I have just heard of the passing of Daniel Overmyer (1935-2021) on Wednesday. Dan was my teacher at the University of British Columbia (1975-79), and a friend and mentor for many years thereafter. When I was doing my Ph.D. with Strickmann, Dan took a sabbatical and came down and read texts with us, seeking to understand Daoism. He was a tireless scholar and a devoted teacher, as well as a humble and kind person. He will be sorely missed.
My favorite recollection of Dan is from my student days. I was sitting in on his undergrad Chinese philosophy course, and he was explaining a passage from the Mencius (I think) where the character climbs up on the crossbar of a chariot to peer at something. Dan got so involved in explaining this that he climbed up on his own chair and mimed the action. He was always so earnest and involved. I learned much from him.
––Terry Kleeman, Professor, University of Colorado
I honour Dan Overmyer as a pioneer of a whole subfield in the study of Chinese religions, that of popular (sectarian) traditions, as an exemplary PhD advisor, and as a true gentleman/junzi.
I came to study with him almost serendipitously. After my original PhD project (an ethno-medical field study in Kashgar) never got off the ground as Xinjiang was closed to foreigners in the aftermath of the Tiananmen protests in 1989, I had gone to Taiwan in late 1989 for further language training in the city of Taichung and also to consider my next steps. There I discovered spirit-writing cults and was fascinated by these religious groups, their practices, and particularly their texts. Looking for guidance, I came across the Taiwan edition of Dan Overmyer’s and David Jordan’s The Flying Phoenix in the Taichung branch store of Caves Books. Deciding that spirit-writing cults would furnish me with a research field that allowed me combine my dual training in sinology and cultural anthropology, I contacted Dan Overmyer who immediately expressed his interest. So, when my wife and I left Taiwan in the summer of 1990, we took the long way home to Germany, stopping over in Vancouver to meet Dan and discuss my dissertation proposal. A year later I began my doctoral studies at UBC, receiving the kind of attentive but never obtrusive support from my advisor that I have ever since tried to use as a model in my own work with graduate students.
His enthusiasm for his work was infectious, his willingness to give support and assistance to his students seemingly unlimited. He had a formative influence not just on the field of Chinese religions, but also on the development of his students as scholars. We all owe him much!
––Philip Clart, Professor, Leipzig University
I am saddened by the loss of this giant in our field. I have known about him before moving into graduate studies and I credit him for my interest in the study of religion and politics. Although our fields were apart from each other in terms of approach, he deeply impressed me by his welcoming openness and genuine interest in what I wanted to achieve. From that moment on, he had provided me with a massive boost to pursue my path. Even though I have met him on very few occasions, he has always maintained that wonderful attitude. He will be dearly missed but not forgotten.
––André Laliberté, Professor, University of Ottowa