China’s 110 academic presses are branching out. While texts for scholarly audiences have historically been their bread and butter, morphing monographs into titles that are accessible, engaging, and interesting to the general trade readership—without watering down their academic rigor—is definitely the current goal.
In China, academic publishers’ programs have historically drawn on the research strengths of their parent universities and the nation’s roughly 3,650 R&D institutions, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics. The resulting books have been predominantly geared toward meeting the immediate needs of students and faculty. This is a huge and lucrative market that no university press can afford to ignore: there are roughly 27 million college students, more than seven million graduate students, and close to two million postgraduate students in about 2,915 higher learning institutions in China. Nearly 60% of the country’s book market, valued at around 89.4 billion CNY, is dominated by textbooks and materials related to teaching and learning.
But after the 2010 nationwide restructuring campaign that brought about the “emancipation” of university presses from their parent institutions, there has been a big push for them to enter the trade market, widen their readerships, and seek their own fortunes.
For some Chinese university presses, one way to make inroads into the trade market and secure their bottom lines is to explore topics such as architecture, education, urban development, and societal issues. Titles on these topics can be illustrated nicely and packaged beautifully for mass appeal on bricks-and-mortar store bookshelves, online retailers’ sites, and social media platforms.
Others see university presses as custodians of public history, taking seriously their mission to grow and spread knowledge about China’s heritage. This results in extensively researched publications on ancient cities, cultural heritage, and past civilizations. Such books don’t always have mainstream appeal, but Guangxi Normal University Press Group, for instance, managed to combine academic rigor and market-friendliness with Pivots: 3,000 Years of China, which hit the bestseller jackpot with nearly 280,000 copies sold to date.
Meanwhile, original publications in English are growing, especially on topics with international relevance, such as the built environment and urban living. Having English-language originals increases export potential (for rights or distribution) and eases translation into other languages. More journals are also being published in English through collaborations with foreign STM publishers, particularly Springer Nature, Elsevier, and Wiley.
The following pages list a selection of original publications on offer from the five publishers featured in this coverage. The list starts with China’s first crime scene investigator in the 1200s and ends with a contemporary poverty alleviation program, and encompasses everything from a lighthearted retellings of traditional tales to an analysis of China’s large-scale scientific facilities. Presses have provided the descriptions.
China Translation & Publishing House
This is the story of Song Ci, China’s first crime scene investigator. He was a judicial commissioner in Guangdong during the 13th-century Song dynasty, when the civil service was weighed down by corruption and ineptitude. Just when Song Ci was contemplating retirement, he became involved in a bizarre murder case that surpassed anything he had previously witnessed. (790p)
Prayers in the Wind
This novel offers a look at the social and political history of modern Tibet through the reminiscences of an elderly monk, Jikme Wangdrak. Vignettes from the life of the great Tibetan sage Milarepa provide a counterpoint, underscoring the perseverance, humility, and sacrifice of Tibetans. (586p)
Qi Baishi: From Carpenter to Painting Master
Qi Baishi is known for his watercolor masterpieces, which focused on everyday subjects. The author, who spent nearly 20 years studying Qi’s life and art, offers a complete biography of the man and his works. (295p)
East China Normal University Press
The History of Chinese Education, 4th ed.
Edited by Sun Peiqing
This book offers a comprehensive take on the Chinese education system by focusing on the cultivation of talents and expounding its policies, guidelines, management measures, curricula, and pedagogical techniques as well as its experiences and lessons learned, in chapters divided by developmental stage. (521p)
The Road to Educational Equality in the People’s Republic of China
Yuan Zhenguo et al.
This history recounts how, over the past seven decades, the joint efforts of the Communist Party of China and various ethnic groups have transformed the country’s education system from one that was backward, barren, and weak into a modern model that is high-quality, inclusive, and extensive. (353p)
Tales of China Series
Edited by Melinda Lilly Thompson
Retold for modern readers of all ages, each of these 74 beautifully illustrated Chinese tales is accompanied by audio with vivid sound effects and music. Lexile measurements for each title vary between 420L and 660L, making these engaging tales a sure favorite for kindergartners and adults alike, especially English language learners. (16 titles; 64-148p each)
Guangxi Normal University Press Group
The City of Shadows: Liang Sicheng and Guanghan in 1939/1941
Through a batch of photographs, the author “reconstructs” an ancient city and offers readers a glimpse of the city layout in ancient China and its cultural essence. (492p)
Elegant Song: The Visible Civilization
This 2018 China Good Book award winner, which has sold about 80,000 copies, depicts various aspects of fashionable lifestyles during the Song dynasty, including daily diet; the practices of incense burning, tea savoring, and trading; and visits to spring gardens and political participation. (620p)
Pivots: 3,000 Years of China
This 2018 bestseller, which has sold nearly 280,000 copies, follows China’s history over a 3,000-year period and explains the country’s unique position in the world today. (720p)
Tongji University Pressy
Little Known Facts: Shanghai Tower
compiles and explains the engineering data for Shanghai Tower, the world’s second largest building, which rises 632 meters, weighs 850,000 tons, contains five underground floors, and operates the world’s fastest elevator. (232p)
Practice of Optimization Theory in Geotechnical Engineering
Yin Zhenyu and Jin Yinfu
This book discusses the development of an optimization platform for geotechnical engineering. It is intended for both undergraduate- and graduate-level teaching in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering, as well as for use by industry practitioners. (Original English edition, 356p)
Robotic Force Printing: A Joint Workshop of MIT/ETH/Tongji
Philip F. Yuan and Philippe Block
This book documents a joint workshop held by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ETH Zurich, and Tongji University in January 2019. Participants learned the fundamental concepts of COMPAS (an open-source computational and design framework) and FURobotic to explore integrating novel structural designs and advances in additive manufacturing and robotic fabrication. (180p)
Zhejiang Publishing United Group
The Ancient City of Liangzhu
Liu Bin and Yu Jingjing
In July 2019, the archaeological ruins of the ancient city of Liangzhu were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Five thousand years ago, ancient cultures in different parts of China became civilizations, and Liangzhu city is one of the best known in archaeology. This book for children, written by archaeologists, examines the ancient civilization. (100p)
China’s Big Scientific Facilities Projects Series
Edited by Wang Yifang et al.
Big scientific facilities, a frontier for international science and technology research and development, are about meeting the demands of a country. Each of this series’ 13 volumes focuses on one achievement of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in building and operating large-scale scientific facilities in the past decade. (13 volumes; 2,210p)
Don’t Be Cadres Without People in Mind
This journalistic investigation by Wang Huimin, a well-known reporter from the People’s Daily, focuses on the poverty alleviation program in Xiajiang village in Zhejiang province. (227p)