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Sino-US Collaborative Publication Bears Fruit
2004-06-12 15:27

Chinese Architecture, a comprehensive and highly-illustrated book about Chinese architecture from Neolithic times through the early 20th century, has recently been published through the collaborative efforts of the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) and Yale University Press of the United States. This is the second book of the planned series between the two sides on the Culture and Civilization of China.

The New World Press, a subsidiary of CIPG, planned and edited the large and exquisite picture album in cooperation with the Yale University Press. Both the Chinese and English editions of the book will be released to the world simultaneously. The book preceding this one, entitled Three Thousand Years of Chinese Paintings, was published by the Foreign Languages Press and Yale University Press in 1997.

The octavo album contains 321 pages, with more than 200,000 words and 408 pictures. “It involves the hard work of both Chinese and US scholars,” said Huang Youyi, vice president of CIPG. Six renowned Chinese experts in the field of architecture led by Fu Xinian, member of Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Nancy S. Steinhardt, professor of the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Pennsylvania wrote and edited the book. “They are all authorities in sphere of Chinese architecture,” Huang said.

The articles by Chinese and American scholars at the beginning of the book will guide readers through the gates of Chinese architecture. The main body of the publication is divided into seven chapters. With magnificent pictures and in simple terms, the book explains the foundations and achievements of Chinese architecture through all the dynasties, as well as the development of architectural technologies, architectural ruins and the status of architecture all over the world. In addition to the pictures, some 100 explanatory maps and architectural line drawings are also used to introduce the different structures and cultural connotations of Chinese architectures in different dynasties.

“This book is written in very intelligent and very accessible English. So our readership is not simply scholars,” said James Peck, executive director of the Culture and Civilization of China book series. “We would like any well-educated reader in the world who doesn’t know China, who doesn’t know its culture, to be able to read this book and understand it easily,” Peck continued, “This is one reason the book has taken so much time, because we have to give explanations of what is obvious to these scholars. The translation is the greatest difficulty at the practical level.”

To facilitate readers, the book also offers a chronology of Chinese history and an index of major Chinese architectures, ruins and events.

The Culture and Civilization of China series is a cooperative program between China and the United States. The monumental undertaking will result in 75 volumes on the cultural riches of Chinese civilization, covering everything from art and culture to literature and philosophy in China. This is the largest cooperative publishing to be commissioned between the two countries and is winning a great deal of attention in the international publishing arena.

In about three weeks, Zhonglun (Balanced Discourse) by Chinese philosopher Xu Gan of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) will appear to readers, according to Peck. Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy by Zhang Dainian, one of the most famous living philosophers in China, is also due for release this year. The books to be published next year will include one on sculpture, one on archaeology and one on urban paintings of Qing China.

“When we started the project in 1990, we thought we would take 10 years. Now we think it’s going to take 20 years,” Peck said. “We hope in the next 10 years to finish 20 or 25 volumes of visual art books, including calligraphy, archaeology and sculpture. We are also planning two one-volume encyclopedias: One is a companion to Chinese art, the other is on classical Chinese writing. The final part of the project will be some 40 volumes of translations of Chinese classics. These will probably go on after the next 10 years.”

In the beginning, the project was a collaborative process between publishers and learned scholars in China and their colleagues from around the world to write books on the achievements and accomplishments of Chinese culture and civilization.

“We believe scholars in China, who know their country best, have for too long not been known in the rest of the world as the people who are writing about China,” said Peck. “The project aims at using collaborative methods to make the great scholars in China known through the world of English languages as they are writing about their own country as great experts.”

Peck sees the project as a very meaningful and rewarding experience for all the people involved. “It sets a model on the way for people of different cultures to come together,” he said.

Both Chinese and US alike show great concern for the cooperation, which stirs strong feelings in cultural and political fields. Never before has a cultural project had former state leaders as advisory members. For the book of Chinese Architecture, we see George H. W. Bush, former president of the United States and Rong Yiren, former vice president of the People’s Republic of China, as honorary chairs on each side.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin donated the book Chinese Architecture to the George Bush Presidential Library during his visit to the United States last October. During his former visit to the Unites States in 1997, he presented Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting to former president Bill Clinton.

( by staff reporter Li Jinhui, November 5, 2002)

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