Edward H. Schafer

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For the American politician, see Ed Schafer.
Edward Schafer
Born (1913-08-23)August 23, 1913
Seattle, Washington, USA
Died February 9, 1991(1991-02-09) (aged 77)
Alameda, California, USA
Nationality American
Fields Tang dynasty
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley (B.A., Ph.D)
University of Hawaii (M.A.)
Doctoral advisor Peter Boodberg
Edward H. Schafer
Traditional Chinese 薛愛華
Simplified Chinese 薛爱华

Edward Hetzel Schafer (Chinese: 薛愛華; pinyin: Xuē Àihuá; 23 August 1913 – 9 February 1991) was an American sinologist noted for his expertise on the Tang dynasty, and was a professor of Chinese at University of California, Berkeley for 35 years. Schafer's most famous works include The Golden Peaches of Samarkand and The Vermilion Bird, which both explore China's interactions with new cultures and regions during the Tang dynasty.

Life and career[edit]

Schafer was born on 23 August 1913 in Seattle, Washington.[1] After completing secondary school, Schafer followed his family to Los Angeles, California, where they sought better economic prospects. The financial hardships brought about by the Great Depression prevented Schafer's family from sending him to university, and he spent seven years working at a wholesale grocery to save up the money required.[2] Although he was unable to attend university during that time, Schafer spent as much time as he could reading and studying at the Los Angeles Public Library, even managing to teach himself the basics of ancient Egyptian.[2]

Schafer was eventually able to enter UCLA as an undergraduate student and spent three years studying there before transferring to University of California, Berkeley for his final year, graduating with a B.A. degree in anthropology.[1] After graduating from Berkeley, Schafer won a grant to study Chinese and was admitted to the University of Hawaii as a graduate student, earning his M.A. in 1940 with a thesis entitled "Persian Merchants in China during the T'ang Dynasty".[1] Schafer then entered Harvard University where he began work on his Ph.D, but his studies were interrupted in December 1941 by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' subsequent entry into World War II.[1] During the war Schafer worked as a linguist for the Office of Naval Intelligence and was able to master Japanese, which he had begun studying at Harvard.[1]

After the war's conclusion in 1945, Schafer returned to Berkeley and completed his Ph.D in 1947. Upon completing his doctorate degree, he was immediately hired by Berkeley's Department of Oriental Languages. In 1949, the University of California Board of Regents adopted a controversial anti-Communist loyalty oath that was required for all faculty, and Schafer was one of 18 individuals who were fired for refusing to sign the oath.[2] Schafer was supported in his decision by the rest of the Oriental Studies faculty and steadfastly refused to capitulate; he, along with the 17 other fired faculty members, was later reinstated with full back pay.[2] Schafer earned tenure in 1953, was promoted to full professor in 1958, and in 1969 was given the Agassiz Professorship of Oriental Languages and Literature.[2] Schafer decided to retire in 1984, and shortly before his official retirement was honored with the position of Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest position a Berkeley faculty member may be given.[3]

Schafer served as president of the American Oriental Society for the 1975-1976 academic year, and from 1955 to 1968 served as East Asia Editor of the Journal of the American Oriental Society. He is also known within sinology for his uncompromising belief in the importance of language skills and learning and his differing approach on this subject to John King Fairbank. His publications include over 100 scholarly articles and more than a dozen books.

Schafer died in California in 1991, aged 77, following a short battle with liver cancer.

Selected works[edit]

  • ––– (1947). "The Reign of Liu Ch'ang, Last Emperor of the Southern Han: A Critical Translation of the Text of Wu Tai shih, with Special Inquiries into Relevant Phases of Contemporary Chinese Civilization". Ph.D dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
  • ––– (1961). Tu Wan's Stone Catalogue of Cloudy Forest: A Commentary and Synopsis. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • ––– (1963). The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T'ang Exotics. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • ––– (1967). The Vermilion Bird: T'ang Images of the South. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • ––– (1977). Pacing the Void: T'ang Approaches to the Stars. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • ––– (1981). "Wu Yün's 'Cantos on Pacing the Void'". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 41, pp. 377–415.


  1. ^ a b c d e Honey (1991): 182.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cahill, et al. (1991): 183.
  3. ^ Cahill, et al. (1991): 183-84.
Works cited
  • Cahill, James; Colson, Elizabeth; Riegel, Jeffrey (1991). "Edward Schafer". University of California: In Memoriam, 1991, pp. 183–85.
  • Honey, David B. (1991). "Edward Hetzel Schafer (1913–1991)". Journal of Asian History, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 181–93.

External links[edit]