90. Christmas in China

As Christmas 2019 draws to a close, the decorations come down, and the Christmas books go back on the shelf for a few months. In this post, we’ll look back on five different blog/web posts:

1:  Made in China (Caomao and Weixiaoqun)


“Made in China,” by Caomao, illustrated by Xiaoweiqun, in Pipa, Vol. 5, no. 6, November 2017, pp. 13-15. (Cotsen 153521) – Image source: Cotsen blog

In a timely piece on the Cotsen Children’s Library blog, Minjie introduces a beautifully illustrated story “Made in China”, and, as usual, adds her own insights and extra information that helps us read between the lines. Minjie writes:

“Made in China” is an exquisitely composed essay-story, contrasting two carefully edited images of life in an old-fashioned town before and after it became China’s so-called “Christmas Village.” As the manufacturing center for Christmas merchandise, Fotang (佛堂) has an uncanny name, the literal meaning of which is “Buddha’s hall.” The town is administratively part of the city of Yiwu, the seat of the world’s largest small commodities market. Though on a minor scale, the essay recalls Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005), a documentary that traces the life cycle of glittering festival beads from New Orleans back to a factory compound in rural China, where the cheap disposables were made by workers as young as teenage girls fresh out of middle school.

2:  From the Heart (Huang Beijia)

HUANG Beijia 黄蓓佳 was the author of the month for the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing‘s website in December 2019. The chosen short story was 《心声》”From the Heart” – you can read both the Chinese original, and the English translation by Helen on the website.

The story is about a young boy Jingjing, who finds a kindred spirit in Chekhov’s Vanka, in which Vanka writes a letter to his Grandfather at Christmas. It’s a well-known story (Minjie remembers reading it as a child!)

Huang Beijia is China’s nominated author for the Hans Christian Andersen Award 2020, along with nominated illustrator Zhu Chengliang 朱成梁. Good luck to both of them!

3:  Teardrops of a Christmas Tree (Cheng Wei)

When Minjie interviewed Qiuying Lydia Wang in July 2018, and asked about her favourite childhood stories, she chose “Teardrops of A Christmas Tree” by CHENG Wei 程玮. This story was first published in 1981,  when Christmas decorations were rare in China, and an advent calendar brought from overseas was the focus of attention in the classroom. It was first published in Literature and Arts for Adolescents 少年文艺 (Nanjing edition) in 1981 and reprinted in an anthology of Cheng Wei’s short stories White Shells 白色的贝壳 (2008). Read the interview here.

4:  60 Christmas Picture Books in Chinese

This is a selection of picture books available in Chinese (many translated from Europe, the USA and Japan) that was posted online by You shu er 有树儿 in 2018.

Here’s the weblink – and here’s a pdf of the Christmas Books (if you use this pdf in any way, please make sure to credit the author)

5:  28 Christmas decorations to make yourself

Xmas 1

28种买不到的圣诞装饰,我们教你做啊(手残星人都能学会) —  冯驌  — 装修 话题的优秀回答者 — Source: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/20434090

Another Christmas post from the same website as the 60 picture books! You might recognize some of these craft projects, but it’s interesting to see which decorations have appealed to the author’s taste. Here’s the weblink.




89. “My Favourite Children’s Books” – children in China vote for their Top 30 books of 2019

The  “My Favourite Children’s Books” (我最喜爱的童书) titles of 2019 have just been announced. The winning books are selected by children (the first award of its kind in China). [The awards are similar to the annual Children’s Book Awards in the UK – if you’d like to compare, the UK list starts with 50, is shortlisted to 10 – here’s the 2019 list, which has 3 winners and 7 runners-up.]

“My Favourite Children’s Books” was initiated by Shenzhen Children’s Library 深圳少年儿童图书馆 in 2014, and this year’s list was the sixth. The 2019 awards were co-organised by 39 provincial and city libraries. From January 2019, 5455 books were recommended by 129 institutions and 207 individuals. A panel of 9 experts was involved (see below). 100,000 books were purchased and distributed to 312 schools in 39 provinces and cities across China. A total of 1,309,111 votes were cast.

A total of 30 books (2019年我最喜爱的童书30强) have been selected, 10 in each category: literature, picture books, information books. It’s remarkable how many of these are translations from English and other languages, and how the awards appear to boost distribution and sales of the selected books (and sets of the winning books).

This post is based on the online account published on Wechat/Weixin by Tiantian chubanshe (Tomorrow Publishing House), on 28 Oct 2019.  I’ve added links to all the Chinese books, as listed on the Shenzhen Children’s Library website (which has additional information about the books). I’ve tried to identify the English and foreign titles of these Top 30 books, to make this list more accessible to English readers, and to provide weblinks where possible (many thanks to Minjie Chen for her help). I’ve also created a pdf (see below) showing the covers of all the books, side by side with the covers of the foreign titles.

The expert panel

  • LIN Wenbao 林文宝  (Taiwan) – expert in children’s reading
  • WANG Yizhen 王宜振  – writer of children’s literature, poet
  • ZHOU Mimi 周蜜蜜 – member, Hong Kong Writers Association
  • DING Xiaoqing 丁筱青 – Associate Professor, Yangzhou College of Education
  • GUO Hua 郭骅 – expert in children’s literature and psychology
  • DAI Yingyuan 戴颖媛 – national reading promoter, Shenzhen
  • YAO Haijun 姚海军 – deputy editor, Science Fiction World magazine
  • XI Zhinong 奚志农 – wildlife photographer
  • SHI Jun 史军 – botanist; member, Songshuhui-Association of Science Communicators

(1) Literature Category – Winners


Gold, silver and bronze titles (source of images: Douban)

Gold: [冰] 安德里·斯奈·德纳森/著;[冰]奥丝拉格·琼斯多特尔/绘;刘清彦/译 《蓝色星星的孩子国》(贵州出版集团   贵州人民出版社)-  The Story of the Blue Planet, by Andri Snaer Magnason (Iceland), tr. LIU Qingyan  (total votes: 58,141)

Silver: [美] 米歇尔·奎瓦斯/著;黄鸿砚/译 《我是你的隐形朋友》 (天津出版传媒集团  新蕾出版社)  –  Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, by Michelle Cuevas (USA), tr. HUANG Hongyan  (total votes: 51090)

Bronze: [日] 角野荣子/著;[日]大庭贤哉/绘;魏雯/译 《隧道的森林》(长江出版传媒   长江少年儿童出版社)   –  《トンネルの森1945》 [The Tunnel Through the Woods], by Eiko Kadano (Japan), tr. WEI Wen   (total votes: 45966)

Honorable Mentions:

(2) Picture Book Category – Winners

Gold, silver and bronze titles (source of images: Douban)

Gold: [澳] 娜奥米·亨特/文;[澳]卡伦·伊拉斯谟/图;李剑敏/译, 《可以倾诉的秘密》 (河北出版传媒集团   河北教育出版社)   –  A Secret Safe to Tell, by Naomi Hunter (Australia), tr. Li Jianmin  (total votes: 63035)

Silver: [美] 克雷·莱斯/文图;侯春鹏/译 《捡到一根魔法棍》 (北京师范大学出版集团   北京师范大学出版社) –  The Stick, by Clay Rice (USA), tr. HOU Chunpeng   (total votes: 62406)

Bronze: [俄罗斯] 伊戈尔·欧尼科夫/著;沈念驹/译 《老鼠的房子》 (云南出版集团公司    云南科技出版社)   –  [The Mouse House], by Igor Oleynikov (Russia), tr. Shen Nianju  (total votes: 61042)

Honorable Mentions:

(3) Information Books – Winners

Gold, silver and bronze titles (source of images: Douban)

Gold: 宋大昭 黄巧雯/著;李亚亚/绘  《我与大自然的奇妙相遇·寻觅兽类》 (人民文学出版社  天天出版社)   –    [My Wonderful Encounter with Nature: Looking for Beasts] by SONG Dazhao and HUANG Qiaowen, illus. Li Yaya   (total votes:46981)

Silver: [美] 陈振盼/著绘;何锴/译 《一座岛的600万年》 (长江出版传媒   长江少年儿童出版社)  –  Island: A Story of the Galapagos, by Jason Chin (USA), tr. HE Kai   (total votes: 45633)

Bronze: 光诸/著;光诸 夏小茶/绘 《用两万年修厕所》 (天津出版传媒集团  新蕾出版社)   –  [20,000 years of building toilets], by GUANG Zhu, illus. GUANG Zhu and XIA Xiaocha   (total votes:45477)

Honorable Mentions:

Here’s a pdf (2019 – My Favourite Chinese Books pdf) showing all 30 titles, with their covers, alongside the covers of original foreign books of those titles that have been translated.

88. Two Temples, and Two Approaches to Depicting Religions for Children

Natasha Heller is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, and studies Chinese Buddhism—past and present—in the context of cultural and intellectual history. She’s currently completing a book tentatively titled  Raising Bodhisattvas: Picture Books and Parenting in Modern Taiwan, which looks at children’s literature published by Buddhist organizations in Taiwan in the context of global parenting. We’re delighted that she agreed to share some of her work with us here; you can also follow her on Twitter: @nheller

This past summer, a set of two wordless pictures by illustrator Xu Yurong 許育榮 was on sale in many Taibei bookstores. Both picture books focus on a temple, one Buddhist, the other Daoist, and are told entirely through Xu’s detailed illustrations.


Left: 看見龍山寺 (Longshan Temple) // Right: 永保安康 (Bao an Temple) – both books by Xu Yurong 許育榮, published by Linking Publishing 聯經出版社, 2018. Source of images: Books.com.tw

One of the two books takes as its subject Longshan Temple 看見龍山寺, established in the eighteenth century. For each two-page spread, the reader’s eyes are drawn to a single figure that has been colored in, and so stands out against the black and white line drawings.


On the first page, we see an artist sitting on the steps with his sketch pad. We follow his
gaze, and when we turn the page, see what he was looking at—a tourist with a red backpack taking a photo.


The next page shows us the view through the camera’s lens, which includes another
photographer, his camera aimed upwards.


And so we follow the gaze of various visitors through the temple: the bird on the temple
ceiling, the two students chatting on the steps, a little boy worshipping with his family, a man with palms together, clouds, the statue of Guanyin, a tour guide, another backpack-wearing visitor, a toddler in a stroller, another photographer, the neighborhood cat, and finally a red balloon floating away.


Notice how many of these figures could be classified as tourists, or are visitors who seem to be there out of cultural interest—and indeed this is a heavily touristed temple in Taibei, very often busy and crowded in the way it is depicted here. Although readers see the statue of Guanyin, they see more of the temple architecture and the throngs of people.


The other picture book in this set does something different. It likewise focuses on a temple in Taibei, Bao an gong 保安宮, a Daoist temple first constructed in the nineteenth century based on an earlier shrine. The first pages show the temple bell, but also a small airplane, which may imply that the family shown on the following pages are visitors.


As the visual narrative opens, we see a man and a woman holding hands with a young boy as they approach the temple. As with the earlier book, here black and white line drawings dominate, with the people filled in with colors. Note that the parents are colored in neutrals, while the little boy wears brighter colors of blue and red.


The muted colors continue on the following pages, and we see that the young boy is drawn to the dramatic figures of the lions. They come to life and lead him into the temple, where a guardian deity (men shen 門神) pats him on the head, and lifts him to his shoulders. The guardian deity takes up two pages, and unlike the boy’s parents, is vividly portrayed in a full range of colors. He also looks the child directly in the eyes. After the encounter with the guardian deity, the boy continues to look around the temple, literally drawn into the vibrant depictions in its murals and elsewhere. The dragons that ornament the temple fly him into the sky, and the temple bursts into full color. No longer a dull black-and-white experience, the boy’s ability to attend to the supernatural elements of the temple give him an utterly different experience—both from his parents, and from the tourists visiting Longshan Temple.


These two books about temples represent two approaches to presenting religion to children in Taiwan. In one approach, religion is treated as a cultural phenomenon, observed by people who have limited if any interactions with the gods who may reside in the temple. In the other approach, children are able to see and communicate with deities, allowing them access to another dimension of this world (or a world beyond). We commonly see this first approach in textbooks, which recognize the importance of religious practice as part of cultural history, and as part of identity formation. We see the latter approach in books from religious organizations—such as those from Dharma Drum Mountain—which try to make buddhas and bodhisattvas accessible to
young readers. But these two approaches also make appearances in commercially-published children’s books in Taiwan, as authors and illustrators bring religion to life on the page.

Both books are published by Linking Publishing 聯經出版社:

Illustrations are from books.com.tw, where both books can also be purchased:
Kanjian Longshan si 看見龍山寺:

Here’s a neat video of the author taking viewers through the Longshan Temple book: Youtube video: 看見龍山寺 作者許育榮教你看


87. The 10th Asian Festival of Children’s Content – sparking new ideas

I’ve just returned from the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, in Singapore. It was the 10th AFCC, and my 1st time to the AFCC or Singapore. I’m so grateful to the Singapore Book Council – in particular William Phuan, Caroline Wan and Chloe Tong and their team – for inviting me (I gave a keynote, was on a panel, gave a lecture, and a masterclass). Continue reading

84. Exams, handwriting and school stories

Minjie recently published a very interesting post about crib sheets on the Cotsen blog titled Cheating in Examinations for Cheapskates? – A Centuries-Old Tip from the Chinese Collection of the Cotsen Children’s Library. This sparked off an email conversation between us…  Continue reading

83. Interview with Yangsze Choo, author of “The Ghost Bride”

One book leads to another… last November Lin Man-chiu and I were invited to talk about The Ventriloquist’s Daughter at an event at the LSE. The chair of the event, Prof Fang-long Shih, suggested that the story might be linked with ghost brides (on which she is an expert). Lin Man-chiu rejected this idea, but the discussion stuck in my mind, and when I saw Yangsze Choo’s novel The Ghost Bride, I was intrigued. Amy Matthewson devoured The Ventriloquist’s Daughter and Yangsze Choo’s two books The Ghost Bride (2013) and The Night Tiger (2019) in quick succession, and was thrilled when Yangsze Choo 朱洋熹 agreed to an interview. They discussed both of her books, but agreed that while The Ghost Bride is suitable (albeit scary) for young adults, The Night Tiger is more of an adult read. We are very grateful to Yangsze and Amy for this interview! – Helen  Continue reading

80. Translator Dong Haiya studies children’s literature at Reading

Dr Dong Haiya 董海雅 of Shanghai International Studies University 上海外国语大学 has recently been in the UK on a Chinese-government funded scholarship to research children’s literature. She generously spared some of her time to meet, and kindly answered some questions about her life and work. Continue reading

79. Asian children’s literature, film and animation (special issue of SARE, 2018)

In December 2018, the Southeast Asian Review of English (SARE vol. 55, no. 2) published a themed-issue on Asian children’s literature, film and animation. The journal is open access and there are some interesting papers relating to China.


Click on the titles below to access the whole article. I’ve copied the titles, authors, and abstracts, and added links to the authors. I’ve also added a list of some of the authors’ previous publications at the end.
Continue reading