Born in Scotland, Holton spent his early years in Nigeria. He studied Chinese at the universities of Edinburgh and Durham. He taught at a number of universities in the UK, and taught translation for ten years at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He began publishing his Scots translations of the classic Ming novel Shuihu Zhuan (Water margin) in 1981, and is currently the only publishing Chinese-Scots translator in the world.;Chu received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. He worked as Assistant Editor of Renditions for more than a decade before he joined the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1994 as Professor at the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies.