In honor of Burton Watson’s passing, I am collecting statements and memories from friends and fans, to be posted as they come in. The following remembrance is from Jonathan Chaves, professor of Chinese at George Washington University:
I am deeply saddened by the death of Burton Watson. He has been an inspiration to me as scholar and translator, and he was my mentor and teacher at Columbia University while I was studying for the PhD in Chinese Literature. The translations of Arthur Waley first revealed the riches of Chinese poetry to me, and he and Watson have always been my two supreme exemplars in this field.
Watson was the first person to whom I showed my early translations, and with characteristic understatement, he limited his comments to saying, “You’re doing fine. Just keep on like this.” That was all I needed from him; I knew I could do it after that.
The 2004 edition of my book, Heaven My Blanket, Earth My Pillow is dedicated to Burton Watson.
Contact me if you would like to add your own remembrance.