Key role in Chinese biblical scholarship began, and continues, at Regent College

Dr. Grace Hui Liang has returned to Regent College to teach after studying here as a PhD student 20 years ago.

Dr. Grace Hui Liang grew to love Christian and biblical theology at Regent College as a visiting PhD student from China 20 years ago. Following many years at a leading Chinese university, she has returned to teach at Regent. Following is a portion of an interview recently posted on the school’s website.

This April, we were thrilled to announce the hiring of Regent’s newest full-time faculty member, Grace Hui Liang, as director of the Chinese Studies Program and associate professor of Chinese Christian Studies.

Since then she has hit the ground running as the leader of one of Regent’s most dynamic programs. Dr. Liang’s appointment at Regent is the most recent in a string of landmark achievements contributing to the development of Chinese biblical scholarship. . . .

In 2007, Dr. Liang was hired as associate professor at the School of Humanities at Zhejiang University, where she worked until her hiring at Regent. She also served as senior research fellow of the Key Institute of Christianity and Cross-cultural Studies at Zhejiang University for many years.

During this time she continued to prove herself as a prolific and passionate contributor to Chinese biblical scholarship.

She has authored over 50 articles and several monographs, and has been deeply involved with leading Chinese academic journals. On mainland China she has been involved with Biblical Literature Studies and the Regent Review of Christian Thought, and in Hong Kong with Logos & Pneuma: Chinese Journal of Theology. She was also chief editor of The Biblical Library Series, which produced over 30 books since 2009, making it the largest series of books on biblical studies published in mainland China.

Naturally, Dr. Liang has had a lot on her plate this semester, but she was gracious enough to find time to sit down and answer a few of our questions.

Welcome to Vancouver! We’re so glad to have you. How has your transition to living here been?

It is my great honour to return back here. Vancouver is like my second hometown. Although I have not come back to visit this lovely city often in the past 20 years, I feel it always inhabits my heart. It is the place where I not only launched my academic career into biblical studies, but also started my spiritual journey as a Christian.

So my transition to living here is like a traveller going back home after a long trip. Thanks to our Lord. With His guidance, I found a lovely place for my family to live very smoothly before we landed here.

And the faculty and staff of Regent College have also provided a lot of assistance for my move to Vancouver. I also appreciate the support from my colleagues, relatives, and friends both at home and abroad. Without their care and love, I could not have transferred into my new position at Regent so quickly.

How did you first become interested in Christian and biblical theology?

My interest in Christian and biblical theology could be traced to the first time when I came in contact with Regent as a doctoral student from Zhejiang University. I was selected to participate in the Regent College-Chinese Mainland University Joint Training Program for PhD students in the academic year of 1999 – 2000.

In those days, the study of the Christian religion in China was concentrated in the cultural, social and political aspects. As a late-comer to the Chinese academic marketplace, biblical studies accounted for a very small proportion of published articles and monographs.

My one-year doctoral study at Regent gave me an unusual opportunity to be exposed to the profound spiritual and academic traditions laid down by eminent Christian scholars like James Houston, J.I. Packer, Bruce Waltke, Gordon Fee and others in Regent College.

I especially benefited from two key biblical courses taught by professor Iain Provan and professor Rikk Watts, which developed my strong interest in biblical studies. Later I chose Old Testament wisdom literature as my doctoral thesis topic and future research area.

With the professional biblical training and the rich collection of academic material I brought back from Regent, I successfully passed my doctoral examination and was awarded a PhD from Zhejiang University in 2002. This was the first doctoral dissertation on the study of the Hebrew Bible in mainland China since China’s “reform and opening up” in 1978.

In sum, Regent College provides a crucial starting point for my teaching and research in the area of theological and biblical studies. I have been since constantly inspired and encouraged by Regent’s tradition to promote the same tradition of Christian study in mainland China.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?

Early research on the Bible in China was mostly preoccupied with historical studies with emphases in the areas of mission studies, history of Christianity in China or history of cultural exchange between China and the West. I feel very blessed that I have not only witnessed the development of Chinese biblical studies during the past two decades, but also made significant contributions to the teaching and research of the Bible in mainland China from the early stage of my career till now.

The primary place I was able to contribute to this development was at Zhejiang University, one of the top three mainland Chinese universities, where I returned in 2005 after my advanced study and research abroad. I started to develop many biblical courses there, and some of them are the earliest biblical curricula on OT studies and biblical interpretation offered in mainland Chinese universities.

Also at Zhejiang University, I was able to lead the largest study group of Chinese doctoral and graduate students in biblical studies in mainland China. Although limited by the student’s recruitment size, I supervised about a dozen PhD candidates when I was appointed as “doctoral supervisor” by Zhejiang University in 2011. Some of them are becoming some of the best young biblical scholars of a new generation in China after graduation.

Can you tell me a bit about your vision for the Chinese Studies Program (CSP)? What do you hope to accomplish in your new role here at Regent?

With the constant efforts made by professor Edwin Hui, the dean of the CSP in the past three decades, CSP has carried on the mission in four spheres:

  • the Program for the Joint-Training of Mainland Chinese PhD Students in Christian/Religious Studies (JTPHDS);
  • the Teaching Enhancement Project for Young Scholars in Mainland Chinese Universities (TEP);
  • the publication of CSP’s journal, Regent Review of Christian Thought; and
  • CSP’s Summer School in China.

These important projects of CSP have met the rising needs from mainland Chinese academia in the field of Christian Studies and kept Regent College as the best known and most widely respected western institution in China.

As the new director of the CSP, my vision is that I will promote the same tradition of supervision of Chinese doctoral students and management of those projects under the guidance of professor Hui. For the joint education project with leading Chinese universities, there are more than 250 doctoral students that have participated in the program to date.

Since most of them approached Christian studies from theological and philosophical perspectives as PhD students in the philosophy departments in China, I will encourage more students in the area of biblical studies to apply to the JTPHDS and learn from the prominent biblical faculty of Regent College.

Re-posted and abridged by permission; go here for the full interview.

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