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Hawkes, David, 1923-2009



  • Existence: 1923-2009

David Hawkes (1923/07/06 - 2009/07/31), scholar and translator of Chinese literature, grew up in London East. He attended Christ Church, Oxford, in 1942, to study the classics. In 1943, he was recruited by the military to learn Japanese and became instructor of the language to code-breakers at the Bedford Inter-Services Intelligence Centre. He returned to University of Oxford in 1945 and transferred to the study of Chinese classics under Ernest Richard Hughes (1883 – 1956). In 1948, he was accepted as a graduate student of Peking University with the aid of William Empson (1906 – 1984).

On May 5, 1950, he married Jean in Beijing; and the couple returned to England in 1951.

Hawkes returned to Oxford as a lecturer in Chinese under Homer H. Dubs (1892-1969) and completed his doctoral dissertation on “Chu ci”(楚辭)in 1956. The dissertation was entitled “The problem of date and authorship in Ch’u Tz’u” and contained a complete translation of the “Chu ci” in English. The translation was published in 1959 under the title “Ch’u Tz’u: the Songs of the South.

Hawkes became Professor of Chinese in 1959 and resigned from the chair in 1971 in order to devote full time with the translation of “Hong lou meng”(紅樓夢)into English. He was a research fellow of All Souls College, Oxford from 1973 until his retirement in 1983 and then became an Emeritus Fellow of the college. Translation of the first 80 chapters of “Hong lou meng” was published in 3 volumes (in 1973, 1977, and 1980) under the title “The Story of the Stone.” John Minford, Hawkes’s former student and son-in-law, completed the project with the translation of the remaining 40 chapters.

On retirement, the Hawkes couple moved to Llanddewi Brefi, Wales in 1984 and his book collection was donated to the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. During his stay in Wales, he revised his “Chu ci” translation for Penguin Classics (published in 1985 with a revised introduction), studied the Welsh language and the history of religion (on which a series of essays were written and published privately in 2004 under title “Letters from a Godless Grandfather”.)

The couples returned to Oxford in 2000 and Hawkes’s translation of an early Yuan zaju(元雜劇)“Dongting Hu Liu Yi chuan shu”(洞庭湖柳毅傳書)was published in 2003 under title: “Liu Yi and the Dragon Princess”. He also became interested in the poems of Liu Hongbin(劉洪彬).

Besides the books mentioned above, Hawkes’s other publications includes “Chinese: classical, modern, and humane” (1961), “A little primer of Tu Fu” (1967), and “Classical, modern and humane” (1989), etc.

Gittings, John. “David Hawkes: Scholar Who Led the Way in Chinese Studies and Translated The Story of The Stone.” The Guardian, 25 August 2009. (28 August 2013).

Liu, Tao Tao. “Introduction.” In Style, wit and word-play. ed. Tao Tao Liu, Laurence K.P. Wong, and Chan Sin-wai, [ix]-xvi. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Minford, John. “A tribute to Brother Stone.” In Style, wit and word-play. ed. Tao Tao Liu, Laurence K.P. Wong, and Chan Sin-wai, [1]-14. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

David Hawkes papers

Identifier: HK CVU 0011/PER/Dhawkes
Scope and Contents

Consists of donated materials chiefly prepared and collected by David Hawkes on Chinese literature and the study of religion. Also covers biographical materials on David Hawkes. Material types include manuscripts, correspondence, notes, books, catalogues, off-prints, contracts, invoices, photographs, videos, transcripts and clippings, etc.