Burton Watson, "whose spare, limpid translations, with erudite introductions, opened up the world of classical Japanese and Chinese literature to generations of English-speaking readers," died on April 1, the New York Times reported. He was 91. In 2015, PEN awarded Watson its Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, calling him "the inventor of classical East Asian poetry for our time."
A "one-man translation factory," Watson produced "indispensable English versions of Chinese and Japanese literary, historical and philosophical texts, dozens of them still in print," the Times noted, adding: "Generations of students and teachers relied on collections like Early Chinese Literature (1962), Chinese Lyricism: Shih Poetry From the Second to the Twelfth Century (1971), From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry (1981) and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the 13th Century (1984)."
Watson's many translations also include Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the Tang Poet Han-shan; Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings; The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu; Ryokan, Zen Monk-Poet of Japan; and The Tso Chuan: Selections From China's Oldest Narrative History. In 2015, New York Review Books reissued his 1971 book Chinese Rhyme-Prose.