Work Title: Cao Chung Weighs the Elephant
Work Author(s): Heather Shaw
Byline: Heather Shaw
Visiting Beijing this summer, I was reminded of the books I read to my children when they were little. We lived in Mexico at that time, without television, without video games or DVDs. The picture books we looked at and read again and again were both entertainment objects and learning tools. They were also little colored windows that looked out on other scenes and possibilities.
Oddly, there were very few books published in Mexico by Mexican presses. Almost all of the books in our house came from the Soviet Union or China. They were good translations (unlike the laughable stuff the Chinese have posted in their museums now), in full color, and printed in the country of origin. Every single one of them was a folktale or fable, often with kings and princesses. The illustrations varied widely from the stylized Disney-kingdom cartoonish, to delicate ink drawings of Qing dynasty life, to the bearish forests of old Russia.
Although I couldn't find Russia anywhere at the 2007 Beijing International Book Fair (even though they were last year's guest of honor), Chinese publishing was flourishing. Poetry, fiction, history, language---and the art books were gorgeous, diverse, and beautifully produced. In fact, Chinese publishing is so enormous, rich, and hungry that foreign rights agents were lining up to get a foot in the door of this market of more than 300 million children and teens, not to mention the additional 20 million college-aged students.
In ForeWord's final issue of 2007, we have chosen to feature literature of the...