SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Ghost Composer/ Ghost Translator

Yang Lian
Yang Lian and Brian Holton

Date: 21 March 2017Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 21 March 2017Time: 4:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B111

Type of Event: Poetry Reading

In conversation with Yang Lian and Brian Holton.

Poetry reading and discussion of the creative journey of writing and translating.


Yang Lian is one of the most representative voices of contemporary Chinese poetry. Born in Berna, Switzerland, he grew up in Beijing, starting to write poetry after the death of his mother in 1976. He soon became one of the leading figures of the Misty poetry, contributing to the then underground literary journal Jintian (Today). Leaving China in 1988, and publicly condemning the Chinese government's crackdown in Tian'anmen in 1989, Yang Lian remained in exile until 1993. He made London his home for more than 20 years, then recently moved to Berlin.

His work includes several poetry collections: Dead in Exile (1989), Masks & Crocodile (1990), Non-person Singular (1995), Yi (2002), Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems by Yang Lian (1999); Notes of a Blissful Ghost (2002); Concentric Circles (2006); Lee Valley (2009). He will read from his forthcoming collection Narrative Poem (2017).  

Brian Holton is a prizewinning translator from Chinese. Having translated most of Yang Lian’s work, he has become Yang’s voice in English. Born in the Scottish Borders, he spent his early childhood in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied Chinese at the University of Edinburgh, where he obtained his MA hons in Chinese Studies. Holton has translated pre-modern and contemporary Chinese literature into both Scots and English and he is also a prizewinning poet. His most recent book, Staunin Ma Lane (2016) is a collection of classical Chinese poetry translated into Scots and English. For many years Holton taught Chinese language and literature and Translation in the UK and later taught translation at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, New England, and at the Bogliasco Centre, Genoa.

This event is organised by Dr Cosima Bruno and it is supported by:

SOAS Faculty of Languages and Cultures
SOAS Department of China and Inner Asia
SOAS China Institute
SOAS Centre of Translation Studies
SOAS Centre for Postcolonial Literatures

Organiser: Dr Cosima Bruno

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4421