A Tribute to Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei

from the Editorial Board of Journal of Chinese Linguistics

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei, a longtime friend and editorial member of Journal of Chinese Linguistics.

Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei, age 90, passed away peacefully at Cayuga Medical Center, U.S. on October 14, 2023.

Born on February 14, 1933, in Beijing, China, son of Yi-pao and Vong-Kyih Nyi Mei. Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei came to the United States with his parents in 1949. He earned his B.A. in mathematics from Oberlin College in 1954, M.A in mathematics from Harvard in 1956, and Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale in 1962. He taught at Yale and Harvard before finally settling down at Cornell, where he was Associate, then Full Professor in Chinese Literature and Philosophy in the Department of Asian Studies, 1971-2001. He was named Hu Shih Chair in 1994 and retired in 2001 as Hu Shih Professor Emeritus.

His interest in linguistics was sparked when he took courses with Bernard Bloch as a graduate student at Yale. He was introduced to Chinese historical linguistics by Tung T’ung-ho, a visiting scholar from Taiwan at Harvard. However, it was Jerry Norman of University of Washington in Seatle, whom he met at Princeton in 1967 while on sabbatical, who entirely changed the way Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei approached the Chinese language from a historical perspective.

Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei was a leading scholar in Chinese historical linguistics, authoring many papers in Chinese academic journals. He was elected to the Academia Sinica in Taiwan in 1994. After retiring from Cornell, he served as a visiting professor at Stanford University, Beijing University, the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing, Taiwan University, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, among others.

The passing of Prof. Tsu-Lin Mei is a great loss to the community of Chinese linguistics. With this message, the editorial board of Journal of Chinese Linguistics would like to express our deepest condolences and pay our highest respect to him.