Building Cultural Bridges: Arabic-Chinese Comparative Literature

Comparative studies, Arabic-Chinese, Comparative literature, Bridge in Benghazi, NH53, Flickr

Wen-chin Ouyang, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature

Wen-chin Ouyang, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature writes:

I was born in Taiwan but raised in Libya. I attended my first university lecture on pre-Islamic Arabic poetry at eighteen. The Professor who taught the course looked at me and asked, ‘Where are you from?’, and when he heard that I was Chinese from Taiwan and could read and write Chinese, he looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘You will build cultural bridges between the Arabs and Chinese’. I have taken his words to heart and have been pursuing Arabic-Chinese comparative studies since then, from Libya to the US and now the UK.

Throughout my career, I have been thinking of ways to bring together Arabic and Chinese literature and cultures and am now considering the Silk Road as a framework for both comparative literature and world literature. The Silk Road, which is in a variety of academic, political and cultural programmes around the world a metaphor for a form of globalization that predated the twentieth century and for the strategic importance of Central Asia today, can serve as a non-Eurocentric framework in the study of cross-cultural interactions and developments.

Silk Road, 1992
(Photo: fdecomite, Flickr)

My research encompasses the classical, popular and modern as well as the image, word and sound, and I try to draw out the uniqueness of each element in Arabic literature and at the same relate them to each other and to the broader local and global contexts of the production of literature and culture.

My favourite activity in class is to be able to show students how motifs travel across space, time and genres, and how the texts we read all speak to each other.

Wen-chin Ouyang is author of:

  • Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel: Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition (Edinburgh University Press, 2013)
  • Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel: Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)
  • Literary Criticism in Medieval Arabic Islamic Culture: The Making of a Tradition (Edinburgh University Press, 1997)

She has published widely on The Thousand and One Nights, often in comparison with classical and modern Arabic narrative traditions, European and Hollywood cinema, magic realism, and Chinese storytelling:


Thousand and one nights, las mil y una noches, comparative literature, comparative studies, Arabic-Chinese, Wen-chin Ouyang
The Thousand and One Nights
  • The Arabian Nights: An Anthology

 (London:  Random House – Everyman’s Library, 2014)


  • A Companion to Magical Realism (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2005)
  • New Perspectives on Arabian Nights (Routledge, 2005)

 Other activities:

Further Information:

MA Comparative Literature (Africa/Asia)

MA Palestine Studies

Taught courses, publications and profile




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