Burton Watson

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Burton Watson
Born 1925 (age 89–90)
New Rochelle, New York, United States
Occupation Scholar, translator
Nationality American
Period 1962–present

Burton Watson (born 1925) is an American scholar and translator[1] of both Chinese and Japanese literature. He has received awards including the Gold Medal Award of the Translation Center at Columbia University in 1979, the PEN Translation Prize in 1982[2] for his translation with Hiroaki Sato of From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, and again in 1995 for Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o. He also received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 2015.[3]


Watson was born in New Rochelle, New York. He dropped out of high school at age 17 to join the Navy in 1943 and was stationed on repair vessels in the South Pacific. His first experiences in Japan came of weekly shore leaves when he was stationed on a ship at Yokosuka Harbor in 1945. Subsequently, he majored in Chinese and Japanese studies at Columbia University. In 1951[4] he returned to Kyoto, this time as a Ford Foundation Overseas Fellow.[2] In 1956 he completed a dissertation on Sima Qian, earning a Ph.D. from Columbia University.[1] He worked as an English teacher at Doshisha University in Kyoto, as a research assistant to Yoshikawa Kōjirō, who was Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Kyoto University,[5] and as a member of Ruth Fuller Sasaki's team translating Buddhist texts into English.[1] He has also taught at Stanford and Columbia as a professor of Chinese. He moved to Japan in 1973, where he remains to this day, and has devoted much of his time to translation.

He and colleague Professor Donald Keene frequently participated in the seminars of William Theodore de Bary given to students at Columbia University.


Notable translations include:

Many of Watson's translations have been published through the Columbia University Press.


  1. ^ a b c Stirling 2006, pg. 92
  2. ^ a b "Ahadada Books-Burton Watson". Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  3. ^ "Burton Watson Named Winner of 2015 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation". PEN/America. April 24, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  4. ^ Halper 1991, pg. 53
  5. ^ "Harvard University Press: An Introduction to Sung Poetry by Kojiro Yoshikawa". Retrieved 2009-06-01. 


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