Jan Walls received his Ph.D. from Indiana University at Bloomington in Chinese and Japanese Language, Literature and Folklore in 1970; his dissertation examined the poetry of Yü Hsüan-Chi. From 1970 to 1978, Walls was a professor at the University of British Columbia, and from 1978 to 1985 he was a Professor of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria. From 1981 to 1983 Walls was First Secretary of Scientific and Cultural Affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. He then served as the Vice President of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada. In 1987 he joined Simon Fraser University where he founded the David Lam Centre for International Communication and the Asia-Canada programme. He has conducted research in Chinese language and literature, and on cross-cultural translation and localization.

Walls’ publications include a collection of Chinese folklore, Chinese language textbooks, and East-West identities. He retired as an emeritus professor of Humanities in 2006 but is active in the scholarly community. He has been a member of the David Lam Centre’s steering committee since his retirement and from 2004 to 2011 he served as the director of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia. His scholarship and service to the community were recognized by the Governor General twice; he was awarded the Confederation Medal in 1992 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.