With fanfare and some artificial snow, The World of Chinese magazine released Jilin: Land of Mystery, its latest English-language travel and culture guide to Jilin province, at The Commercial Press offices in Beijing’s Wangfujing neighborhood on the morning of January 8.
A new addition to TWOC’s book series on contemporary China (“汉语世界当代中国丛书”), subtitled “Journey in China’s New Northeast,” the book is the joint effort of a team of writers, editors, and photographers from six countries—China, Canada, the UK, the US, New Zealand, and Australia—who traveled to Jilin over a three-year period to gather on-the-ground insights on the places, experiences, and people that make up the stories in the book.
Land of Mystery sets itself apart from other travel books with its magazine-style storytelling, made up of stories, interviews, and first-person accounts from people living in Jilin. Accompanying the illustrated maps, listings of scenic sites, and introductions of local cuisines are profiles of pine-nut harvesters and conservationists behind these attractions, as well as guides to useful Chinese phrases and the Northeastern (Dongbei) dialect.
“Land of Mystery was born out of collaboration between the Jilin Province Department of Culture and Tourism and The Commercial Press, in order to bring an international perspective on the heart of China’s Northeast, and use fluent English to uncover and deliver the most riveting stories from Jilin,” Yang Andi, head of the Jilin Province Department of Culture and Tourism, stated in her keynote speech by video at the book’s launch event.
The event, hosted by TWOC chief editor Chu Dandan and marketing director Dragos Cacio, also featured speeches from Chen Mingming, vice-president of the China Translation Association and former Chinese ambassador to Sweden and New Zealand, and Gu Qing, general-manager of The Commercial Press. “It’s quite unlike any book about China’s provinces that I’ve ever seen,” said Chen in his speech.
“You took the photos yourselves, and wrote the text yourselves—it wasn’t translated from Chinese—and as a result, [the book] is highly readable,” Chen, one of the book’s consultants and first readers, told the team behind the project. “Coming in at the end of the project, my job was to see if the writing was good, but when I was reading the book, I forgot what I was supposed to do. I was engrossed.”
TWOC editor Alex Colville read an excerpt from the book on Chagan Lake’s ice-fishing tradition, which was adapted from the magazine article “Of Ice and Men” by Tina Xu and featured photography by Xu that won an honorable mention in the Excellence in Photography category at the 2021 Society of Publishers in Asia Awards.
TWOC managing editor Hatty Liu and deputy managing editor Sam Davies discussed what it was like to travel in Jilin and work on the book, agreeing that snow sports and hospitable locals—some of whom towed the writers’ car out of a muddy ditch, then treated them to a midnight feast, on one eventful research trip near Baicheng—are the biggest draws for tourism in the region.
Founded by The Commercial Press in 2006, The World of Chinese is one of the most authoritative resources on contemporary China, renowned for its in-depth reporting, objectivity, and human-centered approach to Chinese society. Published in English by an international team of writers, editors, and photographers, The World of Chinese strives to bring original and well-researched articles on Chinese society, history, culture, and language through its bimonthly print magazine, website, and video and podcast series.