Renee Liang 梁文蔚


NameRenee Liang 梁文蔚 (she/her)
Also known asRenee Wen-Wei Liang
Country of BirthAotearoa
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
EthnicitiesChinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Hakka)
ArtformTheatre, Literature, Screen
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Renee Liang is a second-generation Cantonese poet, playwright, writer and dramaturg whose work explores family dynamics, identity and belonging, weaving intimate narratives with contemporary sociocultural narratives and historical moments in Aotearoa.

Liang was born in Tāmaki Makaurau as the oldest of three daughters, to parents who had left China during the war and grown up in Hong Kong, before moving to Aotearoa in the 1970s. Liang’s name 文蔚 (Wen-Wei) translates to ‘literary blossom’, a name her paternal grandfather chose because “our family has always been top heavy with medics and scientists so he thought he’d signal a change with his first grandchild”. Liang did become a paediatrician, and it wasn’t until after medical school that she returned to poetry as a way to deal with losing her partner, taking part in performance poetry events as a ‘slam mistress’, MC-ing at Poetry Live, completing a master’s in creative writing during which she wrote her first novel, and publishing three collections of poetry: Chinglish (2008), Banana (2008) and Cardiac Cycle (2008).

Liang also started writing plays around this time. Her first play, Lantern (2009) — which she has described as little vignettes about racism” is set during Chinese New Year against the backdrop of a failing marriage. The play was praised for having “a strong command of poetic imagery” though critics noted it had more of a literary quality that “did not translate well to the stage” and was most compelling when it was “no longer a play just for voices”. Liang went on to write a number of other plays, including The First Asian AB (2011), Under The Same Moon (2015), which toured NZ with Arts on Tour, and The Quiet Room (2013), which followed a teenager dealing with terminal leukaemia and was awarded the NZ Writers Guild SWANZ (Script Writer Awards New Zealand) Award for Best Play in 2016. Critically, this play represented a shift away from writing about her cultural identity. “I never asked to be a cultural ambassador,” Liang commented in an interview with Kristen Ng in 2014, also remarking that she hopes Lantern will date over time.

In 2015, Liang was invited by Auckland Arts Festival to adapt her play The Bone Feeder (2010) into a multilingual Cantonese, Māori and English opera with composer Gareth Farr. The work tells the story of the SS Ventnor, a ship that was attempting to sail back to China in 1902 with the bodies of 499 Chinese goldminers when it sank in the Hokianga Harbour. “I wasn’t very much of an opera fan,” Liang admitted in an interview with RNZ, though she has since grown to appreciate the form. Core to the work was an exploration of a Chinese diaspora experience. “Essentially, how do you decide where you belong? What’s the process of realising where you belong?”

In addition to her writing work, Liang has spearheaded a recurring month-long community writing workshop for migrants called New Kiwi Women Write Their Stories through which a number of New Beginnings anthologies have been published. In addition to this, she runs The Kitchen, a storytelling initiative in community kitchens.

Liang graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Medicine (1996), a Master of Creative Writing (2007), a Certificate of Proficiency in Population Health (2008) and a Postgraduate Diploma of Arts (Theatre) (2009). In 2018, she was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to the arts. In addition to being an artist and clinician, she has led the Asian theme for Growing Up In NZ since 2008 and is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Auckland, working to understand the lived experiences of ethnic minority youth. Liang currently sits on the Policy and Advisory Committee Aotearoa (Royal Australasian College of Physicians), Film and Literature Board of Review, and Emerging Pacific Leaders’ Dialogue Committee.


Key works / presentations


2024 — Moon Dragon (Penguin Random House)
2019 — When We Remember To Breathe: Mess, Magic and Mothering with Michele Powles (Magpie Pulp)
2010 — Towards the Cyclone (Monster Fish Publishing)
2009 — Making Time (self-published with Meng Koach)
2008 — Cardiac Cycle, illustrated by Cat Auburn (Monster Fish Publishing)
2008 — Banana (Monster Fish Publishing)
2008 — Chinglish (Soapbox Press)

As editor:

2015 — New Fights: writing from Kiwi migrant women (Monster Fish Publishing)
2012–ongoing — New Beginnings: new Kiwi women write their stories (Monster Fish Publishing, six volumes to date)


2019 — Sofija's Garden
2017 — The Bone Feeder (opera)
2017 — Dominion Road the Musical
2015 — The Two Farting Sisters
2015 — Under the Same Moon
2015 — Bubblelands
2013 — The Quiet Room
2011 — The First Asian AB
2010 — The Bone Feeder
2009 — Lantern


2024 — What Will I Be Today
2017 — For the Light (co-writer)
2012 — Tongariro
2010 — Tide

Key awards

2018 — Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the arts

2018 — NEXT Woman of the Year Awards: Arts and Culture

2018 — D’Arcy Writers Grant

2017 — Play by Play Award for Diversity (Golden Threads)

2016 — NZ Writers Guild SWANZ (Script Writer Awards New Zealand) Award for Best Play (The Quiet Room)

2012 — NZ Chinese Society (Auckland Branch) Senior Achievement award

2012 — Royal Society Manhire Prize in Science Writing for Creative Non-Fiction

2010 — Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader Award

Related entries

Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


Red papercut image of three women of different generations

Under the Same Moon programme, 2015

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Renee Liang, 'The Stove', short story published in the New Zealand Listener, 22 Sep 2007

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The Quiet Room programme, 2013

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Close-up image of poet Gregory Kan against a window

Sunday cover story: A Different Perspective: Meet the Chinese-NZ writers refreshing our literary scene, 10 May 2020

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An illustrated silhouette of a woman holding a mic and a whip against an aqua background

Renee Liang, poster from when she hosted slam events as a slam mistress, date unknown

A face made from white rice with bright red lips

Native Alienz programme, 2009

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Two hands holding a red chinese lantern with a map of New Zealand painted on it in yellow

Lantern programme, 2009

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Funky Oriental Beats programme, 2009

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Funky Oriental Beats programme, 2008

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