Niuniu, author of Sheep with Wings, a book about the life of young Chinese students abroad, caused a sensation in the Book City Square on Saturday.
The 24-year-old author-turned-actress had just returned to her hometown of Shenzhen from London where she had wrapped up a role in a film based on her book and was signing books and selling props and clothes used in the movie.
But despite her busy schedule, Niuniu, whose real name is Li Qianni, talked freely on Monday with the Shenzhen Daily about her overseas life, her popular book and her debut film in which she portrays herself.
At 16, Niuniu went to Britain for her middle school education. Two years later, she was admitted by the University of Denver (Colorado, America), where she majored in economics.
Currently, Niuniu is studying for a master's degree in film production at New York University.
Eight years abroad has shaped her personality, influenced her view on life and given free rein to her potential, she said.
"I am more open and confident than I used to be," said Niuniu.
Niuniu said she was a shy, timid and somewhat rebellious girl before she went abroad.
"The Western education puts more emphasis on communication. Teachers always encourage you to do better and help you build self-confidence,' " said Niuniu.
She described the differences between a British education and an American one. Niuniu said in Britain each subject is more specialized and solid, but also more conventional.
An American education is freer, with the first two years of university education concentrating mainly on basic and broad knowledge and graduate studies requiring a longer time to complete. Students may change their majors as they like and, she said, most Americans are more multicultural than their British counterparts.
But Niuniu said sending children aboard to study isn't always a good idea.
"I don't think I am that different from my schoolmates who stayed in China for their university education. There are rich resources in many big cities in China. As long as you are conscientious, you can learn as much. And for those who have no wish to make the effort, studying abroad is not a solution," said Niuniu.
Sheep with Wings is an autobiographical novel, touching upon love, friendship and cultural differences among students in a British school as seen from the perspective of a Chinese girl.
Incidents happened at the school that Niuniu said made her spirits rise and fall. "Sometimes I would think, 'Oh, my God, it's just like a film,'" she said.
It was Niuniu's father who first asked her to write about her experiences. "He actually asked me to practice my Chinese writing," she said.
It took her two to three months to smooth out her writing. With details like her first love and her personal psychology, Niuniu was reluctant to have her close friends read the novel, though she didn't mind having general readers share her feelings.
Her writing style and candor have won Niuniu many fans. The book, published by Sea-Sky Publishing House, has been reprinted for 10 times with 125,000 copies sold.
Niuniu's film debut also pitted her against experienced actresses for the role.
"At first I felt huge pressure. For the heroine, there were several candidates. And all those actresses auditioned were more beautiful and more experienced than I," said Niuniu, laughing.
During the first week of filming, Niuniu was very nervous. She cried every couple of days. But when required to cry for the film, she couldn't shed the tears. With the help of the director A Gan, and her costar, Hong Kong actor Edison Chan, Niuniu said she got through the filming and felt more natural as it progressed.
"The whole process was painful, and happy as well. I really learned a lot from the acting," she said.
Niuniu switched from economics to film production for her graduate studies and she said she was ready to devote herself to the movie business.
"Making a film is challenging, hard, and requires a balance of sentimentality and reason. I just wish to go on and on in this field," she said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2003)