Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

In Memoriam: Burton Watson (1925 – 2017)

I was alerted to a post by Lucas Klein, regarding the passing of Burton Watson on April 1, 2017. We have not been able to find any obituary notices. Watson’s translations, particularly of Zhuangzi and Xunzi, are probably the first introductions English readers have of early Chinese thought. His Zhuangzi translation is certainly the one that has had the most poetic effect on me. He was one of the giants of translation.

April 4th, 2017 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学 | 2 comments

2 Responses to In Memoriam: Burton Watson (1925 – 2017)

  1. Avery says:

    Very sad to hear. He lived to a great old age, alongside the other giants of his era, Wm T de Bary and Donald Keene.

    His straightforward translations of Chinese classics, Zhuangzi and Sima Qian especially, had the ability to benefit the Western world immensely, as I learned when we did close readings of them at St. John’s College. I now make a hobby of responding fiercely and angrily when Japanese academics I know attack Sima Qian for his “imperial” worldview.

    Unfortunately modern America (and modern Japan, I guess… unlike Meiji Japan) is not a nation that feels the need to evaluate rival cultures based on the greatest examples of their literature, and Watson won prizes but it seems to me that he never got the public fame that he really deserved. He translated industrial manuals for a living and retired in mild circumstances in Japan, although he had the money to visit his friend De Bary at Columbia from time to time. Hopefully China specialists will take a moment to remember him.

    Reply
  2. Steve Angle says:

    The New York Times has published an obituary for Burton Watson: legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=burt….

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *