Anthony Yu, 1938-2015

A leading scholar of religion and literature best known for his translation of the Chinese epic The Journey to the West has died

May 28, 2015
Anthony Yu, 1938-2015

Anthony Yu was born in Hong Kong on 6 October 1938, although the Second World War forced his family to flee to mainland China in 1941. To keep him distracted and entertained in air raid shelters and other dangerous environments, his grandfather would recount the fantastical stories of a wise monk and his companions Monkey and Pig, collected in the classic 16th-century Chinese novel The Journey to the West.

Coming to the US in 1956, Professor Yu studied history and English at Houghton College in New York and the philosophy of religion at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He then moved to the University of Chicago for a PhD in religion and literature.

It was on graduating in 1969 that Professor Yu rediscovered The Journey to the West, then available only in a single abridged English edition. He therefore embarked on a complete four-volume translation of this vast text, published to great acclaim in 1977-83, which combines readability with a scholarly commitment to tracking down all the literary allusions. The New York Times praised it for “do[ing] full justice to the adventure, lyricism and buffoonery” of the original while remaining “completely sensitive to the spiritual content of the text as well”. An abridged version, The Monkey and the Monk, was published in 2006 and a revised second edition in 2012.

Remaining at Chicago for the whole of his 46-year career, Professor Yu worked across five different departments and retired in 2005 as the Carl Darling Buck distinguished service professor emeritus in humanities. He was always committed to a comparative approach to literary studies and wrote influential articles that argue for the importance of studying religion and literature alongside each other. His other publications include Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber (1997) – an analysis of one of the greatest Chinese novels – State and Religion in China (2005) and Comparative Journeys: Essays on Literature and Religion East and West (2008).

Margaret M. Mitchell, dean of the Divinity School at Chicago, described Professor Yu as “an outstanding scholar, whose work was marked by uncommon erudition, range of reference and interpretive sophistication”. Yet he was also “a person of inimitable elegance, dignity, passion and the highest standards for everything he did”.

Professor Yu died after a short illness on 12 May and is survived by his wife Priscilla and son Christopher.

matthew.reisz@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Senior Lecturer: Architecture (Cultural Content) NORWICH UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
Head of Department of Physics ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY
Research Assistant LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Lecturer in University Study Skills UNIVERSITY OF HAFR AL BATIN

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest