Deer branded in new Chinese series for children

By MEI JIA ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-17 07:43:11

Deer branded in new Chinese series for children

A photo of a page from the picture book One Bicycle, which is part of the new series of books.

China Children's Press and Publishing Group has developed a new series of illustration books under the name Nine Color Deer comprising Chinese stories and drawings.

Six titles have been published so far.

The idea was taken from the popular image of a white deer marked with different colors that was originally part of a Buddhist painting found in the Dunhuang Caves in Northwest China's Gansu province. The deer had also inspired a cartoon character on Chinese TV in the 1980s. Legend has it that the deer punished a Persian merchant whose life it saved because it felt betrayed by him.

The series includes books by two Chinese winners of the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition awards: Yu Dawu in 2000 and Yu Hongcheng in 2016.

Zhao Hengfeng, deputy general manager of the publishing group, told a children's book expo in Beijing in July that the company would promote the Chinese works to a world audience.

The first books were well received and the copyrights of some titles had been sold abroad, he said.

"China has been a big importer of foreign picture books, which is not only an expensive process but also due to different cultural backgrounds, the aesthetics of translated works aren't easily understood by young readers here," Zhao said, adding that the books being published are rooted in Chinese culture and would appeal to domestic audience, too.

Yu Dawu, a Beijing-based painter born in 1948, won the award for One Bicycle that records the nostalgia for his childhood in the 1950s.

"I created the story and illustrations from memory," Yu says.

A Jia, who promotes reading among children, says the book is more like a museum of old memories that also has information on changes in Beijing where Yu was born and raised.

Almost 40 years younger that Yu Dawu, Yu Hongcheng lives in Beijing now although she was born in Central China's Hunan province, and studied in Britain for a while before returning home a few years ago.

Like Yu Dawu, she devotes her time to elevating the quality of Chinese picture books. She finds stories told in Chinese traditional style especially interesting.

"I suppose we should be more confident of our tradition and its development."

She spent nearly three years to finish the book Pan Zhong Can, which translates to "food on the plate," and is part of the new series.

It is set in Southwest China's Yunnan province.

The series also contains a book on ancient music, titled Lofty Mountains and Flowing Water, written by music writer Liu Xuefeng and artist Wan Yuxi, and illustrated by Wan's husband Gunter Grossholz, a German cartoonist.

According to a recent publishing report released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, in 2015, China published 215,000 titles of which 37,000 were for younger readers, an increase of 11.9 percent compared with the number for 2014.

The demand for original works is also on rising.

Yang Lei from OpenBook Publishing Data says the company found that foreign picture books were a trend in 2007 in China. "More than 40 of the top 100 best-selling titles in all children's books were foreign ones."

But the ratio has dropped sharply recently, he/she says.

Ninety percent of new titles the publisher of Nine Colors Deer series planned to publish in 2016 are original creations.

"And in 2015, half of such books were sold in foreign markets, and we think the trend will be carried on in 2016," the president of the publishing group Li Xueqian says.

Besides, Li says science-themed picture books are the third most-popular genre for young Chinese readers following children's literature and early childhood learning.

"The science picture books help to retain the interest in further explorations for older ages," he says.

Based on the contents from We Love Science magazine, published by the group since 1960 and with a monthly circulation of 1.4 million copies, the group has also launched a 10-volume Funny Science Picture Book series. Containing animal tales, the books present 10 interesting stories with illustrations and tell young readers about animal habitats and more. More such books will be published on themes such as the human body and nature photography.

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