Associate Professor; Coordinator, Chinese Language Program, East Asian Studies; Director, Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo

Yan Li in front of bookshelf


Master of Arts, History, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario 1987-1990

• Thesis title: An American Missionary Compound in Baoding, North China, During the Boxers’ Rebellion in 1900,   Supervisor:  Dr. Saudi

Master of Law, Journalism, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China 1984-1987

• Thesis title: Issues in Presenting Everyday Life in China to Overseas Readers.    Supervisor:  Rui Wanru

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

Awards, Distinctions and Fellowships

  • 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 and 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

  • As Vice-President, Chinese Pen Society of Canada, 2002-2007, organized a number of literature events in Toronto.
  • As judge for national and provincial Chinese contests, 2005-2015
  • As 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.

Research Interests

My research interest covers the fields in Chinese history, literature, comparative literatures, bilingual writings, and English-Chinese translations and I have organized international conferences since 2008:

  • 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.


Single Authored Books

  1. The Last Love Letter from Norman BethuneA Collection of Essays,  (The Commercial Press, Beijing,  2015)  300 pp.
  2.  Sound of Flute at Luliang’s Night --- A Collection of Short Stories, (The Commercial Press, Beijing, 2015)  300 pp.
  3. The Deep   (People’s Literature Publishing House, Beijing, July 2013)  280 pp.
  4.  Lily in the Snow   (Women's Press, Toronto, Feb. 2010), 380 pp.
  5.  Red Duck Weed  (Chinese version of Daughters of the Red Land)   - (Writers  Publishing House, Beijing, China, Jan. 2010),  322 pp.
  6.  The Lambs of Mapleton, A collection of stories (Shanghai People's Publishing House, Shanghai, July 2008), 350 pp.
  7.  Married to the West Wind  1st edition (Mirror Books, Hong Kong, 1998) , 348  pp.
  8.  Married to the West Wind - Revised  edition (Arts and Literature Press, Beijing, July  2000),  346 pp.
  9. Daughters of the Red Land –  (Sister Vision Press, Toronto, Nov. 1995), 319 pp.
  10. The Living White House –  (New China Press, Beijing, 1988), 129 pp.

Co-authored Books:

1.   Chinese Literature: A Reader  ed. by  Jianqing Tang and Yan Li, (Nanjing University Press, Nanjing, China, March 201) 580 pp.

2.  Along the Silk Road, Essays on History, Literature, and Culture in China, ed. by M. Darrol Bryant, Yan Li, and Judith Maclean Miller  (Pandora Press, Nov. 2011)  197 pp.

Sample Essays & Stories:

  1. The Stuff Left to Lil, 7,000 words, China Publishing Group,  September 2015,
  2. Where Do You Live, Little Red Fish?-- Oracle Bones and the Canadian Missionary Family,  30,000  words, Journal of Xiamen University(Arts & Social Sciences), October  2015
  3. “Thoughts on Bilingual Creative Writing and Translation”,  8,500 words,  Forum for Chinese Literature of the World  journal,   Issue #1  2015, published by Academy of Social Sciences of Jiangsu Province, China
  4. Why Birds Sing?—12 Letters to a Canadian-French Writer,  45,000 words,  Writer Magazine,  China, May issue, 2015
  5. The Last Love Letter from Norman Bethune,  40,000 words, People’s Literature magazine, Beijing, China, March issue, 2015
  6. Geese and Turtle, on Mother’s Day, The World Journal, June 25, 2014 China Readers Press June 18, 2014
  7.  Prof. Bryant in China,        Writer Magazine, China, May 2014 issue The World Journal, July 28-29, 2014
  8.  The Spiders’ Bar,    Writer Magazine, China, May 2014 issue The World Journal, June 10-11, 2014
  1.  The Beggars Are no Easy ,  The World Journal,   May 3,  2014
  2.   The Girl of Liangshan Mountain, The World Journal, March 29, 2014
  3.   How Was My Story Bing Plagiarized,  China Readers Press March 19, 2014
  4.   Madam Nanny,     The World Journal,  Feb. 11, 2014
  5.   His Political Strategy,    The World Journal, Fiction Page, Dec. 4, 2013
  6.  Poppy Flowers and the Tunnels Below,  The World Journal,   Nov. 30, 2013,  Literature & Arts Press, Jan. 10, 2014
  7.  Wisdom Acquired in Trips, The World Journal,   Nov. 3,  2013
  8.   Miller Left,  Guangming Daily, China,   Nov. 8, 2013
  9.   Human Desires ,  The World Journal,   Sept. 28, 2013, Revised version:  China Readers Press,  Nov. 6,  2013
  10.  Making Chinese Literature  Accessible to Overseas ReadersPeople’s    Daily, August 30, 2013
  11.  The Return Flight,  China Readers, Feb. 6, 2013
  12.   Under the Zhongnan Mountain, The World Journal, October 28, 2012,  Writer magazine, April Issue, 2013
  13.   The Menzies in China: An Unforgettable Family in Sino-Canadian    History, Along the Silk Road, Essays on History, Literature, and Culture in China, 6: 89-101,  2011
  14.   The Music of Bamboo Flute , The World Journal, November 7-23, 2011, People’s Literature magazine, Beijing,  October 2011
  15.  My Remote Friend, The World Journal, July 24-25, 2011, Writers magazine, August, 2011
  16.   Reflections at Tianjin, The World Journal, July 19, 2011, July 6, China  Readers Digest
  17.  The Clarinet, The World Journal, June 18-19, 2011
  18.   Rosaline’s  China, The World Journal, Feb. 10-11, 2011
  19.   Aunty Lin’s City, The World Journal, January 12, 2010
  20.   The Happy Funeral, Literature magazine, Hunan, China, June 2009
  21.   Danny’s Choice, Literature magazine, Hunan, June 2009 pp. 71
  22.   Ages Ignored, The World Journal, August, 2004
  23.   My Canadian Students, The World Journal,  June, 2004
  24.   Impressions of Taiwan, The World Journal,  September, 2002
  25.   Reunion, The World Journal, July, 2002
  26.   The Small Village under the Great Wall, The World Journal, Feb. 12-    14, 2002,
  27.   To Live and To Survive, Wen Hui Press,  Shanghai, 2002   pp. 248-250
  28.   The Lambs, The World Journal, Jan-Feb. 2002
  29.   Forever, The World Journal, 2001
  30.   Homeland,  The World Journal, July 3-6, 2001
  31.   Looking Back, The World Journal, July 10-17, 2001
  32.   The Warning, Vox Feminarum Magazine, Waterloo, March 1998, pp. 47-50
  33.   The Maple City Chinese Women’s Club, ed by Steven Totosy de Sepetnek and Yiu-Nam Leung  , Canadian Culture and Literature and a Taiwan Perspective, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1998, pp. 15-22
  34.   Old Monsters Crawl OutBooks in Canada magazine, Toronto, September 1996,  pp. 15-16
  35.   Two Generations in Sino-Canadian History, Beijing, People’s Daily, Oct. 4, 1988
  36.   First Shakespeare’s Festival in China, Beijing, Outlook Magazine English Edition  Issue No. 1,1986
  37.   City Sights through Minority Eyes, Beijing, China Daily 1987
  38.   Giving Teachers Their Due, Beijing, Outlook Magazine, English Edition, 1987
  39.   Match Makers Put Disabled in Touch, Beijing, China Daily, 1986
  40.   KMT Generals in the War, Beijing, China Daily, 1986
  41.   Model Teacher and Her Students, Beijing, China Daily, 1986
  42.   Tricycle Workers in Beijing,  Beijing, China Daily, 1986


Major Presentations and Public Readings

  1. “Comparative Creative Writing in Chinese and English”,  at Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA, May 3, 2015
  2. “From the Deep”, lecture on creative writing and translating,  at Uof T Scarborough Campus, March 27, 2015.
  3. “Thoughts on Promoting Chinese Culture Overseas ”, Beijing University of Economics and Business, Dec. 17, 2014, Beijing, China.
  4. “Comparative Writings and Teaching”, Xiamen University, Fujian, China, Dec. 6, 2014.
  5. “Thoughts on Creative Writing”, Nanchang University,  Jiangxi, China, Nov. 15, 2014.
  6. “Could We Untie Knots by Pen Point? ”, presented at the 1st World Conference on Overseas Chinese Literature, Nov. 19, 2014, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
  7. Keynote speaker, China Forum, 35th International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront Toronto, October 26, 2014
  8. Reading of Lily in the Snow at “Around the World in 60 Minutes”, 35th International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront Toronto, Oct. 26, 2014
  9. Acceptance of Chinese Culture Overseas”,  Nanjing, Jiangsu Province International Cultural Exchange Center, July 10, 2014.
  10. “Thoughts on Teaching Chinese Culture Overseas ”, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan,  China,  December 11-12, 2013
  11. “Practices and Thoughts on Bilingual Creative Writing”, at The 5th Chinese Bridge Conference on Chinese Teaching and Learning, McGill University, Montreal, August 16-17, 2013. Chairing one session at the conference.
  12. Chinese Literature in the Eyes of Canadian Readers”,  keynote speaker at Lu Xun Literature Institute, Beijing, China, June 28, 2013
  13. “From Daughters of the Red Land to Lily in the Snow”, keynote speaker at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, March 8, 2013
  14. “Feature Cultural Activities Conducted by the CI at UW”,  The 7th Confucius Institute World Conference, Beijing, China, December 17, 2012
  15.   “Considerations in Composing the textbook”: Chinese Literature-A Reader, McGill University, Montreal, Canada,  August 8, 2012
  16.  “The Challenges and Attraction of Bilingual Writing”,  keynote speaker at Nanjing University, Canadian Studies Center, China, May 22, 2012
  17. Economic Development and Culture Environment”, International Writers Camp, Tianjin, China, June 10, 2011
  18.  “Writing as a Bilingual Writer”, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China, December 17, 2010
  19. “The Feasibility of Bilingual Writing”, Nankai University, Tianjin, China, December 10, 2010
  20. Award Winning Novels by Chinese-Canadian Authors”, Dept. of Chinese,  Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, December, 2010
  21. “Experiences in Editing Suitable Textbooks to Teach Chinese Literature Overseas”, Conference on Teaching Chinese to Foreign Students, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, December 2010
  22. “About Lily in the Snow”, Windsor Book Festival, Windsor, Canada, Nov. 6, 2010
  23. Introduction of  Canadian Chinese Author’s English Works”,  Literature Institute, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, July 7, 2010
  24.  “Chinese Canadian Women Writers and their English Works”,  Society for Women’s Studies, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China, July 2010
  25. “My Creative Writing in Canada”,  Dept. Of Chinese,  Beijing University, April 10, 2010
  26.   “My Story as A New Immigrant Woman in Canada”, Toronto City Hall, Keynote Speaker at the event awarding outstanding Chinese immigrant women, March 8, 2010
  27. Not a Smooth Journey”, Keynote speaker at International Women’s Day, University of Waterloo, March 5, 2009
  28. “Overseas Chinese Women Writers”, Toronto Public Library, 2001
  29. Chinese Women in Canada”, 2nd International Conference on Canadian Studies, Tsinghua University, Taiwan, April 1997
  30.  “Creative Writing as a Journalist”, Canadian Woman Journalists Conference, Ottawa, October 1996
  31. Student Movements in Mao’s China”, Canadian Learned Society Convention, Windsor, Canada, July 1988

Contact Information

Tel: 519-884-4404 Ext. 28648
University of Waterloo

Profiles by type