David M. Farquhar, History: Los Angeles
David Farquhar died of emphysema on August 9, 1985 after 21 years at UCLA.
David was one of a handful of scholars in the Western world who combined sinological expertise with the skills of the altaicist. He did his undergraduate and M.A. work at the University of Washington, with Nicholas Poppe, Helmut Wilhelm, and others. His Ph.D. was taken at Harvard, under the guidance of the Mongolist Francis Cleaves and sinologists such as Lien-sheng Yang. During the course of his graduate study, he acquired good control over Chinese, Mongolian, and Japanese, along with a working knowledge of Tibetan and Russian. He already knew French, Danish, and German.
He always insisted on the highest standards of scholarship, for its own sake, and refused to join the race for academic advancement. He published little, but what he did publish were gems of scholarship. Among his proudest pieces were a demonstration of the Mongolian origins of important Ch'ing institutions, and a supremely imaginative analysis of how the Ch'ing state, in its stance toward Buddhism, sought to maintain in delicate balance the four major political traditions encompassed in its empire: the Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu, and Han Chinese. His life-work was The Government of China under Mongolian Rule, a systematic reference book on Yuan administration, which, when published, will become a standard reference work for generations to come.
David was an immensely popular undergraduate teacher both at the University of Maryland and at UCLA. He had a distinctive lecture style. He did not present the conventional narrative or tightly-knit thematic argument, but rather a series of basic facts, mixed with frequent references to documentary sources, and interspersed with incisive comment and folksy humor. Most students greatly appreciated the feel of scholarship and reality, and the extraordinary juxtaposition of erudition and folksiness in his delivery. He won the Regents' Award for Excellence in Teaching at the University
― 77 ―of Maryland in 1963. At UCLA, he was nominated by his colleagues and students for the Distinguished Teaching Award.
In graduate teaching, David maintained very high scholarly standards, accepting just a handful of students during his long career at UCLA. To those he gave generously of his time and of himself, not just in professional training, but also as friend, counsellor, and source of emotional support.
His colleagues in a multitude of fields will long remember him for his often surprising acquaintance with their own works, his remarkable stores of information, his love of good food and drink, and his near disregard for some of the worldly concerns that preoccupy many others.
David is survived by his wife Norma and three children, Jessie, Peter, and Robert.
Fred Notehelfer Stanley Wolpert Philip Huang