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Arthur David Waley CH CBE (born Arthur David Schloss, 19 August 1889 – 27 June 1966) was an English orientalist and sinologist who achieved both popular and scholarly acclaim for his translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Among his honours were the CBE in 1952, the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1953, and he was invested as a Companion of Honour in 1956.[1]

Although highly learned, Waley avoided academic posts and most often wrote for a general audience. He chose not to be a specialist but to translate a wide and personal range of classical literature. Starting in the 1910s and continuing steadily almost until his death in 1966, these translations started with poetry, such as A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918) and Japanese Poetry: The Uta (1919), then an equally wide range of novels, such as The Tale of Genji (1925–26), an 11th-century Japanese work, and Monkey, from 16th-century China. Waley also presented and translated Chinese philosophy, wrote biographies of literary figures, and maintained a lifelong interest in both Asian and Western paintings.

A recent evaluation called Waley "the great transmitter of the high literary cultures of China and Japan to the English-reading general public; the ambassador from East to West in the first half of the 20th century", and went on to say that he was "self-taught, but reached remarkable levels of fluency, even erudition, in both languages. It was a unique achievement, possible (as he himself later noted) only in that time, a

Arthur David Waley CH CBE (born Arthur David Schloss, 19 August 1889 – 27 June 1966) was an English orientalist and sinologist who achieved both popular and scholarly acclaim for his translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Among his honours were the CBE in 1952, the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1953, and he was invested as a Companion of Honour in 1956.[1]

Although highly learned, Waley avoided academic posts and most often wrote for a general audience. He chose not to be a specialist but to translate a wide and personal range of classical literature. Starting in the 1910s and continuing steadily almost until his death in 1966, these translations started with poetry, such as A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918) and Japanese Poetry: The Uta (1919), then an equally wide range of novels, such as The Tale of Genji (1925–26), an 11th-century Japanese work, and Monkey, from 16th-century China. Waley also presented and translated Chinese philosophy, wrote biographies of literary figures, and maintained a lifelong interest in both Asian and Western paintings.

A recent evaluation called Waley "the great transmitter of the high literary cultures of China and Japan to the English-reading general public; the ambassador from East to West in the first half of the 20th century", and went on to say that he was "self-taught, but reached remarkable levels of fluency, even erudition, in both languages. It was a unique achievement, possible (as he himself later noted) only in that time, and unlikely to be repeated."[2]

His many translations include A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918), Japanese Poetry:

His many translations include A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918), Japanese Poetry: The Uta (1919), The No Plays of Japan (1921), The Tale of Genji (published in 6 volumes from 1921 to 1933), The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon (1928), The Kutune Shirka (1951), Monkey (1942, an abridged version of Journey to the West), The Poetry and Career of Li Po (1959) and The Secret History of the Mongols and Other Pieces (1964). Waley received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his translation of Monkey, and his translations of the classics, the Analects of Confucius and The Way and Its Power (Tao Te Ching), are still in print, as is his interpretive presentation of classical Chinese philosophy, Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China (1939).

Waley's tra

Waley's translations of verse are widely regarded as poems in their own right, and have been included in many anthologies such as the Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892–1935, The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse and the Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse (1918–1960) under Waley's name. Many of his original translations and commentaries have been re-published as Penguin Classics and Wordsworth Classics, reaching a wide readership.

Despite translating many Chinese and Japanese classical texts into English, Waley never travelled to either country, or anywhere else in East Asia. In his preface to The Secret History of the Mongols he writes that he was not a master of many languages, but claims to have known Chinese and Japanese fairly well, a good deal of Ainu and Mongolian, and some Hebrew and Syriac.

The composer Benjamin Britten set six translations from Waley's Chinese Poems (1946) for high voice and guitar in his song cycle Songs from the Chinese (1957).