LI Yao

Literary translator

About This Project

I embarked on the translation of literature in 1978. By 1980, I had translated a number of works into Chinese, but I was in the dark about Australian literature. The information I could get at that time was scarce, especially where I was based in Inner Mongolia. It was difficult to keep abreast of the world. Just when I was at a loss about what to do, I happened to meet Alison Hewitt, an English teacher from the University of Western Australia who was working at Inner Mongolia University.


Alison gave me some books that she had brought over from Australia. She recommended short stories by the famous Australian writer Henry Lawson and The Tree of Man, an important book by the 1973 Nobel Prize-winner, Patrick White.


This was my first exposure to Australian literature. I was ecstatic. I studied the texts day and night. Soon, my translations of short stories, including Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife, were published and I began to translate The Tree of Man in cooperation with Hu Wenzhong, which was published by Shanghai Translation Publishing House in 1991.


I have been engaged in the translation of Australian literature for nearly four decades. When I met Alison again in 2013, I showed her the books she sent me over 30 years ago and the letters she wrote to me. When the University of Sydney awarded me an honorary doctorate in literature in April 2014, she flew to Sydney for the ceremony.


Li Yao is Visiting Professor, Australian Studies Centre, Beijing Foreign Studies University.

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