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New English guidebook tells Hainan's story

China Daily


A new guidebook showcasing Hainan, China's southernmost province, to English-speaking readers was launched on Sept 9 at The Commercial Press head office in Beijing.

Produced by the award-winning international team of writers and editors behind The World of Chinese, this book Hainan: Jade Cliffs to Ocean Paradise dives deep into the natural, cultural and humanistic sides of an island lately associated with retirees and real estate.

"Most travel guides stop at telling you where to visit and how," said Chu Dandan, chief editor of The World of Chinese, at the book's launch event. "Our book tells you why you should visit." What moves readers are "more than just sea and coconuts," Chu said, "but the people and the stories in between."

From Hainan's famous beach resorts to its backcountry interior, the book's writers traversed the province in search of little-told tales—trekking its primeval hills and rainforests, sipping tea and coffee with locals, visiting the homes of fishermen and ethnic minorities and discovering the passions of marine archaeologists, conservationists and surfers.

These personal experiences and firsthand conversations are reflected in each of the book's chapters on Hainan's ecology, history, culture, leisure, food, sports and economy. These topics are then brought to life by original photographs, hand-drawn maps, interviews with Hainan-based authors and scholars and profiles on colorful individuals and communities.

"One of the things I was not expecting to find was a quaint little fishing village that has been quietly half-occupied by a growing surfing community," writer Sam Davies told the audience about visiting the village of Houhai in Sanya.

"I was able to talk to some locals and others about how the village has changed, what it has meant for people's lives, and how surfing is just starting to develop in China," Davies said. "This is unreported in English language media, and we are thrilled to be able to introduce our readers to these unexpected trends."

"I think Hainan has been overlooked a lot in conventional Chinese historiography, which is all about famous academics and emperors," writer and editor Hatty Liu said. "A lot of Hainan's development is definitely more recent, but I don't think it's any less important because of that."

The future of the province is a running theme throughout the book, the publication of which comes on the heels of Hainan becoming China's newest free-trade port. The book charts and evaluates Hainan's efforts to establish itself as a hub of environmental protection, animal conservation, underwater archaeology and space exploration—and, it is hoped, of international tourism, investment and trade.

"I think the local authorities have been incredibly forward-thinking in some of the initiatives put forward to drive both tourism and business in Hainan," editor Phoebe Storm said. "I hope many new people will discover the wonders of this island because of the book."

"Our aim is to create something that will go far," Gu Qing, general secretary of The Commercial Press, said at the book launch. "I believe Hainan's development will exceed even the predictions in this book, and we hope this book and Hainan will go out into the world together."


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