American sinologist and philosopher David Nivison passed away on the 16th of this month. Nivison was a true polymath and made tremendous contributions to a variety of fields that overlapped with Chinese thought and history. For most readers of this blog, he will perhaps be best remembered for his contributions to Chinese philosophy, which was greatly enriched by his work on Daoists and Confucian philosophers across history, including the classical period as well as the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. For much of his adult life, he also served as one of a small handful of scholars working on Chinese thought under the aegis of a Western philosophy department, and played a major role in integrating Chinese philosophy with contemporary philosophy as practiced in the English-speaking world. Among his best-known books are The Life and Thought of Chang Hsueh-ch’eng, The Ways of Confucianism, and The Riddle of the Bamboo Annals.
There are two substantial obituaries available on-line. One in English and the other in Chinese. The latter includes a nice collection of photographs.
John Berthrong permitted me to share this remembrance:
“When I was first in Berkeley as a doctoral student (having escaped the Chicago winter) I had a great honor and pleasure to meet Prof. Nivison. He was a giant in the field and a kind mentor to a very junior colleague at the Confucian Seminars Tu Weiming was organizing in the early to mid-1970s in Berkeley. I was saddened to read of his death but we should all be so lucky to have lived his kind of life of learning and friendship.”