2012 Honorary Doctorate Conferred by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Professor Leung Ping-kwan

Ping-kwan Leung
Leung Ping-kwan (photo: Frank Brüderli)

The University of Zurich’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has conferred an honorary doctorate on Professor Leung Ping-kwan. This is in recognition of his services to Chinese literature from Hong Kong and its international reputation, and for promoting intercultural dialogue between China and Switzerland.

Only a few months after his birth in 1949, Leung Ping-kwan settled with his parents and grandparents in what was then the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. In 1970 he earned a bachelor of arts in English and Chinese literature from the Baptist College of Hong Kong. After several years working as a columnist, reporter, and translator for the Express Daily, Grove Magazine, and South China Morning Post, he resumed his studies in 1978, this time in comparative literature at the University of California in San Diego, where he obtained an MA in 1981 and a PhD in 1984. From 1985 to 1997 Leung Ping-kwan was a lecturer, and then senior lecturer in the Department of English Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong. Then he moved to Lingnan University, where he was Professor of Chinese until 2003 before being appointed to his current position of Chair Professor of Comparative Literature. Guest professorships have taken him to universities including Heidelberg, Tokyo, Harvard, and Zurich, where he collaborated with students at the Institute of East Asian Studies to translate Swiss alpine legends into Chinese. This resulted in a volume entitled Legends from the Swiss Alps (2009), which with the support of Swissnex was printed in Hong Kong and successfully presented at international book fairs and events.

Leung Ping-kwan’s rich corpus of scholarly work encompasses publications on the literature, film, and urban culture of Hong Kong, including the monographs Hong Kong Culture (1995) and Hong Kong Literature and Cinema (2005). Since the 1960s, when he started publishing poems under the pseudonym Yesi and rapidly became known for his literary columns, Leung Ping-kwan has brought out eleven volumes of poetry, including Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), an anthology that has been translated into many languages. His novels and short stories include Three Fish (1988), Cities of Memory, Cities of Fabrication (1994), Postcards from Prague (2000), and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He has twice received the Hong Kong arts prize and has been a guest artist in residence in Germany and southern France a number of times. As a translator and literary critic he has played a pioneering role in terms of Chinese engagement with eastern European literature, American underground literature, and Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortázar. Besides Hong Kong, the cities he writes about in his essays and poems include Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw, Zurich, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and Beijing. Leung Ping-kwan has worked with numerous artists, photographers, and others from the arts scene to put on joint international productions and events, including the Food and the City and East West Matters exhibitions shown in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Frankfurt, Bern, and Honolulu.