Words of wisdom

By Chitralekha Basu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-29 09:21
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Confucius will feature prominently in next year's literary offerings, besides books on Shanghai and wildlife. Chitralekha Basu reports

More than 2,500 years after Confucius handed down his sage insights, the Chinese ideologue continues to appeal to a worldwide audience. Not surprisingly, Confucius dominates the offerings of the English-language press in China for 2010.

Words of wisdom

A new paperback edition of Yu Dan's popular Confucius from the Heart is set for release in 2010.

The Foreign Language Press (FLP) in China is putting out two books on the life and work of a man whose ideas formed the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese thought. The first, Confucius, by Kong Xianglin, 75th descendent of the great man and vice-president of the Confucius Research Institute of China, is a user-friendly, handy guidebook to Confucian ideas. Profusely illustrated with Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) images sourced from Confucius institutes abroad, the book's salient feature is a chapter on how Confucian doctrines influenced American and European philosophical traditions.

Getting to Know Confucius: A New Translation of the Analects, by Lin Wusun, chief editor of Beijing Review, who also translated Sun Tzu's Art of War, comes with a longish introduction, in which the author compares Confucius to Plato and Jesus Christ. The bi-lingual edition comes with detailed annotations, and the 30 most-used Confucian aphorisms in the form of a pullout.

Pan Macmillan is reissuing Yu Dan's immensely popular Confucius from the Heart, based on her equally admired TV series, a lively adaptation of The Analects for the non-scholarly reader, in a paperback edition. The United Kingdom-based Compendium Books will be releasing The Way of Confucius by Jonathan Price, published in association with the Shandong Publishing Group.

In sync with the countdown to the Shanghai Expo in May 2010, lavishly mounted books on China's commercial capital are being meticulously put together, ready to roll hot off the press early next year. These include Shanghai: A History in Photographs by Liu Heung Shing and Karen Smith, published by Penguin.

Embellished with rare archival photographs, this book purports to be a "definitive history of China's most beautiful city". FLP is getting photographer-writer John Burris to follow up on his compilation of evocative photographs of Beijing (Beijing Days) with a similar work on Shanghai.

After Confucius and Shanghai, the third most-popular theme seems to be wildlife and its conservation. Living Fossils: the Pandas of China West (Penguin) by Zhang Zhihe and Sarah Bexell, a well-researched account of the panda's fight for survival, comes with stunning photographs and an introduction by renowned evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff.

Moon Bear, told by Brenda Z Guiberson and illustrated by the internationally acclaimed Ed Young, published by Pan Macmillan in collaboration with Animals Asia and Moon Bear Rescue initiative, is intended to raise awareness about the bear sanctuary in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Reaching Chinese art to a global audience is also high on the agenda. FLP's forthcoming The 798 Art Zone and Chinese Contemporary Art, edited by Huang Wenya and Cui Kaixuan, is a compilation of articles by seasoned arts writers who know intimately Beijing's most representative contemporary arts spaces.

Twenty-five noted artists - including the pioneers of China's contemporary art activities such as Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang and Ai Weiwei - are profiled by John Burris in a hardback, well-mounted book. Poignant shots capturing the artists with their creations are a high point of this FLP publication, titled At Work.

Paul Richardson, chairman of the Board of China Publishing Ltd, UK, recommends "two sumptuous books" on the CYPI Press (a China Youth Press Group subsidiary in UK) list, Chinese Contemporary Art and Chinese Dress and Adornment Through the Ages. "Like all CYPI's books they will be of the highest quality in terms of illustration and design," he says.

HarperCollins will be launching a follow-up on John Naisbitt's seminal tome, China's Megatrends.

Co-authored by John and Doris Naisbitt, China's Megatrends: The Eight Pillars of a New Society, is an incisive and well-researched take on the way China's time-tested social and economic models have evolved in conjunction with the demands of changing global trends.

Based on a true incident in 1930s Peking, in which 16-year-old English girl Pamela Werner's body was discovered by the invading Japanese troops, historian Paul French has put together a riveting story of intrigue against the backdrop of events leading to the making of the nation.

A Peking Murder: Or Murder at Fox Tower (Penguin) by Paul French aspires to solve the "mystery of a 73-year-old crime lost in the turmoil of invasion and revolution that followed in its wake".

The Civil Servant's Notebook, "a novel of politics, intrigue and corruption", by Wang Xiaofang is the other Penguin crime book of the season.

Kitchen Chinese (HarperCollins) by Ann Mah, former dining editor of That's Beijing, is a novel about a young Chinese-American woman's attempt to retrace her roots in China. Happily, much of this journey is through sampling Chinese cuisine.

Pan Macmillan is reissuing some of its bestsellers of 2009, such as Leslie T Chang's The Factory Girls, Yu Hua's Brothers, ZZ's China High, Moying Li's Snow Falling in Spring, the true story of a young girl's dogged refusal to give up books during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

FLP is repackaging and reissuing works by Lao She (Teahouse, Camel Xiangzi) and Lu Xun (Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk, Call to Arms, Wandering) in translation, besides MP3 discs of audio books based on Lu Xun's works. These come in Chinese as well as English.