Rudolf G. Wagner (1941-2019)


It is with great sorrow that the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia (BUCSA) has learned of the passing of Rudolf G. Wagner on 25 October 2019. Professor Wagner was one of the world’s leading sinologists and founder and co-director of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He was also the husband of Catherine Vance Yeh, Professor in Boston University’s Department of World Languages and Literature and former Director of BUCSA.

In a long and eminent career, Professor Wagner established himself as one of the world’s most prominent experts on classical Chinese philosophy and on the interface between politics in culture in China from ancient times into the present day. Among his many awards and distinctions, Professor Wagner was a recipient of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize, Germany’s highest academic honor, a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, as well as President of the European Association of Chinese Studies.

During his frequent sojourns in the United States, Professor Wagner was a regular participant at BUCSA events and gave a number of well-received talks and presentations at Boston University. Professor Wagner’s trademark impassioned intellectual flair is evidenced by his extraordinarily productive publication record, and is shown most recently in the BU-Heidelberg multi-year collective research project, “Leisure and Social Change across Asia,” and its forthcoming publication co-edited with BU colleagues, Testing the Margins of Leisure (Heidelberg University Publishing, 2019).

The Center for the Study of Asia and members of the Asian Studies community at Boston University would like to extend their heartfelt condolences to Catherine Yeh and the rest of Professor Wagner’s family. He will be sorely missed.

Thomas U. Berger
Director, BU Center for the Study of Asia


Rudolf Wagner was awarded the Karl Jaspers Prize on Nov. 14, 2019. To read Catherine Yeh’s acceptance speech on his behalf, please click here:

Rudolf Wagner, The Making of a Scholar of His Time Catherine Yeh Acceptance speech on behalf of Rudolf G. Wagner on his award of the Karl Jaspers Prize, November 14, 2019, reworked November 25, 2019