The world’s biggest kung fu fantasy writer, Jin Yong enjoys huge popularity in the Chinese-speaking world. In the west, however, his name is barely known, largely due to the complexity of the world he has created and the puzzle that has posed for translators.
Now, for the first time, the beginning of his extraordinarily popular series, Legends of the Condor Heroes, has been translated into English for a mainstream readership. It is a task that has already defeated several translators, yet Anna Holmwood, 32, from Edinburgh has managed it – or at least the first volume. Her British publisher, MacLehose Press, plans a 12-volume series, with Holmwood’s first volume, A Hero Born, due out in February.
Beijing is now introducing new measures to restrict access to foreign books and publications as it opens a new front in its battle to limit outside influence on Chinese society.
Regulators have given verbal instructions to publishers to limit the number of children’s books written by foreign authors made available in China, according to three people with knowledge of the order. The decision would reduce the thousands of children’s titles published in Chinese translation every year to just a few hundred, one of them said.
Taobao, one of China’s biggest ecommerce sites and owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba, said on Friday it would prohibit the sale of all foreign publications on its platform by vendors not licensed by the government.
China’s publishers of children’s books have burst on to the international publishing scene as major players. Book Expo America in New York has had a significant Chinese presence since 2015, while Italy’s Bologna Book Fair, the premier childrens lit event in the book industry, has declared China itsguest of honor for 2018.
This past decade has become known as the golden age of publishing of children’s books in China. In 2003, the country had only 20 publishers specializing in children’s books. That number now has jumped to more than580. Some may consider the market saturated, but what we are seeing now is a switch to emphasizing quality over quantity and a focus on producing more original content.
In the year 2000, Harry Potter was translated into Chinese, sparking a major trend in importing translated children’s books from the West. In the years that followed, many foreign works became staples of children’s bookshelves, whether in translation or used for English practice.
Popular titles include Peppa Pig (which my neighbor’s five-year-old son in Changzhou absolutely loved), The Magic School Bus picture book, and Disney Baby Story Book. While these continue to outsell local works, there are a good number of Chinese authors of children’s books enjoying significant success. These include Shen Shixi, author of Dream of Being a Wolf King and a series of Animal Novels, and Leiou Huanxiang, author of Monster Master and Charlie IX & Dodomo. As the market continues to grow, I expect to see more and more Chinese authors stepping up to create quality content for kids.
Winnie-the-Pooh, Peppa Pig, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and even James and his Giant Peach are feeling the heat in China amid reports of a Communist party crackdown on children’s literature.
With about 220 million under-14s and a rapidly growing middle class, China is home to a potentially massive market for children’s picture books. More than 40,000 children’s books were reportedly published here last year alone.
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But with an aggressive Communist party campaign against supposedly hostile western ideas currently underway, foreign storybooks appear to have found themselves in Beijing’s cross hairs.
According to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Chinese publishers have received orders that the number of foreign picture books being printed in China must be slashed.
Storybooks from South Korea and Japan now stood almost no chance of published in China, one publishing source told the newspaper, while the supply of books from other countries would be “very limited”.
Staggering numbers and unusual circumstances are converging to create a bubbling segment: 370 million children under the age of 18, a two-child policy predicted to add at least three million babies annually, and around 580 publishing companies jumping onto the children’s book bandwagon. Additionally, China’s fast-growing middle class—covering 70% of its urban population or roughly 200 million people based on a McKinsey survey—is exerting its market influence by becoming more demanding, discerning, sophisticated, and vocal.Less statistical but nonetheless critical is the growing awareness—and impetus—among Chinese parents, teachers and policymakers to get children to read more, and to read for leisure as opposed to reading in order to pass their examinations. In fact, China’s 2020 education reform policy is pressurizing schools, teachers and parents to seek more reading, learning, and teaching materials to meet reform objectives, which are to reduce homework and standardized exams and move towards an employment-oriented education system. This has created new opportunities for direct imports, co-publishing deals, bilingual editions, and translations.
Novelist Cao Wenxuan, who won the Hans Christian Anderson [sic] Award several days ago — making him the first Chinese writer to do so, revealed his concerns regarding the quality of contemporary children’s books during a press conference at Peking University, Beijing, on Monday.
“There are so many children in China who make great demands for these books. Therefore, the industry attracts a lot of unqualified writers and earns them tremendous amounts of money,” Cao said.
In his remarks, Cao said that he is expecting writers of children’s books to concentrate on their creations rather than on commercial gimmicks.
Good news for book lovers in Beijing: the city’s first 24-hour bookstore, to be a cultural landmark, has been launched by the Sanlian Bookstore. Owned by the China Publishing Group Corporation, Sanlian is a major bookstore in the country. It has started its trial run, and the news has been warmly received by the public.
Beijing bookworms can now become night owls with the opening of the city’s first 24-hour bookstore.
Click through to watch a TV news report (in English) about this Beijing bookstore….