gifted linguist, artist, calligrapher, musician and prolific lover, Robert van Gulik was a Westerner with an Eastern heart, a Dutch mandarin.

Producer: Dheera Sujan

Broadcast: November 11, 1995