Chinese publishers shine at the Frankfurt Book Fair with cultural books and booming web novel format
Creative synergy
Published: Oct 19, 2023 10:18 PM
Chu Chaofu (right), president of Zhejiang University Press, poses with the English version of <em>Liangzhu Civilization</em>. Photo: Courtesy of Zhejiang University Press

Chu Chaofu (right), president of Zhejiang University Press, poses with the English version of Liangzhu Civilization. Photo: Courtesy of Zhejiang University Press

Chinese publications about China's rich cultural heritage, traditional Chinese medicine, and many other topics including economy, history, and technology, as well as the country's booming web novel genre, have drawn attention from overseas publishers and readers at the ongoing Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.

The 75th Frankfurt Book Fair opened its doors to visitors on Wednesday as more than 4,200 international exhibitors attended the fair, the largest number of exhibitors since 2020.

For people who are eager to gain a better understanding of China, the Chinese booths at the ongoing Frankfurt Book Fair presented a precious opportunity through a selection of over 1,000 books and publications on display.

Chinese publishers also promoted cultural exchanges and mutual learning between China and foreign countries through more than 10 exciting activities.

For Niels Peter Thomas, Managing Director of Springer Nature, the English version of the Liangzhu Civilization book series, the latest cooperation with Zhejiang University Press provides "more than just scientific data, but a window into the experiences of those archaeologists who worked tirelessly in the field."

"The books within this series not only share their significant discoveries but also offer readers a first-hand perspective of life at the archaeological sites, through an array of captivating images and photographs," he said at a ceremony to mark cooperation in the book's German version. 

A mascot based on a character from a Chinese anime is on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: Courtesy of China Literature

A mascot based on a character from a Chinese anime is on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: Courtesy of China Literature

From Liangzhu to TCM

The Liangzhu Civilization's 11 English-version volumes use front-line archaeological discoveries to paint a full picture of the 5,000-year-old Liangzhu culture including the ancient ruins of the city of Liangzhu, Liangzhu paintings and symbols, Liangzhu jades, the Liangzhu lifestyle, and the time period in which Liangzhu existed. These results bring together the important discoveries of the Liangzhu site made after more than 80 years of archeological research. 

"The series' English version has built a bridge for more people to understand Liangzhu culture and the 5,000 years of Chinese civilization," said Chu Chaofu, President of Zhejiang University Press. 

For eager readers and researchers around the world, these volumes will open up a world of knowledge about the Liangzhu Civilization, shedding a light on its fascinating history and intricacies. "They will provide an understanding of the evolutionary course of the Chinese civilization, and how it has enriched the tapestry of our global heritage," added Niels. 

In 2019, the Liangzhu ancient city site officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In order to cooperate with the application to be recognized as World Heritage Site, archaeologists at the Liangzhu ancient city site from the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology as well as the Zhejiang University Press jointly planned out this series of books.

"I hope more people at home and abroad will gain a comprehensive understanding of Liangzhu, a 5,000-year-old civilization, the spiritual world of the Liangzhu people, and the historical process of the diversity and integration of the Chinese civilization. Liangzhu existed in the same era as other early civilizations, like ancient Egypt, ancient Sumer, and ancient Harappa," said Liu Bin, a professor at the School of Art and Archaeology at the Zhejiang University.

Meanwhile, German versions of three Chinese books - the Internationalization of Renminbi, Artificial Intelligence in Pocket Series, and the Essence of Lingnan Chen's Flying Acupuncture Therapy by the Guangdong Economics Press and Guangdong Science and Technology Press were also released at the book fair. 

Zhu Xiaoting with the German publishing house said that he believes this cooperation is an important milestone for China and Germany in the fields of cultural exchanges and book publishing. 

"By translating Chinese books into German, these excellent works will provide local readers with more opportunities to understand China's economy, technology, and traditional Chinese medicine culture," said Zhu.

China's New Star Press released its latest Biographies of Silk Road Cities at the fair, which aims to spread the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the concept of a community of shared future for mankind through a focus on famous cities in China and the world along the Belt and Road. 

The China International Book Trading Corporation (CIBTC) also marked its 50th anniversary of participating in the Frankfurt Book Fair. 

In addition, China's New Century Publishing House (NCPH) inked a strategic copyright partnership with World Book Publishing from the US during a signing ceremony at the book fair.

Chen Shaobo, president of the NCPH, said that they plan to export excellent domestic original children's books to the overseas book market, providing high-quality books for children and young readers in China and North America.

"The cooperation builds a bridge for folk cultural exchanges between China and other countries. Readers can learn from each other and different civilization. It's helpful to promote Chinese culture on the global stage," Chen said. 

Hou Xiaonan (right), president of China Literature, speaks at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: Courtesy of China Literature

Hou Xiaonan (right), president of China Literature, speaks at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: Courtesy of China Literature

Influence of web novels

The rising global influence of web novels has brought something new that the young generation love to see at one of the world's most popular book fairs as China's web novel platform China Literature not only showcased popular literary works and TV and film adaptations, but also showed how online publishing and web novels change the world. 

"The global originality of online literature lies in openness, tolerance, and co-creation as in China Literature, writers from more than 100 countries are 'publishing' novels together," said Hou Xiaonan, president of China Literature at the Global 50 CEO Talk at the book fair. He expressed hopes that online global literature IPs like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings will stand out at a global co-creation platform. 

Online publishing is not only well-received in China, but has also gained a large overseas following. The Report on the Development of Chinese Online Literature 2022 released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows that in 2022, the market for online literature reached 38.93 billion yuan ($5.66 billion), achieving a strong year-on-year growth of 8.8 percent, while the number of online literature readers climbed to 492 million and the number of online writers exceeded 22.78 million.

In the UK, 16 Chinese web­novels have been collected by the British Library. China's online novels have spread to more than 200 countries and regions around the world, reaching 910 million readers.  

About 40 percent of award-winning literature pieces on Chinese site WebNovel have been under audio, animation, film and television production development by teams from the US, the UK, India, and Thailand.