IAS Sin Wai Kin Professorship of Chinese Culture
Professor Lianke Yan
Chair Professor, Division of Humanities

Despite being born into poverty as a child of illiterate farmers in Henan Province, China, Prof. Lianke Yan grew up fascinated by literature; it is testament to his determination that today he is an award-winning writer and the author of an extensive body of novels, novellas, short stories, essays and criticisms, acclaimed not just in China but around the world. On leaving school, he joined the People’s Liberation Army, gaining a degree in politics and education from Henan University in 1985, and a degree in literature from the PLA Academy of Art in 1991.

He has been writing fiction since 1979 — not just because he loved writing, but also because being a writer brought “social status” and allowed him to live in the city. Modestly eschewing the notion of talent, he says his inspiration simply comes from the world around him. The reality of day-to-day life and his experiences provide him with fruitful material and countless stories. The result is more than 11 full-length novels, including Lenin’s Kisses, Four Books, Summer Sunset and Years After Years, plus 10 novellas, five volumes of prose and a 17-volume collected works. His works have been translated into more than 20 languages, including English, French, Japanese and Korean. As Visiting Professor at HKUST, Prof. Yan is excited to be teaching science, technology and business students what he calls “the new knowledge of literature”, and encouraging them to write themselves based on their life experiences. He sees it as a two-way opportunity — he gains knowledge from his students and from being in an academic environment in Hong Kong.

Prof. Yan is a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Lu Xun Literary Prize and Lao She Award Literature Prize. He was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, and in 2014 became the first Chinese writer to be awarded the Franz Kafka Literature Prize. He is the recipient of the 2021 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature awarded by the Institute for US-China Issues of the University of Oklahoma in recognition for his “lifelong contributions to world letters”. He is currently a professor at Renmin University in Beijing.