C.T. Hsia, eminent Chinese literary critic and retired WEAI professor, passes away

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute mourns the passing of C.T. Hsia, a longtime member of the Columbia faculty whose groundbreaking scholarship helped establish modern Chinese literary studies as an academic discipline in the English speaking world. Hsia died in New York on December 29, 2013 at the age of 92.

Born in Shanghai in 1921, C.T. Hsia, known also by his full name Hsia Chih-tsing, moved to the United States in 1947 in order to study literature. In 1951, he received his Ph.D. in English from Yale University. Ten years later, he published A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, a landmark book that introduced readers and academics in the West to twentieth century Chinese literature. When its most recent edition was published in 1999, Harvard professor Leo Ou-fan Lee wrote, "Hsia’s book is by now an acknowledged classic. It truly opened up a new field and prepared the way for generations of American scholars to do research. We are all in his debt."

Hsia’s The Classic Chinese Novel: A Critical Introduction, published in 1968, is also regarded as a seminal contribution to Chinese literary studies. A prolific critic and translator, Hsia published many more books and articles throughout his career. In 2004, Columbia University Press published a collection of his writings titled C.T. Hsia on Chinese Literature.

Hsia served as a professor of Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University from 1962 until his retirement in 1991. He was also a member of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute faculty. "His passing is a great loss to the field of Chinese literature and to the university community, and he will be missed by all of us," said Haruo Shirane, Columbia’s Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture. "We will always remember his humor and indelible character."

Hsia is survived by his wife, Della Hsia, two daughters, Joyce and Natalie, a son, Ming, four grandchildren, and a sister, Yuying Xia.

For further information about C.T. Hsia’s remarkable career, read this New York Times interview with Harvard professor David Der-wei Wang about Hsia’s formative role in modern Chinese literary studies: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/q-a-david-der-wei-wang-on-c-t-hsia-chinese-literary-critic/