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Calendar books gain fans in an online world

By Mei Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-16 07:34
Calendar books gain fans in an online world

The Palace Museum Calendar for 2017 offers a bilingual version.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Calendars turned into luxuriously illustrated books, often with a twist of interactivity, are highlights of China's book scene at the end of the year.

The most popular is the Palace Museum Calendar, which has sold 1.3 million copies since it was first issued in 2010. The first printing of the 2017 version-300,000 copies-is sold out, and four more printings have been ordered.

For 2017, the Palace Museum Press is offering a bilingual version with English and Chinese. The Beijing museum also is known as the Forbidden City.

"We saw a need abroad for understanding Chinese cultural traditions," said Wang Guanliang, director of the office that plans the calendar datebooks.

"We didn't expect this but the market treats our publications as collectibles," Wang said. The 2010 version is now worth 80 times its original price, according to online sites for book sales.

Wang said that the calendar is inspired by Chinese zodiac animals, and is illustrated with photos of relics from the Palace Museum's collection of some 1.82 million antiques-"almost an endless source for us".

Publishing expert Zhang Lei said that the success of the Palace Museum Calendar has inspired more publishing entities to follow suit.

"We have embraced the new types of calendars since the Palace Museum won the hearts of consumers by introducing arts to people's daily lives," Zhang said. The number of such calendar titles has risen to 51 this year, compared with last year's 16.

"Most of the calendars are like art books. For young readers, they are portable, affordable, and chic to have," he added.

Zhao Mingye, director of the Plants and Animals Calendar team of, told China Daily, "Most of our customers buy more than one copy."

Their calendar for 2017 is full of cute animals, with a QR code for each day offering updated online content.

"Our 2016 version sold 100,000 copies, and 40,000 copies of the 2017 version were sold the night it was launched," Zhao said.

Besides the Plants and Animals Calendar, there is the One Way Street Calendar that resembles an old style Chinese almanac. If scanned using an augmented reality app, it displays videos of celebrities reading poems.

China Book Company, which created a Dream of the Red Chamber calendar for 2014, has since developed five more calendars with themes which include Chinese classical literature.

As the popularity of printed books declines, calendars are turning a new page for printed content with innovative designs and themes, reviving interest in categories like traditional culture, popular science and literature.


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