Ancient wisdoms in French
The original collection of pictorial books featuring some of the greatest minds in China’s history, such as Confucius, Laotzu and Mencius, will be available in French in June 2016.
Titled The Pictorial Biographies of Great Thinkers, the seven-book collection combines storytelling and traditional Chinese paintings to showcase the family life, daily settings, and customs of six ancient philosophers. It was originally available only in English and Chinese and the latest move to print a French version represents the publisher’s aim to target more foreign readers.
“We have to show the ancient wisdoms of China from a worldwide perspective instead of a narrow, local one,” said Liu Jun, manager of Shanghai City Animation Publishing and Media Company Limited, the founder and organizer of the project.
The company spent three years preparing the collection, carrying out research to determine the kind of painting styles that appeal to foreign readers, and working with the regional governments in the hometowns of the featured Chinese philosophers to create content for the pictorials.
“The traditional Chinese painting style is the most popular type selected by hundreds of foreign interviewees in Shanghai, and it is also the best method to reproduce images of these great thinkers,” said Liu.
The publisher also went to the extent of hiring a highly experienced group of painters who were tasked with illustrating the philosophers. Guo Defu, the artist who worked on the biography of Lao-tzu and Confucius, illustrated the latter as a “tall and brave” man instead of the conventional “old philosopher” after he discovered from historical materials that Confucius was good at archery and running.
Liu and his team are also currently having discussions with publishers in the United States, Korea and Japan about collaborations for producing the collection in other languages.
“The collection is entirely recreated for foreign readers to learn and understand traditional Chinese philosophy in a more vivid and digestible medium,” said Shen Hongyi, deputy professor of Chinese Studies, Shanghai University, who was the academic advisor for the collection.