A sign marking China’sguest of honor status.
By Ming Wong in Frankfurt
China is all set to make a strong presence as the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair that will open its doors tomorrow.
A host of Chinese cultural activities will be held during the event including public lectures, seminars and art performances. Occupying 2,500 square meters, the Chinese exhibition hall is a combination of the classic and the modern, showcasing the history of Chinese publications, civilization and literature developments, spanning from inscriptions on oracle bones to 3-D Internet presentations.
A delegation of Chinese writers and scholars such as Yu Hua and Mo Yan will meet with their German peers and share Chinese literature and culture.
With more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries and an anticipated 300,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists, the Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest in the world. It is five days of intense networking, negotiating and marketing.
Each year the guest country of honor hosts a series of events to showcase not just its publishing industry but its entire culture.
"We hope we can bring the history of China, Chinese culture, its writers and also present-day China closer to Germany and all the representatives of the countries traveling to Frankfurt, so that it can be experienced with all of the senses," said Zhang Fuhai, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and president of the Chinese Organizing Committee for the fair.
A series of events showcasing Chinese culture have been organized throughout Frankfurt to coincide with the large-scale event. The opening gala at the Alte Oper (Old Opera House) will feature Shanghai Opera Symphonic Orchestra and pianist Lang Lang with an overture especially composed for the event.
Contemporary Chinese rock music will be on show at Living XXL, one of Frankfurt's popular nightclubs in the middle of the banking district. The German Film Museum has already begun a film festival featuring the past 80 years of Chinese fi lm history, including the 1934 black and white classic Shennü.
Six international economists, including Nobel Prize winners Robert Mundell and Paul Krugman, will discuss China's economic growth and its interaction with the global economy during the International Economist Forum.
At the Frankfurt Fairground, a multimedia art space has been created by installation artist Li Jiwei, incorporating the elements of water, paper and calligraphy. There will also be demonstrations of traditional crafts such as paper cutting and shadow puppets.
"China is taking a big step toward us with its guest of honor presentation in Frankfurt. It is presenting its culture for the fi rst time on an international stage," said Juergen Boos, director of the book fair. "This is not only a chance for China's literature but for us also because we can get to know China through its literature, consisting of many voices which can give surprising answers. We only need curiosity and courage to ask questions."
With the controversial topics of censorship, human rights and Statecontrolled publishing also under discussion, o cial Chinese delegation members have already walked out of a recent symposium attended by two writers critical of the Chinese government, Dai Qing and Bei Ling, who were invited by the Frankfurt PEN Center.
PEN stands for poets, essayists and novelists and is the international association of writers dedicated to speaking out for persecuted and suppressed writers and as defenders of the right to freedom of speech.
Despite the incident and surrounding questions, the Chinese literary market is thriving with more titles being published than ever before, all in the midst of the economic crisis.
China currently buys more foreign books than it sells; it imports from Germany alone eight times more than what it exports. To promote the export of Chinese literature into English and German, GAPP has set up a 500,000 euro ($735,739) translation fund.
Monkey Subdues White-Skeleton Demon, a famous story drawn from the Chinese classic Journey to the West, has been translated into English and will be one of China's central works at this year's fair. According to Li Xin, president of Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House, the book's publisher, Monkey Subdues White-Skeleton Demon is a rework of the 1960s version with pictures by leading Chinese illustrators Zhao Hongben and Qian Xiaodai. The color illustrations have been done in traditional Chinese style, depicting the magical Sun Wukong, or Monkey King.
"We hope the foreign readers will fi nd themselves fascinated by the magic of the Monkey King who speaks good English," Li explained, "The publishing house is also planning Japanese and Vietnamese versions of the book."
As one of the highlights of the book fair, hundreds of classic Chinese books ranging from science and literature to education will be introduced to foreign readers through the translation project aimed at promoting Chinese books abroad.
Many classical and contemporary, fiction and nonfi ction works, epics, panoramic social novels and experimental poetry will also be released at this year's fair. New voices such as Xu Lu and Li Dawei will share the German stage with renowned authors Yu Hua, Yang Lian and Mo Yan. Commentaries and reflections by cultural scholars and journalists will round off the discussions.
The Frankfurt Public Library is also hosting a series of China-related photographic exhibitions that began in June with China in the Last Century, which offers a detail look at domestic life.
"I've put the book fair poster up on my wall so that I can look at it everyday," said Guo Yeemei, a Taiwanese national living in Berlin.
"I'm completely proud and excited about the program that's coming to town," a Chinese student added.
Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping and German chancellor Angela Merkel will jointly attend the opening ceremony of the book fair and many of the related cultural activities. On the last day, there will be a handover ceremony with the guest of honor country shifted to Argentina for 2010.
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