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Yan Li


Yan Li had worked as a freelancer and translator in Beijing, China, before coming to Canada in 1987. She started teaching Chinese culture, history, literature, and language at Renison University College, affiliated with the University of Waterloo, since 1997. She has been the Director of the Confucius Institute in Waterloo since 2007 and has made huge efforts to promote cultural and literature exchanges between Canada and China on this platform.

Yan is a bilingual writer and has published books both in English and Chinese languages. She has won several national and international awards and has served as the Vice-President of the Chinese Pen Society of Canada for years.

Her awards include:
2018: Award for Creative Non-fiction, People's Literature Awards for the year 2018, China.
2016: First Prize of Shanghai Journalism Award for the year 2016
2002:Award for Overseas Chinese Writers Work, Chinese Literature and Art Association, Taiwan
1996: Women of the Year in History, Art & Literature, Oktoberfest, Waterloo, Ontario.
1996: Books in Canada's First Novel Award, finalist.

Literary Activities since 2002:

2003 - 2006
Yan organizd a number of public reading events in Toronto for Chinese-Canadian writers, with funding supports granted by Canada Council for the Arts.

October 2008
Yan and her colleague Dr. Judith Miller successfully organized a Sino-Canada Literary Symposium in Waterloo, which brought together famous Canadian writers and literary critics including Alistair MacLeod, Wayson Choy, Dennis Bock, Carrie Snyder, Judith Miller, and Edward Jewinski, and a few top Chinese writers such as Liu Zhenyun, Ge Fei, Liu Qingbang, and literary critic Bai Ye for face to face discussions.

November 2009
Yan and her colleague Dr. Judith Miller organized the symposium entitled Many Norman Bethunes, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the death of Dr. Norman Bethune. The symposium was held successfully in Montreal with scholars from across Canada presenting papers to discuss the life of the hero from different perspectives. The conference attendees paid tribute to Bethune's statue in the city centre.

October 2010
Yan and her co-workers, Dr. Eleanor Ty and Dr. Jun Liu, organized "Homeland, History, and Representation", an International Symposium on Chinese Canadian and Chinese American Literature in English, held at Waterloo and sponsored by the Confucius Institute. Professors, scholars, and authors from across North America and China attended this conference and presented papers on the literature of Chinese North American authors such as Wayson Choy, Denise Chong, Sky Lee, Paul Yee, Fred Wah, Larisa Lai, Judy Fong Bates, Amy Tan, and Yan Li. Canadian authors Denison Chong, Jim Wong-Chu, and Yan Li talked about their experiences as creative writers in Canada. Derwin Mak and Eric Choi gave presentation on Chinese Canadian science ficiton writers, Ka-Nin Chan of University of Toronto presented his musical piece The Iron Road. Reporters from China interviewed the Chinese Candian writers. The symposium aroused great interest among scholars from China to pay attention to this group of people, whose works were hardly known in China. Scholars from Nankai University of China expressed a strong interest to translate their works into the Chinese language and have them published in China. In 2013, the translated works by Denise Chong, Sky Lee, Wayson Choy, Paul Yee, and Judy Fong Bates were successfully published in China and warmly received by readers.

June 2011
Yan was invited to attend the International Writers Camp in Tianjin, China, organized by China Writers Association and gave a presentation on comparisons of literary environment in both countries.

October 2011
Yan Li organized the International Symposium, Literature in History--History in Literature: To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 1911 Revolution in China. The conference brought famous writers and scholars from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, America, and Canada to meet at Waterloo, Ontario. China Writers Association sent a six member delegation to participate in the event.

Apri 2014
Yan Li and her colleague Dr. Darrol Bryant organized a literary forum: Our Quilts--One World, Same Dream--Chinese Ethnic Minority Writers and their North American Fellow Writers. The forum was conducted in Waterloo, Toronto, and Washington DC, where the Chinese writers delegation, composed by writers from Tibetan, Hazakh, Manchu, Yi, an Li ethnic backgrounds met with their fellow writers in Canada and America. Canadian writers from different ethnical grounds participated in the forum held at Waterloo, including Susan Hodges Bryant, George lliott Clarke, Guo Ding, Keith Garebian, Kyle Gerber, Baoheng Jia, Margaret Loewen Reimer, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Michelle Tisseyre, and David Waltner-Toews. After heated discussions, the writers enjoyed pleasant tours at a Mennonite farm in St. Jacobs and the First Nations Museumn in Brampton before they headed for Washington D.C. where they met American writers from minority ethnical backgrounds.

October, 2014
Yan and her colleague Dr. Darrol Bryant hosted an international literary symposium entitled “A Sino-Canada Literary Forum: Literature and our Environment”. The main theme of the symposium was an exploration of the intersection of literature and environment in Chinese and Canadian literature. Among the thought-provoking topics slated for discussion were literature and the urban environment, a sense of place and space in literature, writing about nature, and the role of faith and beliefs in literature. The delegation from China Writers Association was composed of award winning authors, publishers, journalists, and literary critics including Tashi Dawa from Tibet, Yucheng Jin from Shanghai, Zhanjun Shi from Beijing, Xingeng Chen from Shanghai, Honglin Liu from Nanjing, and Zhuoning Lu from Guangxi. They met with Canadian novelists Dorris Heffron (Chair of TWUC in 2013), Susan Swan (Chair of TWUC 2007), Ann Ireland, Dennis Bock (winner of 2014 the Annual Best Foreign Novel Award in China) , and poets Harry Thurston (2014 TWUC Chair) and Allan Cooper. The conference was hosted by Dr. Darrol Bryant, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Renison University College, and Professor Yan Li, Director of the Confucius Institute in Waterloo. The Chinese delegates also participated in events co-organized by the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto at a special China Forum hosted by Canadian writer Jonathan Campbell on Oct. 26, and met with the Chinese community members at an event sponsored by the Confucius Institute at Seneca College and the Chinese Pen Society of Canada. The delegates participated in further discussions and cultural activities organized by the Confucius Institute in Quebec and the Centre Internationaliste Ryerson Foundation Aubin (CIRFA) in Montreal.

May 2015
Yan organized the Chinese Book and Photo Exhibition in Waterloo to Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of World War II and Dr. Norman Bethune, which showcased around 200 books and 100 photos that illustrate the heroic efforts of those involved in WWII, highlighting the victory over fascism, the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Canada over the last 45 years, and recent cultural exchanges between the two countries. The exhibition also focused on Dr. Henry Norman Bethune, a Canadian physician who is acclaimed for bringing modern medicine to rural China and worked as a frontline surgeon during China's War of Resistance Against Japanese Invasion. His commitment to the Chinese people made such an impression that generations of Chinese citizens were required to memorize late Chairman Mao Zedong's eulogy to him. After the opening ceremony, Yan chaired a forum of discussion with presentations by William Cecil-Smith, Michael Copeland, and the rep. from CanCopy.

September 2015
Yan organized a Canadian Delegation to attend a series of events in China entitled Along the Footprints of Norman Bethune. The delegation was composed of writers, scholars, publishers, medical researchers, film actors, and social activists from across Canada who are Bethune admirers. Events in China include forums and tours in different parts of North China, where Norman Bethune worked in 1930s. The Canadian delegation joined delegates from India and Japan during the forums and tours and together paid tribute to the tombs of Dr. Norman Bethune, Jean Even, and a few other doctors who dedicated their lives to help the Chinese people during the war times and were buried in China. During the trip, the Canadian delegation visited China Writers Association, Modern Chinese Literature Museum, and Lu Xun Literature Institute. Canadian writers Dennis Bock and Yan Li discussed their works on Dr. Norman Bethune at several forums.

October 2015
Yan Li organized the Canadian tour for the Chinese delegation, composed by editors from People's Literature, the national magazine, during their north American trip to explore exchange opportunities. The delegates met with Canadian scholars and publishers in the field of world literature.

November 2015
Yan Li was the keynote speaker at a forum organized by Toronto Canada-China Friendship Association in Toronto. She presented on “The Stuff Left to Lil and My Mission in Canada."

March 2016
The Harvard Chinese Culture Workshop invites well-known scholars and writers from all over the world to give speeches on Chinese culture and literature related topics. Yan Li had the honor of being invited as the keynote speaker for this month at this prestigious event, as one of the few North American Chinese immigrant writers whose creative writings in both English and Chinese languages have gained recognition in both fields.
Yan Li gave an hour long talk on "Reflections on Translation Tactics Based on Characteristics of English and Chinese Languages" which was conducted in Chinese and based on her rich experience in publication and teaching for the past 20 years. Scholars in fields of Chinese studies from Boston and New England areas attended the workshop and expressed very positive feedbacks to Li's talk. Many raised interesting questions and engaged in heated discussions. Harvard University's Yenching Library holds a monthly Chinese Culture Workshop, which is organized by the world famous sinologist, Professor David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University, and Ms. Phoebe Zhang, Harvard Yenching Library.

April 2016
Yan Li returned from a four week trip to China, giving 16 lectures at the invitation of 10 universities. Yan Li had the honor of being invited to Peking University, Shandong University, Shanxi Normal University, Xian International Studies University, Shanghai International Studies University, China Women's University and the Beijing Institute of Technology among others to speak about several of her research areas. The topics of the lectures covered a wide range of topics including “Comparisons Between English and Chinese Languages in Creative Writing”, “Norman Bethune and the Faiths of Christianity and Communism”, “The Oracle Bones and A Canadian Missionary Family”, “Aspects on Promoting Chinese Culture Overseas”, and “Homeland Imaginations in the English Works by Chinese-Canadian Writers” which received warm responses from the various audiences. They also aroused interest in many who attended to do further research and explore issues in those fields.

October 2016
Yan and her colleagues organized the international symposium,"Shared Cultural Pasts? A Comparative Conversation Exploring the Cultures of Multy-national Chinese and First Nations Peoples in Canada", held at Renison University College in Waterloo, Ontario. Scholars and writers from China and Canada were engaged in warm discussions and visited the Six Nations Village. Participants included Canadian scholars and writers such as Lila Bruyere, Shawn Johnston, Darrol Bryant, Keith Carlson, Wendy Fletcher, Weiqing Lu, and Margaret Reimer, and Chinese scholars and writers such as Xuebo Guo, Adil Jumaturdu, Zhao Liang, Lili Liu, Ning Liu, Xiaoqing Tang, and Xinjian Xu.

July 2017
Yan and her colleagues organized the international symposium on "Inter-culturality and Common Destiny for Humankind" at Renison University College, Waterloo.
Renison University College, affiliated with the University of Waterloo, together with the Confucius Institute in Waterloo, the International Liaison Department of China Writers Association, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, organized the International Symposium on Inter-culturality and Common Destiny for Humankind from July 11 to 15 in Waterloo, Canada. Scholars and writers from China, Canada and U.S.A have shown great interest in the theme of the conference.
The topics of the conference include but are not restricted to cosmopolitanism and the common destiny of humankind, cultural memory and cultural identity, the nationality and universality of cultures, inter-culturality and literary representation, culture, politics and ethics in world literature, and community and collectivism in literature. Scholars and writers from Canada, China, and the U.S.A included Deming An, Kofi Campbell, Dingjia Chen, Shengyuan Dang, Fan Ding, Wendy Fletcher, Tonglin Gao, Heather George, Taylor Leeal Gibson, Renshan Guan, Sonnet Labbe, Yuejin Liu, Xueming Peng, Ye Qiao, Yining Shi, Marsha Skrypuch, Binghui Song, Kenneth Surin, Binbin Wang, Janell Watson, Yiqin Wu, Ruoxi Zhang, and Min Zhou. We appreciate very much the effort made by all participants to ensure a great success of the conference and, together, we look forward to a fruitful future of humankind as inspired and encouraged by everyone meeting here today.

Sept. 2018
Yan and her colleagues organized the International Symposium on Cultural Identity and Confidence in the Era of Post-multiculturalism, at Renison University College, University of Waterloo. 20 scholars from China and Canada participated the conference and discussed issues such as how do different cultures hold up to their respective identity and confidence in this era of post-multiculturalism.

For the past 10 years, Yan has given numerous talks at universities in Canada and China on her experiences of bilingual creative writing.

Recent Readings in Canada:

October 26, 2014
"Around the World in 60 Minutes", 35th IFOA at Harbourfront Center, Toronto,

March 8, 2013
Simon Fraser University, David Lam Center

November 5, 2010
Windsor Book Fair

Phone number:
(519) 884 4404 ext 28648


Daughters of the Red Land. Sister Vision Press, Toronto, finalist for Books in Canada's First Novel Award, 1995
Faith Fears No Distance. Shanghai Literature & Art Publishing House, Shanghai, China, 2018
Rediscovering Norman Bethune. Pandora Press, Toronto, 2018
Flute Echoing at Luliang's Night. Commercial Press International, Beijing, 2016
The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune. Commercial Press International, Beijing, 2015
The Deep. People's Literature Publishing House, Beijing, 2013
Lily in the Snow. Women's Press, Toronto, 2010
Red Duckweed (Chinese version of “Daughters of the Red Land” ). The Writers' Publishing House, Beijing, listed as the top 10 novels in Sina Website in January 2010, 2010
Chinese Literature -- A Reader, Co-Editor, Jianqing Tang,. Nanjing University Press, Nanjing, China, an English-Chinese bilingual textbook for students to study Chinese literary , 2009
The Lambs of Mapleton. Shanghai People's Publishing House, Shanghai, China, 2008
Married to the West Wind (Revised Edition). Culture & Art Press, Beijing, 2000
Married to the West Wind. Mirror Books Canada, Toronto, 1998
The Living White House. New China Publishing House, Beijing, 1988


Overseas Chinese Writer's Medal for Issued by Chinese Writers & Artists Association in Taiwan, 2002
Women of the Year in Literature/Arts/History for Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, 1996
First Prize of Shanghai Journalism Award for the year of 2016 for Shanghai Municipal Government, 2016
Eligible for National Public Readings Program :


Northern OAC WITS:
GST not applicable