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Parthian Books visit Shanghai and Beijing Book Fair
Welsh publisher, Parthian Books were amongst a delegation of European publishers who visited Shanghai and Beijing Book Fair at the end of August.
The visit was organised by our sister organisation, Literature Across Frontiers, who ensured a tailored programme providing insight into the Chinese publishing market. The visit was co-funded by the British Council and the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
Alison Evans, from the publisher, shares her experiences:
We began our visit to China in Shanghai, with an evening visit to the Bund’s iconic waterfront skyline; an appropriately striking start to an unforgettable trip. The walk back to our hotel took us through neon-lit Saturday night streets filled with shoppers and visitors milling underneath the immense buildings of the city. After the grey disappointment of late summer in Wales, damp air in the high thirties was a shock, but a pleasant one. There were seven of in our (gracefully perspiring) all-female group, from France, Poland, Latvia and the UK, guided by David Lopez of Literature Across Frontiers who organised the tour.
Our first full day was spent at the Shanghai Book Fair. Long queues of families waited to enter, cooled by paper souvenir fans and intermittent misting from hedge-hidden nozzles. An impressive high-ceilinged (air-conditioned) stone building was lined with shelves and tables, piled with discount books for sale. Bags were filled with not one or two, but four, five, six books each, everything from Chinese and translated fiction to self-help, craft and colouring books: treats for everyone. Later on we met with editors and representatives of Shanghai’s main publishing houses to modestly swap ideas and business cards.
We also had the pleasure of meeting a number of writers from the Shanghai Writers’ Union to hear about their work, and get some insight into the current publishing themes and trends in Shanghai. Although the language barrier stopped us from talking directly with many of the writers, the facial expressions of their peers around the table were enough to give away any radicals before their words were tamed by diplomatic translators.
A sleek white train took us from the Blade Runner chic of Shanghai to Beijing - a more recognisable, traditional China with alleyways of laundry and a soundtrack of bike bells and car horns. Heavy rain had cleaned the sky, and though the heat remained, the sunshine and bright blue made the temperature bearable. Beijing International Book Fair was a more trade-focused event, held in a large, out-of-town complex with stands and exhibitors showing off the diversity of writing talent being shared around the world. We were able to speak to agents about possible collaborations, and hand out some of Parthian’s best bits to a whole new readership.
An unexpected bonus day was packed full of sightseeing, as we headed off to The Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, then travelled in style by tuk-tuk for authentic Peking duck, rounding off our day of with the exquisite agony of a traditional acupressure massage.
It was a perfect balance of business and cultural experience and we left optimistic about the potential for ongoing communication with the great contacts we made during our time in China. Thanks to everyone involved in the trip for making it such an incredible experience.