Associate Professor | Co-ordinator, Chinese Language Program | Director, Confucius Institute

Contact information | Tel: 519-884-4404 ext. 28648


  • Master of Arts, History, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario 1987-1990
  • Master of Law, Journalism, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China 1984-1987
  • Diploma in International Business Administration, UCLA – China program, Institute of International Business Administration, Beijing, China, 1983-1984
  • Bachelor of Arts, English, Shanxi Teachers University, Shanxi, China 1978-1982

Yan Li


Yan Li has worked as an instructor, freelancer, and translator in China before coming to Canada in 1987. She started teaching at Renison in 1997 and
has taught courses in Chinese culture, history, literature, and language.

Research Interest

Chinese history, literature, comparative literatures, bilingual writings, and English-Chinese translations. Invited to give more than 100 talks at different universities and organized international conferences:

  • 2008 Symposium for Chinese and Canadian Top Writers, at Renison University College.
  • 2009  Many Norman Bethunes, Symposium in Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune, at Montreal, PQ.
  • 2010 Along the Silk Road—International Conference on Chinese Culture, History, and Literature, at Renison University College.
  • 2010 Homeland, History, and Representation, International Symposium on Chinese Canadian & Chinese American Literature in English, at Renison University College.
  • 2011 History in Literature & Literature in History, International Symposium to Commemorate the 100 Anniversary of 1911 Revolution, at Renison University College.
  • 2014 Our Quilts: One World, Same Dream: Literary Forum for Ethnic Minority Chinese Writers with Their North American Fellow Writers, held at Waterloo, Toronto, and Washington DC.
  • 2014 Sino-Canadian Literary Forum: Literature and Our Environment, held at Waterloo, Toronto, and Montreal, in cooperation with the 35th IFOA.
  • 2015 Along the Footprint of Norman Bethune: International Forum to commemorate the end of WWII and in memory of Dr. Norman Bethune, in Beijing, China.
  • 2016  “Shared Cultural Pasts? A Comparative Conversation Exploring the Cultures of Multi-national Chinese and First Nations Peoples in Canada ”,  International Symposium in Waterloo, October 1-5, 2016
  • 2017   Inter-culturality and Common Destiny for Humankind, International Symposium in Waterloo, July 11-15, 2017
  • 2018 International Symposium on Cultural Confidence and Identity in the Era of Post-Multiculturalism in Waterloo, September 28-Oct. 3, 2018


Single Authored Books

  1. Faith Fears No Distance (Shanghai Literature & Art Publishing House,  Shanghai, China, Oct., 2018), awards winning creative non-fiction.  
  2. Flute Echoing at Lvliang’s Night:  A Collection of Stories by Yan Li, (The Commercial Press, Beijing, Feb. 2016)  Adopted as textbook at UofTSC
  3. The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune: A Collection of Essays by Yan Li,  (The Commercial Press, Beijing,  September 2015)  Adopted as textbook by UofTSC
  4. The Deep   (People’s Literature Publishing House, Beijing, July 2013)   Adopted as textbook by UofTSC
  5.  Lily in the Snow   (Women's Press, Toronto, Feb. 2010)   Adopted  as textbook at UofT
  6.  Red Duck Weed  (Chinese version of Daughters of the Red Land)    (Writers  Publishing House, Beijing, China, Jan. 2010) Adopted as textbook at UofTSC
  7.  The Lambs of Mapleton, A collection of stories (Shanghai People's Publishing House, Shanghai, July 2008) Adopted as textbook at UofTSC
  8.  Married to the West Wind , 1st edition (Mirror Books, Hong Kong, 1998)  
  9.  Married to the West Wind ,  Revised  edition (Arts and Literature Press, Beijing, July  2000)
  10. Daughters of the Red Land  (Sister Vision Press, Toronto, Nov. 1995). Finalist for Books in Canada’s First Novel Awards.
  11. The Living White House  (New China Press, Beijing, 1988)

Co-authored Books:

  1. Rediscovering Norman Bethune, ed. by M. Darrol Bryant, Yan Li, and Margaret Loewen Reimer  (Pandora Press, March 2018)
  2. Along the Silk Road, Essays on History, Literature, and Culture in China, ed. by M. Darrol Bryant, Yan Li, and Judith M. Miller  (Pandora Press, Nov. 2011) 
  3. Chinese Literature: A Reader,   ed. by Jianqing Tang and Yan Li, (Nanjing University Press, Nanjing, China, March 2010).

Sample Essays & Stories

  1. Jim Became a Father AgainWriter magazine, Jilin, China, April Issue   2019
  2. The Orchestra of Literature, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, page 11, Sept. 15,  2018
  3. My Colleague NealPeople’s Daily Overseas Edition, page 11. July 28, 2018
  4. Looking Back, Zhejiang Literature Press, August  2018
  5. The Old Soldier from Amor, Hong Kong Literature, August issue 2018
  6. Ready Before the Rain, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, June 30, 2018
  7. Laughter at the Funeral, Essay, China Readers Press, June 6, 2018
  8. Green Mountains Everywhere, Creative non-fiction, People’s Literature magazine, May issue, 2018,
  9. The Cat in Wuzhen, Essay, Literature and Art Press, March 16, 2018
  10. Spring in the Old Town, Essay, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Jan. 20, 2018
  11.  A Winter Night in the Ancient City, Essay, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, December 23, 2017
  12.  The Birth of Rediscovering Norman Bethune, translation from Darrol Bryant’s essay in English,  Literature and Arts Press, Beijing, China, 2017
  13. The Storm Around “Cultural Appropriation” on the Canadian Literature Arena, Essay, Literature and Art Press, Beijing, China,  August, 2017

Major Presentations & Public Readings

  1. Lecture on “Interculturalism in Bilingual Writing and Translation”, UTSC, March 16, 2019
  2. Lecture on “Rediscovering Norman Bethune”, Zhengzhou Business College, Henan Province, China, December 10, 2018
  3. Lecture on “Overseas Chinese Writing”, School of Foreign Studies, Nanjing University, China, Oct. 23, 2018
  4. Presentation on “The Controversy about Joseph Boyden’s Bear Story in 2017”, at the International Symposium held at Renison University College, Sept. 30, 2018.
  5. Penal Chair and  speaker at the “2018 Sino-Foreign Literature Translation & Publishing Cooperation Workshop”, Beijing, China, August 19-24, 2018
  6. Lectured at CI Chinese Directors Training Workshop, Communication University of China, August 6, 2018
  7. Presentation on “Tracing Truth From Historical Dusts”, Toronto, Chinese Pen Society of Canada, July 8, 2018
  8. Presentation on “Features of the CI in Waterloo”, at Carlton University, All-Canada CIs Conference, June 27, 2018
  9. Issues on Interculturality When Promoting Chinese Culture Overseas ”, keynote speaker at The 10th China Translation Profession Forum, Beijing University, April 21, 2018
  10. Lectures on Promoting Chinese Culture Abroad at three universities in Henan Province, China, April 18-20, 2018
  11.  “The Acceptance of Chinese Literature Overseas”, lecture at Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China, Dec. 8, 2017
  12. “Rediscovering Norman Bethune”, lecture at the School of Graduate Studies, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Dec. 6, 2017
  13. “Bilingual Writing from the Scope of Inter-culturality”,  lecture at the Institute of Foreign Literature, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China, Dec. 5, 2017
  14. “Rediscovering Norman Bethune”, Lecture at East Asian Studies, McGill University, Nov. 24, 2017
  15. Challenges and Opportunities”, Presentation at Joint Conference of Canadian Confucius Institutes, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan,  Oct. 30, 2017
  16. “Rediscovering Norman Bethune”, keynote speaker, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Oct. 28, 2017
  17. Bilingual Writing”, lecture at UofTSC, Oct. 26, 2017
  18. Experiments in Bilingual Writing and Translation”, lectures at the School of Humanity, Zhejiang University and SISU, China, Oct. 10 and 13, 2017
  19. Presentation on Ten Years’  Work of the CI in Waterloo, at  the Sixth Canadian Symposium on Teaching and Research Excellence, University of Waterloo, Sept. 2 2017
  20.  “The Road of Understanding Norman Bethune”, presentation at the 10th International Literature Symposium organized by Chinese Canadian Writers Association, Vancouver, BC, July 16, 2017
  21. “How Did I Become a Writer”, keynote speaker, Public Reading organized by Chinese Pen Society of Canada, Toronto, July 8, 2017 
  22.  “Comparison of English and Chinese Translations”, lecture at Dept. of English, Beijing University, December 16, 2016
  23. Chinese Literature Viewed by Overseas Readers”, lecture at School of Chinese Literature, Beijing Normal University, December 15, 2016
  24. “My Perspectives on East-West Culture Exchanges”, lecture at School of Mass Media and Literature, Minzu University of China, Beijing, December 15, 2016
  25. The Stuff Left to Lil”, lecture at Dept. of Chinese Literature, Nankai University, Tianjin, China, Dec. 14, 2016.
  26. Practices in English-Chinese Literature Translation”, lecture at School of Foreign Language Studies, Nankai University, Tianjin, China, Dec. 14, 2016
  27. Attending 11th Confucius Institute World Conference, Kunming, Yunnan, China, Dec. 8-11, 2016
  28. Visiting Shanxi Normal University, Xian, Shanxi, China,  Dec. 7, 2016
  29.  “My Perspectives on East-West Culture Exchanges”, lecture at Institute of Ethnic Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing,  Dec. 5, 2016
  30.  “The Writing of Flute Echoing from Lvliang Mountatins”.  Lecture at UTSC, Nov. 14. 2016
  31. Participating “In-Service Special Training Workshop for C.I. Directors”, Xiamen University, Oct. 16-21, 2016.
  32. “True or False:  Old Stories”, presented at the International Symposium, at Renison, Oct. 2, 2016.
  33. The Discovery of Norman Bethune’s Historical Relics and My Understanding of the National Hero in China and Controversial Figure in His Home Country of Canada”, presentation at Waterloo Women’s Wednesdays, UW, September 28, 2016
  34. “The Discovery  of Norman Bethune’s Historical Relics”, presented at the 9th Multi-Disciplinary Symposium of Canadian Chinese Professor, organized by the Canadian Academy of Chinese Professors, at Kingston, Ontario, August 26-28, 2016
  35. Chair, Session 1, The 6th Canadian Conference on Chinese Language Teaching,  jointly organized by Chinese Language Teachers Association of Canada & Dept. of East Asian Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Aug. 21-22, 2016
  36. “Reflections  on Introducing Chinese Culture Abroad”, lecture at Nankai University, Tianjin, China, July 24, 2016
  37. “Aspects of Promoting Chinese Culture Overseas”, “Norman Bethune and the Faiths of Christianity and Communism”,  lectures at Party School of the Central Committee of the C.P.C., Beijing, April 29, 2016
  38. Chinese-Canadian English Writers and Their Homeland Imaginations ”, lecture at English Dept., Peking University, Beijing,  April 28, 2016.
  39. Norman Bethune and the Faiths of Christianity and Communism”, lecture at China Women’s University, Beijing, April 28, 2016.
  40. Comparisons Between English and Chinese Language Writings,” lecture at School of Foreign Languages, Beijing Institute of Technology, April 26, 2016
  41. “Aspects on Promoting Chinese Culture Overseas”, Shanghai International Studies University,  April 21, 2016.
  42. “Exploring Strategies in English & Chinese Translation based on the Languages Characteristics”,  lecture at Huaqiao University, Xiamen, Fujian, China, April 18, 2016
  43. Comparisons Between English and Chinese Language Writings,” lecture at Dept. of Foreign Languages, Xiamen Institute of Technology,  Xiamen, Fujian, China, April 19, 2016
  44. “How To Present Chinese Literature to Overseas  Readers”, lecture at Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’An,  China, April 14, 2016.
  45. “Comparisons Between English and Chinese Languages in Literary Writings”, lecture at Xian International Studies University, April 13, 2016.
  46. “The Journey to Return Historical Relics of Norman Bethune to China”, lecture at Shanxi Normal University, Linfen, China,  April 11, 2016.
  47. “The Oracle Bones and the Canadian Missionary Family- Menzies ” Jinan University, China, April 9, 2016
  48. How To Present Chinese Literature to Overseas Readers”,  lecture at School of Foreign Languages, Shandong University, China,  April 8, 2016
  49. “Norman Bethune in Canada and China”, lecture at School of Political Studies, Shandong University, Shandong, China, April 7, 2016
  50. Reflections on Translation Tactics Based on Characteristics of English and Chinese Languages”, Keynote speaker at Harvard  Chinese Culture Workshop, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, March 31, 2016
  51.  “How to Present Chinese Literature to Overseas Readers”, Lecture at  Beijing Foreign Language Studies University, Beijing, Dec. 16, 2015
  52. The Journey to Bring  Norman Bethune’s Historical Relics to China”, keynote speaker, at the Forum to Commemorate the 45th anniversary China-Canada Diplomatic Relation held at Canadian Embassy in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2015.
  53. How to Present Chinese Literature to Overseas Readers”, Lecture at Soochow University, China,  December 10-11, 2015
  54.  “The Stuff Left to Lil and My Mission  in Canada”, keynote speaker at Toronto Canada-China Friendship Association,  Nov. 15, 2015
  55. “The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune”, lectures at English/Chinese Translation program, Centre for French and Linguistics, UTSC, Nov. 5 and Nov. 10, 2015
  56.  “The Stuff Left To Lil”, at the International Forum to Commemorate the End of WWII and Dr. Norman Bethune, Beijing, China, September 9-16, 2015
  57. “Experiences of Promoting Chinese Culture Overseas” , The 4th International Conference on Chinese Language Pedagogy , York University and the Chinese Culture and Education Society of Canada, Toronto. August 1-2, 2015

Awards, Distinction and Fellowships

  • 2018, winner  of  Best Creative Non-Fiction of the Year, People’s Literature magazine, China 
  • 2018, winner of First Prize in the Prose Competition to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of China’s Open Policy, issued by Beijing Overseas Chinese Federation, 2018
  • 2017, Award for Chinese Teaching Contribution, issued by Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs, State Council of China.
  • 2016, First Prize winner of 25th Shanghai Journalism Award
  • 2014, “Award for Outstanding Contribution”, issued by the Society of New Immigrant Chinese Literature in the World, November 14, in Nanchang, China.
  • 2014, Keynote Speaker and Reader at 35th International Festival of Authors, on Oct. 26, Harbourfront Center, Toronto, Canada.
  • 2013, Featured at Canadian Women Suffrage and Beyond
  • 2011, Excellent Overseas Chinese Teacher Award, Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, China.
  • 2010, Achievement Award, Chinese Women’s Association of Canada, March 8.
  • 2010, Top 10 Best Novels in China, January, Sina Website.
  • 2009, Outstanding Overseas Chinese Teacher Award, Chinese Culture and Education Society, Canada.
  • 2002, Literature Medal for Overseas Chinese Writer, Chinese Writers and Artists Association, Taiwan.
  • 1996, Women of the Year in Art/History/Literature, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
  • 1996, Finalist for Books in Canada's First Novel Award.
  • 1990, Delta Kappa Gamma Fellowship Award by American Women Educators’ Association.

Funding & Grants

Grants for professional writers and literature events:

2013 Canada Council for the Arts: Grant for Writing and Publishing

2010 Canada Council for the Arts: Grant for Writing and Publishing

2008 Canada Council for the Arts: Grant for Writing and Publishing

2005 Ontario Arts Council: Grant for Writers Reserve

2004  Ontario Arts Council: Grant for Literary Event

2003  Ontario Arts Council: Grant for Literary Event

2002  Ontario Arts Council: Grant for Literary Event

2002  Canada Council for the Arts: Grant for Writing and Publishing

2000  Canada Council for the Arts: Grant for Writing and Publishing

1998  Ontario Arts Council: Grant for Works in Profess

1998  Ontario Arts Council: Grant for Writers Reserve

Community Involvement

  • Vice-President, Chinese Pen Society of Canada, 2002-2007, organized a number of literature events in Toronto.
  • Judge for national and provincial Chinese contests, 2005-2015.
  • Director of the CI, sponsored Chinese teaching and cultural events locally and in nearby cities , 2007-2014.
  • Supported cultural events including East Asian Festivals, Renison Institute of Ministry, East Meets West Music Nights, KW Symphony Performances.
  • Supported Grandriver Chinese School and KW Chinese School activities.
University of Waterloo

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