Professor Chia-Ying Chao-Yeh
Director, Institute for Chinese Classical Culture
Jiaying Yeh, born in 1924 in Beijing, is a renowned Chinese-Canadian scholar of Chinese poetry and classical literature who has taught for more than seventy years and inspired many generations of students in Canada, China and around the world. Her teaching has had a profound influence on the research of Chinese classical literature, with many of her students becoming leading scholars and experts in the field. Since 1993, Yeh has served as the Director of the Institute for Chinese Classical Culture at Nankai University, a partner of the University of Alberta. In 2014, she was named “The Most Influential Figure for Promoting Chinese Classics Abroad” by the Yuelu Academy of Classical Learning and the Phoenix TV network, one of the largest and most well-known Chinese language media networks in the world. She was also named the “Glory of China – Person of the Year 2013”, was awarded one of the first “Lifetime Achievement Awards in Chinese Poetry” in 2008 and was elected “Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada” in 1991.
orn into a traditional family, Yeh was initially not permitted to attend school. However, her grandfather allowed her to study Chinese characters and poetry at home. At the age of 11, she was enrolled at a local high school and began to write poetry under the guidance of her uncle. She attended Fu Jen Catholic University from 1941 – 1945 in the Department of Chinese Language, with a major in Chinese Classical Literature. At Fu Jen, she studied under Professor Gu Sui, a notable scholar in Chinese classical literature. This was a formative experience that intensified her dedication to her studies in Chinese literature. Yeh’s personal story exemplifies the virtues of ci poetry, which according to her is “born out of the need to express the difficulties of life” and “restrained by form, but resilient in spirit”. She overcame numerous struggles as she pursued her studies in Chinese classical literature, including her family’s initial resistance to her schooling, a brief period of political imprisonment in Taiwan, and the loss of her eldest daughter and son-in-law. Throughout her career, Yeh has served as Professor of Chinese Literature at the University of British Columbia (1969-1989), completed visiting Professorships at Harvard University and the University of Michigan (1960s), and has taught at the National Taiwan University (1954), Tamkang University (1950s) and Fu Jen Catholic University (1950s). She is also a member of the Central Research Institute of Culture and History in China.
Professor Yeh has acquired a remarkable reputation within China and abroad. Her achievements have been acknowledged by groups and individuals ranging from the Royal Society of Canada to former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. She has written dozens of books that discuss and review the Chinese classical literature, including a book published in English: Studies in Chinese Poetry. Her Chinese-language publications include A Collection of Jialing’s Shi and Ci Manuscript, A Modern View of Chinese Ci Poetry, Essays on Ci Poetry by Famous Poets in the Qing Dynasty, and A Discussion of Du Fu’s Eight Poems Inspired by Autumn. She continues to be driven by her love for the field of Chinese classical literature, frequently travelling between China and Canada to conduct lectures and speak to students.