About Wandering China:
On our WeChat (ID: guanlanzhongguo) we publish original articles daily. Subscribe to read our Wander travel pieces, Local Voices articles which gather views directly from local people, and Cultural Differences which explore issues of social and cultural interest.
Our magazines are released monthly. Our magazine is unique in being devoted to exploring a single topic of particular cultural significance and fundamental consequence for anybody trying to understand what is happening in China now.
The Wandering China Writers Club meets once a month. Our writers, artists, editors, translators and publishers are an open-minded community devoted to idea sharing and exchanging fresh perspectives on China and the West.
DE: Could you tell me a little bit about how you got into publishing?
RQ: I previously worked at the China National Tourism Association. At that time, in 2004, the Olympic games were being held in Beijing. I thought there would be an increased demand from the international market to get to know China. On the one hand I saw this demand, and on the other, China is a big country but there was very little non-Chinese language information about it. Lonely Planet does a great job, but China is not only Beijing, Shanghai and places like that. There’s a lot more to China. At that time, one big thing was that China was not so open. The media was a little bit afraid of inviting Western journalists to write about China. I was probably the first person to say, “In order to introduce China, we need to invite foreign writers to come experience and write about it.”
DE: Previous Chinese guidebooks were just translated word-for-word, is that right?
RQ: Yes. The translated books could be good or bad, but one big factor is the cultural differences. Because the Chinese way of thinking is really different. The books that introduced smaller places contained translated information that was not attractive. So it was in English, but still couldn’t be understood by Western readers. I realized having Western writers come and experience these places would be very valuable. They bring fresh ideas and an international angle to the understanding of local places. After I came up with this concept I quit my job with the China National Tourism Association and started publishing.
DE: And what books did you publish at that time?
RQ: From 2004 until now we’ve published a lot. For example, Sichuan, The Spice of Life. Chonqing and the Three Gorges. Zhengzhou, the cradle of Chinese civilization. Qingdao. One about the Olympic games. China Through The Looking Glass: Hangzhou. Datong, A Historical Guide. Nanjing, A Cultural and Historical Guide for Travelers. Breaking God’s Flail. We have nearly 20 book titles covering most parts of China.
DE: Yea, that’s a lot. You spent some time studying tourism in Europe as well?
RQ: I really value that time. I still feel very grateful to the European Union, because I was received the Managers Exchange Training Program sponsored by the EU. This was designed by the EU Commission with the purpose of exchanging young managers between Europe and China. It’s about cultural exchange and working together. So I had an internship with the EU Travel Commission. Though it was a short period it gave me a sense of the people there and the challenge of living in a totally different culture and traveling independently. All that experience challenged me and has validated what I do in China; that a guidebook should go deeper into the culture. Even now I still keep in touch with my classmates in Europe.
DE: What is your vision for Wandering China? Why did you decide to start this new venture?
RQ: To benefit as many people as I can. I’ve been a publisher for 12 years, so I understand how it works. But starting Wandering China has been a big challenge; especially working so closely with Western colleagues in the office. If there’s no trust, everything is cold. I do believe numbers make people cold.
DE: Numbers make people cold?
RQ: If everything is based on numbers, based on money. How good is a book? Numbers. How can you judge whether a book is good or not by numbers? Or a relationship. People might talk in a very kind way, but behind it is numbers. I believe that’s wrong. Wandering China wants to help people realize that this is wrong.
DE: You’re interested in writers who can give a more in depth view of things, which surprised me a little bit for a travel publication. Like, it seems different from what Lonely Planet does.
RQ: I think for Lonely Planet it’s hard. I mean they work very hard. But it’s hard for them to understand Chinese culture in depth. Our books offer in depth looks at local places. But Wandering China magazine is more about culture. I hope the topics we discuss can unveil a lot, even where there are problems. Right or wrong doesn’t matter; we just want to unveil the depths for people to see and understand.
DE: The magazine is bilingual, which is really cool. Is your audience more Chinese or Western? You mentioned that Chinese people are often quite interested in Western takes on China.
RQ: The magazine has two audiences. For example, our current magazine’s theme is gender issues. It’s an international topic. Globally, everyone is talking about gender issues. But what is happening here in China—I think—is difficult for people living outside of China to understand. And what is the background? We want describe what is happening here, but we also want to unveil the background. So reporting, in depth, what is happening here, could be one way the magazine is valuable. On the other hand our Chinese readers do value the Chinese translations.
DE: I’m curious what Chinese readers find interesting about Western views of China.
RQ: Lots of people want to understand Western values. They want to understand what the international community thinks about China. So our articles are translated into Chinese especially for young people. The cultural differences are very easy to see. Take for example how our Western writers talk about leftover women…the concept is so ordinary in China! But to the Western world it’s strange.
DE: Yes, for me it’s a very interesting concept.
RQ: For me it’s so common. Why is it strange to you? And to understand what you find strange about it can help me to understand how the Western world observes China. My ability is limited, but I still want to show that trust is very important. It can make people warm. Even if people hurt me. I believe one day we will realize the importance of trust.
About Rose Quan:
Rose is an adventurer, publisher and entrepreneur. She has been a travel book publisher for 13 years, and she’s been in the tourism industry over 15 years, both in the EU and at a Chinese state-owned company. In her professional life, she has been the founder and director of several companies.
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