Zheng Yuanjie, sometimes referred to as China’s Hans Christian Andersen, was born in Shanxi in 1955.
He started writing children’s books while working as a factory cleaner. Although he only had four years of schooling, his fairy tales quickly captivated tens of millions of children in China. Many still recall his stories about the naughty but kind-hearted boy Lu Pipi and his little sister Lu Xixi. Zheng is also a long-time critic of the country’s education system.
Why is he famous?
In 1985, Zheng founded the country’s first children’s literature journal “King of Fairy Tales,” with himself as the sole writer. The monthly magazine’s circulation topped one million in 1988 and has remained in publication since. Its success has won Zheng the title the “Chinese King of Fairy Tales”.
Why is he in the news?
According to Chengjiang Business News, Zheng may be the richest novelist in China.
The newspaper reckons he’s made over Rmb20 million ($2.92 million) in total book sales, ahead of the post-80s generation writer Guo Jingming, who has made Rmb17 million (see WiC1).
If the number seems a little low (certainly by JK Rowling’s standards) bear in mind that piracy is a big problem in Chinese publishing.
“Even people who do cleaning work can write fairy tales, and they can even write better work than me,” says Zheng. “The problem is no one encourages them to do so. The most essential thing that people seek is appreciation by others. That is what largely decides one’s success or failure.”
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