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Elling O. Eide


It is with great sadness that we report the loss of a Life Member of the Society, Elling O. Eide, born August 22, 1935, who passed away during the night of January 2, 2012, after a long illness.

With Elling’s death we have in reality lost many persons, for Elling’s life and work do not fit easily into a single category.   He was first and foremost a fine scholar.  The best example of his mature work is certainly the seminal article, “On Li Po,” published in 1973 in the symposium volume, Perspectives on the T’ang. The profound philological care evident in this article, including close attention to the poems’ aural effects, is matched by Elling’s own obvious and personal delight as a reader of Li Po.  Both of these traits have been an inspiration for many members of this Society.  His lovely book of translations, Poems by Li Po, printed elegantly to his exact specifications in a limited edition by the Anvil Press of Lexington, Kentucky in 1984, is at once a sumptuous example of printers’ art and a testament to his meticulous translation practice.  This collects a small number of superb renderings that rank among the best translations of Tang poetry ever put into English.  His contributions to the T’ang Studies journal, including his genial excursuses on “The Great Heavenly Treasure Scandal” (TS 1 and 3) and his incomparable translation of Han Yu’s “Mao Ying zhuan” (TS 8-9), will forever display his unique gifts.  It is a great tragedy that his later scholarly projects did not come to fruition, largely thwarted by legal and political issues of a local nature, and eventually physical problems as well, that came to plague him to a distressing degree.

Elling was an indefatigable supporter of our Society. In our early years it was his abiding generosity that assured our continued existence and fostered our growth.  His beneficence allowed us, most importantly, to publish and distribute our journal.  It also permitted us to enjoy a lavish reception at our annual meetings.  With regard to the latter, he was insistent that the event be “elegant”—that is, that it should reflect the sophistication and conviviality that he associated with gatherings of Tang literati. Although he himself was often unable to attend, he wanted to make sure that members and guests experienced a memorable gathering that would, he hoped, serve as homage to the Great Tang.

He was an inquisitive and voracious researcher who enjoyed discussing all manner of topics with his friends.  He was a philanthropist whose love of the study of languages and linguistics led him to endow a chair in Southeast U.S. Native American languages at the University of Florida.  He was a fancier of fine plants (especially citruses) and noble canines (especially foundlings).  He was an engaging conversationalist and a good friend.  Some of us will retain lasting memories of the long-distance midnight telephone calls he was wont to make from his home in Indianola, Florida, brimming with highly animated questions, pronouncements, anecdotes, and enthusiasm that often stretched into the early morning hours.

We will all miss Elling.  He was an extraordinary and unforgettable person, a true original. For those of us lucky enough to have known him, we feel the loss of an immensely generous and intellectually engaged friend.  For all of us in the Society, we mourn his passing but also celebrate a life characterized by the love of learning and of the finer things to be found in both the present and the past.

Michael R. Drompp

Paul W. Kroll

Victor H. Mair

Most recently updated: 04/04/2014