Associate Professor, Coordinator of Chinese Language and Culture Studies | 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 grew up in China where she had worked as an instructor, freelancer, and translator before coming to Canada in 1987.  She started teaching at Renison since 1997 and has taught Chinese culture, history, literature, and language.

Awards and Distinction

  • 2022, Top Literature Books of the Month, The Missing Archives, 《兰台遗卷》selected into a number of listings including China Readers Press in Beijing, Literature and Art Press in Shanghai, Good Literature Books in China, and China Youth Press, etc. 
  • 2022, UW President's Award for Excellence in Research
  • 2022,Wenjin Book Award, National Library of China,  1937, Talks in Yan’an   《1937延安对话》
  • 2021, Best Book of the Year1937: Talks in Yan’an , received  awards from different publishing organizations in China. 《1937延安对话》
  • 2021,Silk Route Excellent Prose Book AwardXi’an, China, “Faith Fears No Distance” 《不远万里》
  • 2019, Best Prose Award, Fangzhimin Literature Prize, China,  “The American Bud on Campus” 《校园里那株美洲蕾》
  • 2018, Best Creative Non-Fiction Award, People’s Literature magazine, China, “Green Mountains Everywhere”  《何处不青山》
  • 2018, First Prize for Prose Competition to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of China’s Open Policy, issued by Beijing Overseas Chinese Federation, 2018, “Looking Back”. 《蓦然回首》
  • 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, “The Last Love Letter from Dr. Norman Bethune” 《白求恩大夫最后的恋情》
  • 2014, “Award for Outstanding Contribution”, issued by the Society of New Immigrant Chinese Literature in the World, November 14, issued at Nanchang University, China.
  • 2014, Keynote Speaker and Reader at 35th International Festival of Authors, on Oct. 26, Harbourfront Center, Toronto, Canada.
  • 2011, Excellent Overseas Chinese Teacher Award, Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, China.
  • 2010, Outstanding Achievement Award, Professional Chinese Women’s Association of Canada, March 8.
  • 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, Oktoberfest, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
  • 1996, Finalist for Books in Canada's First Novel Award, Daughters of the Red Land.

Community Involvement

  • Board member, Chinese Culture and Education Society of Canada since 2010 and worked as judge and organized national and provincial Chinese Proficiency Competitions in Canada.
  • Vice-President, Chinese Pen Society of Canada, 2002-2007, organized a number of public readings in Toronto.
  • Director of the CI, sponsored Chinese teaching and cultural events including One Sky Over All Festivals, East Meets West Music Nights, KW Symphony, PEAR workshops, KW Chinese School, Grandriver Chinese School, and Chinese Arts Institute of Greater Windsor, etc.
  • Member of Beijing Overseas Chinese Association, helped with communicating and recommending Canadian scholars for international theme conferences, since 2018.

Research Interests

Yan is interested in Chinese history, literature, comparative literatures, bilingual writings, and English-Chinese translations.  She has given over a hundred talks at different universities and organized many international conferences including:

  1. 2008  Symposium for Chinese and Canadian Top Writers, at Renison University College
  2. 2009  Many Norman Bethunes, Symposium in Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune, at Montreal, PQ
  3. 2010  Along the Silk Road--International Conference on Chinese Culture, history, and Literature, at Renison University College
  4. 2010  Homeland, History, and Representation, International Symposium on Chinese Canadian & Chinese American Literature in English, at Renison University College
  5. 2011  History in Literature & Literature in History, International Symposium to Commemorate the 100 Anniversary of 1911 Revolution, at Renison University College,
  6. 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.
  7. 2014  Sino-Canadian Literary Forum: Literature and Our Environment, held at Waterloo, Toronto, and Montreal, in cooperation with the 35th IFOA.
  8. 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, September 9-17, 2015.
  9. 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
  10. 2017 Inter-culturality and Common Destiny for Humankind, International Symposium in Waterloo, July 11-15, 2017
  11. 2018 International Symposium on Cultural Confidence and Identity in the Era of Post-Multiculturalism in Waterloo, September 28-Oct. 3, 2018
  12. 2019 International Symposium on What the Spirit of Norman Bethune Means to the World Today—to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Dr. Norman Bethune’s death, in Waterloo and Montreal,  Oct. 26-30, 2019
  13. 2022 Symposium on Walking in Footsteps of Dr. Norman Bethune, held at Renison University College, on August 6, 2022.


Single Authored Books

  1. The Missing Archives, 《兰台遗卷》 Creative non-fiction (Writers Publishing House, Beijing, 230,000 words,  May, 2022)
  2. 1937, Talks in Yan’an, 1937, 延安对话》 Translation of T. A. Bisson’s book, 75,000 words, with a 35,000-words essay by Yan Li,  (People’s Literature Publishing House, Beijing,  June, 2021)
  3. Faith Fears No Distance 《不远万里》  (Shanghai Literature & Art Publishing House,  Shanghai, China, Oct. , 2018)
  4. Flute Echoing at Lvliang’s Night:  《吕梁箫声》A Collection of Stories by Yan Li, (The Commercial Press, Beijing, Feb. 2016) 
  5. The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune尺素天涯》 A Collection of Essays by Yan Li,  (The Commercial Press, Beijing,  September 2015)
  6. The Deep 《海底》, fiction novel   (People’s Literature Publishing House, Beijing, July 2013)   
  7. Lily in the Snow 《雪百合》 fiction novel  (Women's Press, Toronto, Feb. 2010)   
  8.  Red Duck Weed  红浮萍》 (Chinese version of Daughters of the Red Land)    (Writers  Publishing House, Beijing, China, Jan. 2010)
  9.  The Lambs of Mapleton, 羊群》 A collection of stories (Shanghai People's Publishing House, Shanghai, July 2008)
  10.  Married to the West Wind 嫁得西风》, fiction novel,  1st edition (Mirror Books, Hong Kong, 1998)  
  11.  Married to the West Wind ,  Revised  edition (Arts and Literature Press, Beijing, July  2000)
  12. Daughters of the Red Land  《红浮萍》 (Sister Vision Press, Toronto, Nov. 1995). Finalist for Books in Canada’s First Novel Award.
  13. The Living White House  《白宫生活》, translation (New China Press, Beijing, 1988)

Co-authored Books:

  1. Rediscovering Norman Bethune, 重读白求恩》   Co-ed. by M. Darrol Bryant, Yan Li, and Margaret Loewen Reimer  (Pandora Press, March 2018)
  2. Along the Silk Road, 沿着丝绸之路》  Essays on History, Literature, and Culture in China, Co-ed. by M. Darrol Bryant, Yan Li, and Judith M. Miller  (Pandora Press, Nov. 2011) 
  3. Chinese Literature: A Reader, 《中国文学选读》  Co-ed. by Jianqing Tang and Yan Li, (Nanjing University Press, Nanjing, China, March 2010).


Academic advisor for a 4-series documentary film,  Looking for Dr. Norman Bethune, to be produced by Center China TV,  2022

Academic advisor for a documentary film, The Future Already Proved by History, 1937, Talks in Yanan,  to be produced by Center China TV, 2024.

Sample Essays & Stories in Recent Years:

  1. Jubilee, the Testament and Sword, 铢必离:试金石与利剑,4,000 words, Beijing, Kunlunce Website, Sept. 17, 2022
  2. History’s Hidden Figures, interview of Yan Li, China Daily, 《中国日报》访谈李彦,page 16, “Life”,  June 9, 2022
  3. The Significance of The Missing Archives for today 《兰台遗卷》于今意义何在,2,000 words, New People Evening Press, 新民晚报, Shanghai, China, May 16, 2022.
  4. Seeking Traces, 寻迹, creative non-fiction, Selected chapters from The Missing Archives, 50,000 words, People’s Literature Magazine,《人民文学》杂志, May issue, 2022.
  5. The Influence of Chinese Literature Overseas: Interview with Yan Li by Xiaomei Yu中国文学在海外的影响和传播:余小梅对李彦的访谈,5,000 words,  Literature & Art Press《文艺报》2022年4月22日, Beijing, China, April 22, 2022.
  6. The Silver Ring in the Blue Berry Town,  蓝莓城的银戒prose, 7,000 words,    Writers Magazine, 《作家》杂志,Jan. issue, 2022 
  7. On Translation of Classical Chinese Work—An interview of Yan Li by Dr. Haiyan Zhang, 中国经典译介-- 张海燕对李彦的访谈,3,000 words, People’s Daily Overseas Edition,《人民日报海外版》, Beijing, China,Jan. 27,2022
  8. Jean Even Who Fought with Dr. Bethune, 与白求恩并肩战斗的珍妮.尤恩,4,000 words,  Study Times 《学习时报》,Beijing, China, Nov. 15,  2021
  9.  Chinese Poetry and Overseas Bilingual Fiction Creations: A dialogue with Canadian-Chinese Writer Yan Li,  中国诗歌与海外双语小说创作-对话加拿大华裔双语作家李彦,by Xiaomei Yu and Yan Li  余小梅、李彦,10,000 words, Overseas Chinese Literature Forum, bimonthly periodical,《世界华人文学论坛》, Nanjing, China,Oct. issue,  2021
  10.  June 1937 Talks with Communist Leaders in Yenan.  1937:延安对话, 65,000 words, Contemporary, a bimonthly magazine《当代》, Issue #4,  July 2021.
  11. The Faith of T.A. Bisson毕森的信念,5,000 words, People’s Daily, Overseas Edition《人民日报海外版》 Sept. 4, 2021, Beijing, China
  12.  On the 100th Anniversary of The Communist Party of Canada, 原野上的红谷仓:加共建党百年回望, 6,500 words,  Wenhui Daily 《文汇报》, Shanghai, China,May 14, 2021
  13. Mao Met Dr. Bethune More Than Once, 毛泽东见过白求恩不止一面,prose, Theoretical China《理论中国》, Beijing, Dec. 31, 2020
  14. The Beauty Hidden in Spring藏在春日中的美丽, prose,  China Writers Association Special Edition 《中国作协专刊》April 15, 2020
  15. Comparison between Online and Conventional Teachings网络教学与传统教学的相辅相成关系,  China Readers《中华读书报》April 15, 2020
  16. Life under Pen Point, 笔底人间, prose,  Free Forum in Literature, Bimonthly 《文学自由谈》, Jan. issue, 2020 
  17. The Vision of Writer Xiao Jun, 萧军的眼光, prose, Yanhuang Chunqiu Magazine《炎黄春秋》, Beijing  China,  Jan. issue  2020   
  18.  Romance in the Stone City,  石头城的浪漫 , prose,  People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Literature and Art Column(人民日报海外版)page 7, Nov. 9, 2019
  19.  Xian Tonight, 不问汉唐问今宵, prose,  People’s Daily Overseas Edition(人民日报海外版), page 7, Literature and Art Column, August 10, 2019
  20.  The American Bud in the Garden— On Dr. T. A. Bisson, 校园里那株美洲蕾 Dangdai (Contemporary ) Bimonthly《当代》 magazine,  #4 issue, Beijing , July 2019 
  21.  Jim Became a Father Again, 吉姆老来得子,  Writer magazine, 《作家》杂志  Jilin, China, April Issue   2019
  22.  The Orchestra of Literature, 一弦一柱思华年, prose,  people’s Daily Overseas Edition, 《人民日报海外版》page 11, Literature and Art Column, Sept. 15,  2018
  23.  The Old Soldier from Amor,  厦门老兵, short story,  Hong Kong Literature magazine, 《香港文学》August issue 2018
  24. Green Mountains Everywhere, 何处不青山Creative non-fiction, People’s Literature magazine, 《人民文学》杂志 May issue, 2018,
  25.  The Cat in Wuzhen, 乌镇的小猫Essay, Literature and Art Press, (A newspaper published three times a week in Beijing )《文艺报》 March 16, 2018
  26.  Spring in the Old Town, Essay, 故园春色 People’s Daily Overseas Edition,《人民日报海外版》Literature and Art Column,  Jan. 20, 2018
  27. The Storm Around “Cultural Appropriation” on the Canadian Literature Arena, 加拿大文坛:一场关于文化盗用的风波Essay, Literature and Art Press, 《文艺报》, a newspaper published three times a week, Beijing, China,  August, 2017
  28.   Things Left to Lillian, 留给莉莲的东西English version essay based on Yan Li’s Chinese story The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune, Rediscovering Norman Bethune, Pandora Press, Nov. 2017.
  29.   Dialogue on Cross-culture Exchanges, 跨文化交流访谈Southern Literature Forum Journal,《南方论坛》 Guangxi, China, No. 4 issue, May 2017
  30.   MY Perspectives on Multi-Culturalism, 我看多元文化 China Readers, 《中华读书报》Beijing, China,  Jan.  2017
  31.   Literary Expressions in China-West Cultural Exchanges, 中西文化交流中的文学表达  Essay,  Social Sciences in China Press.  《中国社会科学报》Beijing, China,  Sept. 2016.
  32.   “Unique Interpretation on Feminine Experiences as a New Immigrant”, an dialogue between Yan Li and Wang Hongqi,  peer reviewed article 新移民女性的女性主义经验独特解读, April, May and June issues of Master Pieces Review, a bimonthly journal, 《名作欣赏》China, 2016.
  33.  Dialogue on the Theme of Christianity in Yan Li’s Novels, by Yan Li & Liu Xiaoyi, peer reviewed article,  Journal of Chinese Literature, 《红杉林》 Los Angeles, CA, USA, January issue, 2016.
  34.   Where Do You Live, Little Red Fish?-- Oracle Bones and the Canadian Missionary Family: James Menzies,  小红鱼儿你在哪儿住 , peer reviewed article,  Journal of Xiamen University (Arts & Social Sciences), 《厦门大学学报》 July  2015.
  35.  “Things  Left to Lil”, 尺素天涯 , A Collection of Essays to Commemorate Dr. Norman Bethune, published by China Publishing Group,  September 2015《商务印书馆》
  36.  “Thoughts on Bilingual Creative Writing and Translation”双语创作和翻译的感悟, Forum for Chinese Literature of the World  journal,   《世界华文文学论坛》Issue #1  2015, published by Academy of Social Sciences of Jiangsu Province, China, Feb. 2015
  37.  Why Birds Sing?—12 Letters to a Canadian-French Writer, 嘤其鸣, Essay,   Writer Magazine,  《作家》杂志China, May issue, 2015
  38.  The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune, 尺素天涯  People’s Literature magazine, 《人民文学》杂志Beijing, China, March issue, 2015
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