Elling O. Eide, Society President, 1988 – 2001
Howard J. Wechsler, Society President, 1981 – 1986
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
of this Society. His lovely book of translations, Poems by Li
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
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
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
good friend. Some of us will retain lasting memories of the
long-distance midnight telephone calls he was wont to make from his
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
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
Originally published in Tang Studies, no. 30 (2012)
Howard J. Wechsler
Howard J. Wechsler, President of the T'ang Studies Society from its inception, died April 12, 1986, at the age of 44.
Howard began his study of Chinese and Chinese history at Brooklyn College, where he graduated magna cum Laude in 1962. He then went on to Yale where he studied under Arthur Wright, finishing a dissertation on Wei Cheng in 1970. His professional career was entirely at the University of Illinois. He joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1969 and was promoted to Professor in 1984.
Howard was an outstanding teacher whose lectures could hold the attention of a hundred or more students. He not only loved to talk about all facets of traditional Chinese civilization, but he had great empathy for students. His presence will be greatly missed in our classrooms. As a scholar Howard concentrated his efforts on the first sixty years of the T'ang dynasty. His Mirror to the Son of Heaven: Wei Cheng at the Court of T'ang T'ai-tsung (New Haven, 1974) was followed by three chapters in the Cambridge History of China on the political history of the first three reigns of the T'ang and two articles in T'oung Pao (1977 and 1980) on Confucianism in the early T'ang government. In 1985 he published his second book, Offerings of Jade and Silk: Ritual and Symbol in the Legitimation of the T'ang Dynasty (New Haven 1985). In working on this book Howard read widely on the theory of ritual, especially as developed by anthropologists, and was thus able to approach a major area of Chinese political practice with new insight. After completion of this book, Howard began another challenging project: a portrait of the city of Ch'ang-an in the early eighth century. Although he had completed much of the research for this project, he had not begun to write it up before he died.
Among his many professional activities, Howard took greatest pride in his role in helping found the T'ang Studies Society and getting its journal, T'ang Studies, off the ground. The field of T'ang Studies will miss him as much as we will at the University of Illinois.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Originally published in T'ang Studies, no. 4 (1986)
Most recently updated: 07/15/2022