The man bringing Australian literature to Chinese audiences

Professor Li Yao might not be a literary household name in Australia along the likes of Henry Lawson, Colleen McCullough and Thomas Keneally – but without him, the works of some of Australia’s most famous literary icons would be out of reach for international audiences.

For the past 40 years, Professor Li has been translating Australian literature for Chinese audiences. This month – at an event hosted by Western Sydney University’s Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture (ACIAC) – his ten-volume translation of Australian literature will be launched.  
The publication includes works across a variety of genres, and includes winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Commonwealth Writers Prize, and Man Booker Literary Award. It also includes indigenous works such as Carpentaria and The Swan Book by Alexis Wright.  

“I love Australian literature, it is an important pillar of world literature. Over the past four decades, I have nurtured great friendships with many outstanding authors from Australia. In translating their works, my own life has changed immensely,” says Professor Li.

Professor Li says the biggest challenge of translating Australian literature to Chinese has been that Chinese readers know little about Australian writers and culture.  “When I translated my first Australian literary work – a short story by Henry Lawson, more than 30 years ago – Australian literature was still an untouched area in China.  Now, as the relationship between Australia and China gets closer, this is slowly changing. I would say the best known Australian novels in China at the moment would The Thorn Birds and Schindler’s Ark.”  

Before the launch, a panel will discuss the topic of ‘Australian Literature in China’. Panelist Professor Gail Jones from the University’s Writing and Society Research Centre says such a discussion is important as it: “allows us to honour Professor Li’s magnificent work in a public conversation and allows us to exchange ideas, opinions and perspectives on this history.”

“Li Yao’s contribution to Australia-China cultural exchange is genuinely remarkable; in his presence, we can each say a little of what moves and inspires us about the gift of literary translation,” says Professor Jones.

Other speakers on the panel will include Professor Li Yao; Adjunct Professor from the University’s Writing and Society Research Centre; Professor Nicholas Jose, Dean of the School of English and International Studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University Professor Zhang Jian; and Director of Australian Studies Centre, Beijing Foreign Studies University Mr Li Jianjun. Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture (ACIAC) Professor Labao Wang will be the moderator of the Public Conversation.

The ten-volume translational work will be launched by Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover, and Vice President of Beijing Foreign Studies University and President of Chinese Australian Studies Association Professor Sun Youzhong.  

Event Details  

What: Book Launch or Professor Li Yao's Ten-volume Translation of Australian Literature

Date: Thursday, 12 April 2018
Time:  3:00pm - 3:50pm: A public conversation on Australian Literature in China.  4:00pm - 4:20pm: Book launch for Professor Li’s ten-volume translation of Australian literature
Venue: Building EZ, Ground Floor, Room EZ.G.23, Whitlam Institute (Female Orphan School), Western Sydney University Parramatta South Campus (Corner of James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road, Rydalmere)  

Refreshments will be provided  

Limited seats. RSVP Essential. Please RSVP here before 11 April, 2018.


9 April 2018

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer.