Remembering Elliot Sperling: Personal Reflections on a Public Loss
忆埃利亚特·史伯岭（Remembering Elliot Sperling）教授
原文链接：The Huffington Post (2017-02-08)
It is hard to think of Professor Elliot Sperling’s death as anything other than a colossal tragedy. He was only 66 and he exuded life, health and purpose – he was the antithesis of death. After retiring from a long professorship at Indiana University in 2014, he had moved to his native New York and bought an apartment in Jackson Heights, where he converted every wall into meticulously arranged book shelves – only the windows were spared for understandable reasons. He was looking forward to a busy retirement, living in what was basically a library pretending to be an apartment.
埃利亚特·史伯岭（Elliot Sperling，又译艾略特·史伯岭）教授的辞世是一个超乎想象的巨大悲剧。他刚刚66岁。他曾是那样的活力充沛、身体健康而又意志坚强——让人绝无可能和死亡产生联系。2014年，他从长期担任教授职位的印第安纳大学退休，搬迁至出生地纽约市并在皇后区的杰克逊高地（Jackson Heights）购买了一套公寓。他把公寓的每一面墙都改造成了井井有条的书架——只有窗户除外。在这所貌似公寓而实为图书馆的住所，他曾经展望过一个忙碌的退休生活。
Elliot was the world’s foremost authority on historical Sino-Tibetan relations, a MacArthur genius at the age of 33, with a body of work that defined and shaped Tibet studies in the last three decades. Through his seminal writings on Tibet’s relations with China during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, he became arguably the first historian to extensively use both Chinese and Tibetan sources to bring to light the separation and independence that characterized the relationship between the two nations. Until he came along, Western academics viewed Tibet only through Chinese eyes, largely because they could not access Tibetan sources; Elliot, who was fluent in Tibetan as well as Chinese, upended the old Sino-centric narrative and literally transformed the field overnight. His writings have become so central to the field that any scholar who attempts to write a paper, or even a page, about historical Sino-Tibetan relations cannot do so without paying homage to Elliot’s work. He is the Hegel of Sino-Tibetan history.
Naturally, my friends and I felt blessed that this great scholar would choose to make his home in Jackson Heights, the second capital of the exile Tibetan world. We were thrilled to see him at demonstrations at the Chinese consulate, art openings at Tibet House, poetry nights at Little Tibet restaurant, and sometimes at dinner parties in my own apartment. Each time he held court as the intellectual life of the party. We bombarded him with endless questions on topics ranging from art to politics to linguistics, for his erudition was not limited to history alone. Unfailingly generous and eloquent, he happily supplied us with the most intriguing, insightful and exhaustive answers to each of our questions. Every conversation with him was essentially a seminar. In our small circle of Tibetan activists and artists living in Queens, Elliot quickly fell into a sort of second professorship, a tenure without the trappings of university. We weren’t about to let him retire so easily.
自然地，我和我的朋友们都为这位伟大的学者选择在杰克逊高地安家感到是莫大的福报，这里是流亡藏人世界的第二个首都。看到他的身影出现在中国领事馆前的示威中，出现在西藏之家（Tibet House）艺术展开幕式上，出现在小西藏餐厅（Little Tibet restaurant）的诗歌之夜上，有时也出现在我自己公寓的晚餐聚会上，每每都让我们激动不已。每次聚会上，他一直是知识活动的中心人物。我们总是用没完没了的各种问题轰炸他，题目从艺术到政治，从政治到语言学，他的学识可不局限于历史一门。他总是不改慷慨和雄辩的本色，乐于给我们所有的问题提供引人入胜、见解深刻和详尽全面的解答。每一次与他的交谈实际上都是一场研讨会。在我们这个生活于皇后区的藏人活动人士和艺术家的小圈子里，他很快就找到了第二份教授职位，一个不受任何大学限制的终身教职。我们可没打算让他那么轻松就退休。
Last week, when I concluded an extended trip in Asia and returned to New York, I was looking forward to seeing him. I knew I would run into him, most likely at Little Tibet, his favorite restaurant, which is within walking distance from his home. (Actually, for Elliot, everything was within walking distance. He went pretty much everywhere on foot, even to Manhattan on occasion.) Just before he left for Vienna as a visiting professor last fall, he said to me in his characteristic urgency, “Let’s meet up and discuss strategies. We need to escalate the fight against the Confucius Institutes.” He was deeply concerned about how China’s Confucius Institutes, under the guise of promoting culture, have infiltrated our universities and engaged in a quiet campaign to shut down any discussion of Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen. He wanted to sit down with Pema Yoko of Students for a Free Tibet and her staff, who have campaigned against the Confucius Institutes, to brainstorm ideas and offer his support.
上个星期，结束了在亚洲地区盘桓日久的旅行之后回到纽约，我本打算去见他一面。不过我知道我一定会碰见他，最有可能的是在小西藏餐厅，那是他最喜欢的餐厅。从他家到那里步行就可以到达（实际上，对于他而言，任何地方都是在步行范围之内，他几乎去任何地方都是靠步行，甚至包括偶尔去曼哈顿）。就在他去年秋天去维也纳做访问教授之前，他用他特有的急迫的口气对我说，“哎，我们得见个面，想想办法。我们必须想出更有效的办法对付那个孔子学院”。他非常关注中国的孔子学院如何以弘扬文化的面目渗透到我们的各所大学当中，并且从事一场悄无声息的战役来封锁有关西藏、台湾和天安门事件的讨论。他曾经打算和自由西藏学生会（ Students for a Free Tibet）的白玛玉廓（Pema Yoko）以及她的同事们坐下来聊聊，共同想办法并提供他能够提供的帮助。自由西藏学生会一直在从事反对孔子学院的工作。
His academic stature would have easily allowed him to be an ivory tower intellectual without anyone begrudging him. Instead, he chose to be a true ally of the people and an unwavering champion of Tibetan freedom. He joined us in the trenches of activism, showed up in the streets and at rallies, always encouraging us to embark on bigger and bolder advocacy campaigns for Tibet. Speaking in his Bronx-accented Tibetan, he told us that if only Tibetans studied our history more seriously, we would have no doubt that Tibet will be free again.
A sharp and fearless critic of Beijing, Elliot neither minced his words nor censored his writings under fear of being banned from China. Even when he taught in Beijing for a semester, he successfully avoided the trap of self-censorship that has neutered so many brilliant scholars in our time. While railing against Beijing’s atrocities in Tibet, he also managed to be critical of Dharamsala’s excessively conciliatory stance toward Beijing. His provocative critiques of the Tibetan leadership sometimes made us uncomfortable, but that is exactly the impact he was seeking as a teacher who cared deeply about Tibet: to awaken and educate us by pushing us into our discomfort zone.
In recent years, Elliot took up the case of his friend Ilham Tohti, the Uyghur intellectual who was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Chinese government under trumped up charges. He played a key role in raising Tohti’s profile as a prisoner of conscience, helping to nominate him for the Sakharov Prize and other honors. He took Tohti’s daughter Jewher under his wing and oversaw her wellbeing and education. In Jewher’s own words, Elliot was “like an uncle” to her. His friendship with Ilahm Tohti and Jewher best exemplified the compassion and generosity with which he treated everyone. Sure, he made his mark in this world as a scholar, but his monumental intellect was matched by his unbounded kindness as a teacher and devotion as a friend. He was a genuinely altruistic human being who dedicated his life to helping others.
在最近几年，埃利亚特一直在为伊力哈木·吐赫提（ Ilham Tohti）的案件奔走。伊力哈木是一名维吾尔知识分子，他被中国政府以莫须有的罪名判处无期徒刑。埃利亚特在提升伊力哈木案件的国际关注度方面发挥了关键作用，并帮助他获得了萨哈罗夫人权奖的提名和其他一些荣誉。他一直呵护伊力哈木的女儿菊尔（Jewher），关顾她的生活和教育。用菊尔自己的话说，埃利亚特对她“就像亲叔叔”。他与伊力哈木和菊尔的友情最好地诠释了他的慈爱与慷慨，正如他对待所有的人。诚然，他作为一名学者在这个世界上留下了印记，但与他渊博的学识相伴的是，他作为导师的无限慈爱和对朋友的忠诚。他是一个真正的利他主义者，把自己的生命奉献给了帮助他人。
Elliot’s death has left an abyss in our hearts and a chasm in the world of Tibet studies. As one of our friends, Christophe Besuchet, aptly reflected, “it is as if a whole library had burned down.” Even so, it is worth remembering that Elliot has already done far more than his fair share of good in the world, and he deserves a rest (or a break, if you look at it from a Buddhist angle). In the course of 66 years, he lived multiple lifetimes – as a taxi driver, hippie, scholar, mentor, activist, uncle, father – each one more productive and meaningful than the other. He has engraved his spirit so deeply in the lives of so many of us that, in a way, he is still alive. And while one library has burned down, there are thousands of libraries where his words still live and breathe.