I visited de Bary in his fifth-floor office at Columbia University on a beautiful spring day. His desk was invisible under piles of books and papers: at eighty-six years old, he still teaches two classes and is working on a new edition of Sources of Japanese Tradition.
De Bary is the author of some of the most important books in the field of Asian studies and creator of the renowned “Sources” volumes, which offer selections of the major works of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asian traditions in new English translations. Over his more than five decades of teaching, de Bary’s vision for making Asian classics part of U.S. general education has inspired students and guided the development of the field of Asian studies. In recent years, he has written about the issues of civil society and Confucianism. His most recent book is Nobility and Civility: Asian Ideals of Leadership and the Common Good (Harvard University Press, 2004).