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UPDATED: December 27, 2010
China's J.K. Rowling Enters English Book Market

Yang Hongying, the first Chinese children's author to enter the mainstream English book market, at a book signing event in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province (CHINA DAILY)

Known as "China's J.K. Rowling," Yang Hongying's best-selling children's works are rapidly finding a foreign audience.

One of children's author Yang Hongying's earliest fantasies as an elementary schoolteacher in the 1980s was creating a pair of glasses for angry teachers that magnified the merits of their students, so everyone was happy.

Yang recognized early on the excessive emphasis on discipline in the nation's classrooms and was determined to change this by emphasizing trust and happiness in her books.

Hailed as "China's J.K. Rowling" in terms of success and influence, Yang is the first Chinese children's author to enter the mainstream English book market.

"The performance of Yang's books is the best among the books we've introduced from China to the English-speaking world," said Stella Chou, managing director of Harper Collins China Business Development.

Harper Collins has acquired the multilingual copyrights of Yang's works, like Mo's Mischief and Diary of a Smiling Cat. It has so far published 200,000 copies of six books from the Mo's Mischief series in English, targeting countries like the United States and Britain.

"Yang is the best-selling Chinese writer with the most favorable traits required to be introduced abroad," said Chou, who became interested in Yang's works 10 years ago.

Chou thinks her books have a universal appeal.

"Yang's books offer insight into contemporary society through a typical Chinese child, and a typical Chinese cat," Chou said. "They're good reads for people with an increasing interest in China."

Having sold an astounding 40 million copies of her works in China alone, Yang has occupied a prominent place on the list of "Richest Chinese Writers" since 2006. It is compiled by the Shanghai-based Wu Huaiyao and is based on extensive market research.

"Most of the bookstores I went to for the survey, even in small towns, have a whole wall of Yang's books for sale," Wu said.

But the writer is reluctant to talk about her financial success. The Richest Chinese Writers list has been a headache for her, she said.

"I keep myself detached from the adult world to maintain a quiet and pure mind, as my job is to write for children. I want to build for them a warm and lovable world, free of grown-up's judgment and thinking," said Yang, sitting in her Beijing apartment.

Yang moved to the capital from her hometown, of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, two years ago. The 48-year-old has been writing for children for almost three decades.

In 2000, when Yang's novel, Girl's Diary, became a hit, people started talking about her sudden fame. Her achievements are not just a marketing triumph, Yang said.

"No selling strategies can be more effective and persuasive than the quality of the works," she said. "I write stories from my heart, fully concentrating on just one thing at a time."

As the youngest daughter in an office clerk's family, Yang credits her parents, especially her father Yang Tianxiao, for allowing her space to develop her own character.

"My father only asked one thing of me - to be a good person," she recalled.

She described her father as a typical Chengdu person, who enjoys seasonal pleasures. She said he would take the family to see peach blossom in Longquan district, in spring; lotus flowers and bamboo in summer; osmanthus flowers at Guihu Lake in autumn; and the yellow plum flower during winter.

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