William George Aston

British diplomat, scholar and author (1841–1911)

William George Aston (9 April 1841 – 22 November 1911) was a British diplomat, author and scholar-expert in the language and history of Japan and Korea.[1]

William George Aston
William George Aston, 1911
Born(1840-08-28)August 28, 1840
DiedNovember 22, 1911(1911-11-22) (aged 70)

Early life


Aston was born near Londonderry in Ireland. In 1859-1863, he studied at Queen's College in Belfast, which is now Queen's University Belfast.[2]



Aston was an interpreter in the British Legation in Japan in 1864.[3] He studied with Ernest Mason Satow.[4]

Aston worked in the British consular service in Tokyo, Kobe and Nagasaki.[2] He retired in 1889.[5]

Along with Satow and Basil Hall Chamberlain, Aston was one of three major British Japanologists during the 19th century.

Aston was the first translator of the Nihongi into the English language (1896).[4]

In 1884, Aston was the first Western diplomat to live in Korea.[2]

Aston donated his translations of Korean folk tales to the Asiatic Museum in St. Petersberg, Russia and they were published in 2004.[6] This part of Aston's personal collection is now at the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg.[2]

Selected works


In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about William George Aston, OCLC/WorldCat includes roughly 90+ works in 200+ publications in 4 languages and 3,000+ library holdings.[7]

  • A Short Grammar of the Japanese Spoken Language (1869)
  • A Grammar of the Japanese Written Language (1877)
  • A Grammar of the Japanese Spoken Language (1877)
  • Early Japanese history (1889)
  • Nihongi; Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697 (1896)[3]
  • A History of Japanese Literature (1898)[3]
  • Littérature japonaise (1902)
  • Shinto, the Way of the Gods (1905)
  • Shinto, the Ancient Religion of Japan (1907)


  1. Kornicki, P. F. (2004). "Aston, William George (1841–1911)," Dictionary of National Biography (DNB); retrieved 2011-10-25.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Kornicki, Peter. "Aston Cambridge and Korea," Archived 2012-06-03 at the Wayback Machine Cambridge University, Department of East Asian Studies, 2008; retrieved 2011-10-25.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2002). "Aston, William George" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 58.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Aston, William George," New International Encyclopedia, 1905 edition; retrieved 2011-10-25.
  5. Ruxton, Ian. (2008). Sir Ernest Satow's private letters to W.G. Aston and F.V. Dickins: the Correspondence of a Pioneer Japanologist from 1870 to 1918, p. xiii.
  6. Ким Чегук. Корейские новеллы. Из корейских рукописей Санкт-Петербургского филиала Института востоковедения РАН / Факсимиле рукописей. Перевод с корейского; Uliana Kobyakova, 'A study on the Corean tales' Archived 2011-10-08 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2011-10-25.
  7. WorldCat Identities: Aston, W. G. (William George) 1841-1911

Other websites