Professor David Hawkes (霍克思, 1923–2009) was a renowned British Sinologist, much celebrated for his scholarship and creative ingenuity, and most well regarded for his masterful translations of Chinese literature.
Hawkes studied Chinese at University of Oxford (1945–1947) and was a research student at the then National Peking University (1948–1951). He left China and returned to Oxford in 1951 where he completed his doctoral dissertation on The Songs of the South. He was appointed Professor of Chinese at Oxford in 1959. From 1973 to 1983, he was a Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and later became an Emeritus Fellow. In 1983, he donated his personal library, The David Hawkes Collection which comprises about 4,500 volumes with works in Chinese, Japanese and English, including Chinese language and literature, history, philosophy, religion and drama, to the National Library of Wales.
Hawkes translated the poetry anthology, The Songs of the South, while he was still a young man, and the work was published by Oxford University Press in 1959, and later revised by the translator himself for the Penguin Classics edition, published in 1985. His A Little Primer of Tu Fu, first published in 1967 by Oxford University Press and later in 1987 by Renditions, the Research Centre for Translation, is an authoritative study and translation of the best-known works of the great Tang poet. However, there is no doubt that Hawkes’s most significant achievement as a translator is the The Story of the Stone, a work to which he fully devoted himself, even resigning from the post of Professor of Chinese in Oxford in 1971 to focus on the project. The first 80 chapters of The Story of the Stone was published in three volumes in 1973, 1977 and 1980 respectively. His translations not only demonstrate the highest standard of scholarship but also the highest standard for the art of translation, and will provide inspirations for generations of literary translators to ponder and reflect upon.