German novelist Christoph Peters revisited China last week with
his wife and 4-year-old daughter. The excited writer came for the
14th Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), in which Germany is
the "Country of Honor". A promising German novelist, Peters, 40, is
famous for his enigmatic new style.
With two of his books published here in Chinese, Peters reveals
that his novel has adopted some ideas from ancient Chinese
classics, among which The Analects of Confucius and Li Bai's poems
are his favorites.
"Chinese ancient philosophy is amazing to German readers," says
Peters. "I have learned that German college students are reading 'I
German novelist Christoph Peters talks with a
young reader at the book fair.
"I Ching" (Book of Changes), often regarded as the earliest
philosophy book in Chinese history, was first translated into
German and published in 1924 by German scholar Richard Wilhelm
under the help of Lao Naixuan, a well-read post-Qing Dynasty
linguist who explained the profound meanings of "I Ching" to
Nearly 80 years later, as China speeds up its
internationalization, the cultural exchanges between Germany and
China are thriving again.
"No doubt that books will play an important role in pushing
forward that trend and promote mutual understanding of German and
Chinese peoples," says Jing Bartz, a Chinese-born German and
director of the German Book Information Center (BIZ) in
Bartz, who is in charge of organizing the events of the Country
of Honor for the book fair, says: "We endeavor to fully showcase
the country's books for Chinese readers at the book fair."
Launched 14 years ago, BIBF is the fourth largest of its kind
worldwide, importing books from abroad and exporting Chinese books
to the rest of the world. The BIBF has also successfully promoted
the copyright trade between China and other countries.
This year, the five-day event, which closed yesterday, was
themed Germany: Inspiration and Innovation. It provides publishers,
agents, writers and readers from Germany and China a great
opportunity to exchange their thoughts through books, symposiums,
forums and cultural activities.
Zhang Chi, 20, a college student from Tianjin Foreign Studies
University who majors in German, came to hunt for German books.
"Germany is a developed country; therefore, its literature often
reflects people's attitudes toward urbanization and environmental
pollution," Zhang says.
Both new-generation German novelists, Peters and his wife
Veronika are interested in Chinese culture.
While he expresses his passion for Chinese culture, Peters also
acknowledges that he belongs to the minority in Germany.
"Maybe Chinese culture attracts some Germans, but most of my
compatriots' knowledge of China is confined to food, medicine and
martial arts," Peters says. "It is difficult to find translated
Chinese literature on German bookshelves."
However, Peters believes more German people will now pay
attention to China because of its burgeoning economic
According to the General Administration of Press and Publication
of the People's Republic of China (GAPP), in 2005, China imported
366 book copyrights from Germany, while exporting only nine
Last year, thanks to the Chinese government's "going out"
policy, which helps domestic publishers participate in the
international copyright trade, exports to Germany increased to
This year's Beijing International Book Fair attracted some 2,000
publishers from 53 countries and regions, and about half of them
were overseas publishing companies.
Besides Germany, many countries have set up their own stands at
the fair, such as Greece, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea and
Next year, Greece is likely to be the country of honor by the
15th BIBF, since it is where the Olympic Games originated.
The world's growing interest in China has fueled the enthusiasm
of local publishers to take on the growing market of
Chinese-language learning supplements.
On September 1, the over-100-year-old Commercial Press in
Beijing launched a new magazine, The World of Chinese, at the book
The visual displays attract many young
visitors to Beijing International Book Fair. About 2,000 publishers
from home and abroad take part in the event.
It is reportedly the only Chinese-learning magazine designed to
serve foreign learners' needs, says Zhu Xiaojian, editor-in-chief
of the magazine which offers a CD and an interactive Chinese
learning website (www.refbook.com.cn).
Zhu says that in the coming months, based on the smooth
operation of the English-Chinese magazine, the Commercial Press
will launch other languages, such as Japanese, Korean and
To cater to the diverse needs of Chinese- language learners
worldwide, the People's Education Press has also launched new
products. For the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games, the publishing house
has produced Chinese 2008, a five-copy book series in eight
For younger readers, there is Happy Chinese and Learning Chinese
With Me, while for adult learners, there's Fast Chinese and
Standard Chinese for Chinese learners in Japan.
In collaboration with Mindmap Research Institute (Shanghai) and
the Chinese Character Research Institute, the Shanghai-based Taotu
Animation Technology Co Ltd has published a series of multi-media
toolkits for overseas Chinese-language learners.
Based on the Mind Mapping methodology, the so-called Hafala
Chinese learning tool enables non-Chinese learners to acquire 2,500
Chinese characters in a systematic way within months, according to
Elizabeth Yu, from Taotu.
Other Chinese high-tech companies, such as the Beijing-based
Hong'en Softwares Co Ltd, also offer products for "faster Chinese
It is reported that at least 100 publishers and software
developers in China have developed Chinese-language learning books
and related tools.
During the book fair, the People's Education Press inked deals
with a couple of publishers from the United States, India and
Canada, among others for at least 50 Chinese-language learning book
projects, according to copyright manager Lu Gang.
(China Daily September 4, 2007)