Christmas Stories from China -- 中国的圣诞故事
Christmas Stories from China -- 中国的圣诞故事
As Christmas becomes more popular in China, I want to create a series of children's Christmas stories firmly rooted in Chinese culture
As Christmas becomes more popular in China, I want to create a series of children's Christmas stories firmly rooted in Chinese culture Read more
About this project
The Dream 梦想
I have a dream -- a dream to create a whole new series of children's books for China, that re-imagine Christmas from a Chinese perspective. These are not just translations of Western stories, they are entirely new stories, grounded firmly in Chinese history, culture, and tradition. They will be a series of 12 books, each book centered on one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). Every animal will have something 'wrong' with them, something that makes them a social outcast; each book will tell their story as they embark on a series of adventures, a journey of self-discovery, that culminates in them realizing that they are not weak or unimportant, and ultimately becoming heroes as they promote the spirit of Christmas by providing crucial help and support to others in need. I plan to do two books a year, so this will be a six-year project.
I have an ambitious dream -- to not only create a series of entertaining stories, but to create stories that promote and encourage the concept that Christmas is a time for generosity, and for helping others. And to fully embody and embrace the spirit of this goal, 50% of all my profits from these books will go to support various children's charities in China (and potentially in other countries). IMPORTANT NOTE: I'm not allowed to use Kickstarter to raise funds directly for charity work; but your funds will be used to make this project a reality, and the profits from the books and all related products/merchandise will be used to support various charities.
I have an idealistic dream -- that through these stories, I will also help encourage critical thinking skills in the young people reading them. I will do this by not seeking to 'preach' morality, but rather through depicting characters who are imperfect, who make mistakes...and then by posing questions to the readers, asking what they think of what happened, what they would have done in that situation, etc. A website will be established where, among other things, children can discuss the stories together, and share their ideas with each other. The goal is that instead of simply dictating what is right or wrong, and expecting children to accept it uncritically, the books (and other resources) will encourage them to explore such questions on their own, and reach their own conclusions.
I have an awesome dream...to create an entirely new Christmas mythology for China, one that will become a part of the Christmas experience for the Chinese people. My dream is that 20 years from now, Chinese adults will look backwards to their childhood, and remember these characters with the same fondness that so many Westerners remember the stories of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, and many others.
"How Rat Found His Voice" is the working title of the first book; the lead character is a shy but kind-hearted rat who has a terrible stutter. I don't want to give too much away, but his stutter makes him the subject of mockery and derision, causing him to leave home. He has a variety of adventures, during which he uncovers an evil plot (can't tell you more than that!); and then meets Santa, who gives him some crucial advice that helps turn him into a hero.
Santa is the only non-Chinese character in the books...and he's included because Santa is already firmly embedded in the Chinese perception of Christmas. However, I know that Santa is a culturally sensitive person, so when he's in China, he wears a Santa outfit that is derived from traditional Chinese styles of clothing. In addition, because China has so many people, Santa has built a second workshop in the Himalayan mountains of China, where he makes toys for Chinese children. And the more perceptive of you may notice a more than passing similarity between me and the drawing of Santa above -- numerous Chinese have commented that I look a lot like Santa, and I thought that it'd be really cool to have Christmas books written by a guy who actually looks like the Santa in the book...so when I do public appearances to promote these books, kids can actually meet the "real Santa" from the books they've been reading!
How This Began缘起
I'm Canadian, but have been living and working in China for almost 20 years, both as a businessman doing cross-cultural consulting for Chinese and Western businesses, and as a philanthropist, having established a non-profit charity to work with one of China's ethnic minority groups, the Mosuo. When I first came to China, Christmas was relatively unknown and uncelebrated in China; but in the years since then, I've watched it become increasingly more and more popular, to the point where today it is one of the most popular festivals in China.
However, I noticed that there was no real "meaning" of Christmas...it was just an excuse to have parties. The stories that Westerners grew up with as part of Christmas -- Rudolph, Jesus, Frosty, the Three Wise Men, etc. -- simply aren't a part of Christmas in China. Now, that's not a bad thing, in and of itself...but about one and a half years ago, I started wondering whether it would be possible to do more.
While China has holidays that emphasize family and close friends, it doesn't really have any holidays that emphasize showing generosity towards those people that you don't know. But I firmly believe that as China grows and develops, that sense of helping others -- not just those people you know personally, but everyone who is in need -- will be crucial to maintaining social stability, and stable growth.
Thus, the idea for these books was born. Stories written for Chinese children, that give them heroes they can identify with, look up, to and emulate; that emphasize the value and importance of showing generosity, and of helping those in need.
My dream has grown significantly since then, as you'll see as you read on -- but that is the core goal and purpose of these books.
What You Are Supporting? 你支持的是什么？
This is more than just a book...so much more than just a book! In fact, this is likely one of the ambitious publishing projects ever posted on Kickstarter. I firmly believe that the internet has changed our world, and that both authors and publishers need to change their focus to embrace the realities of that new world. These books are going to provide readers not only with entertaining and meaningful stories, but are going to link them to a whole plethora of other resources that will allow them to interact with others, and to follow the lives of their favorite characters (and even communicate with them). NOTE: All products mentioned below will be available in both English and Chinese.
Paperback books -- There will, of course, be 'traditional' paperback books available. All books will be illustrated by an amazing artist, Thomas Thesen, who has previously worked with Pixar and Dreamworks, and who has done a brilliant job of bringing my characters to life.
E-books -- There will also be e-books (initially available in ePub, PDF, or Mobi formats...more may be added, depending on the success of our fundraising), including all illustrations. The e-books will include numerous links to our website, where readers can also interact with others to talk about their favorite characters, or find more information/background.
Audio e-books -- This is something I'm rather excited about. These will not just be a "books-on-tape" kind of thing, with a narrator reading the story, but will have voice actors for every character in the book. Children will be able to enjoy not only reading along with the story, but also hearing the voices of their favorite characters as they do so. (Initially will be available only from iBooks, hopefully will add other options later)
Website -- We'll have a fully interactive website which will include an area for children to interact with each other, games, a "wiki" to provide further background and info on the various characters and events in the books, and perhaps most importantly, regular updates on what charities we are supporting, and what exactly is being done with the money given to them.
Twitter/Weibo/Facebook -- We will set up Twitter, Facebook, and Weibo accounts (Weibo is China's version of Twitter) for each of the 12 animals, and for Santa. We will use these accounts to not only allow readers to interact with their favorite characters, but also to update them on what each animal is doing. My goal is that the stories don't end when you finish reading the book, but that you can continue to follow what is happening in each animal's life.
Video Games -- We will create a video game for every book, based on events in that book. I'm an avid gamer myself, and guarantee that these games will be both high quality and fun for children and adults alike. The plan is to create Flash games that are free of charge to download and play, but that have more 'advanced' features that you pay for. The games will be fully playable in the free version, but will unlock more possibilities and options if you pay for them. Important Note: Everyone who chooses a reward that includes the game will be able to unlock ALL features at no extra cost!
Much, much more! -- I've got a great many more ideas and plans for other things we can do...but that depends on the success of this fundraising campaign! The more money we get, the more we'll be able to do. And I most definitely welcome suggestions for other ideas, the more we can do, the better!
Most of the rewards are self-explanatory, but there are a few that I want to expand on:
Video Game: The game for the first book will be done in a style similar to the popular "Plants vs. Zombies" game, but with some significant differences, particularly the ability to customize the upgrades for each character in the game. As mentioned above, everyone who chooses the game as part of their sponsorship package will be able to unlock all game features at no extra cost. In addition, Kickstarter donors will receive their game before the release to the general public, and may also be able to participate in beta testing to find potential bugs and problems with the game.
VIP Website Membership -- I don't see this as a solo project...I see it as a communal project that will benefit from the support and participation of as many people as possible. Therefore my website will include a special "VIP Members Area", where everyone who has donated $40 or more to this project will automatically receive membership. In this area, I will not only give regular updates about what is happening, and the progress/status of the project; but you will have the opportunity to interact with me, and in some cases provide suggestions and ideas to help develop the project. As much as possible, these VIP members will receive news and updates before anyone else. This will be an area where members can interact fully with others, and with me.
Hand-crafted Figurines - - These figurines, each one hand-crafted by Malte Filda, who has extensive experience with sculpting high quality figurines (you can check out some of his work here), will feature a 6-inch (15 cm) high sculpture of the rat from the first book. Only 20 of these figurines will ever be made, and are available exclusively to Kickstarter donors. They will be autographed by the author, and accompanied by an official letter to certify that they are genuine.
Personal Illustration -- This is our most exciting -- and exclusive -- reward. Only three of these will be offered. How would you like to see yourself, or one of your loved ones, as one of the main characters in the first book? We'll give you that chance. The way it works is that you will be given a choice of several different key characters from the first book (priority for choosing will be determined by the order in which people sign up). You choose the character you want, and then send your photo to our illustrator, who will work with you to create an illustration based on the photo. You can choose to use your own photo, or someone else's. Once the new character has been designed, it will be included in the book's illustrations (guaranteed to appear in at least one illustration, possibly more). In addition, the illustrator will create a special one-of-a-kind illustration for you, featuring the rat, Santa, and your character together. It will be signed by both the author and the illustrator, and sent to you in an attractive frame, accompanied by an official letter to certify that it is genuine. Your name and picture will also appear in the thank-you section of the book.
My minimum goal for this Kickstarter campaign is $20,000...but I'd like to raise much more than that (well, who wouldn't?). So I'm also offering some special stretch rewards...additional rewards that will be given if we reach specific levels of funding. Stretch rewards will be automatically offered to everyone who donates $40 or more to this campaign.
$40,000 -- If we reach forty thousand dollars, we will send a postcard sized copy of some original artwork from the book, autographed by the author, to every person who has donated $40 or more to this campaign. These will be exclusive rewards for our Kickstarter supporters, and will not be offered or sold to anyone else.
$60,000 -- If we reach sixty thousand dollars, we will send a child's wristwatch, with the rat character on the face, to every person who has donated $40 or more to this campaign. These will be exclusive rewards for our Kickstarter supporters, and will not be offered or sold to anyone else.
$80,000 -- If we reach eighty thousand dollars, we will send a stylish children's diary, with artwork from the book, and a collection of stickers based on the book's characters, to every person who has donated $40 or more to this campaign.
$100,000 -- If we reach one hundred thousand dollars...well...I don't have a clue what we'll offer, but I guarantee it'll be amazing! And we'll offer even more rewards for every additional $20,000 raised.
About the Author 关于作者
As mentioned above, I'm Canadian, have been in China almost 20 years, and am a successful businessman (having started two companies here) and philanthropist. It may seem like bragging, but I do think that as I'm asking people to support me, it is important to provide my credentials...so here are some of the things I've done while in China:
- Co-founded New Leaders International, a business consulting company based in Beijing, where I focused on cross-cultural training and consulting for foreign and Chinese companies, to help them understand cultural differences, and how to work together more effectively. (I no longer work with New Leaders, I sold my shares in the company to move on to new initiatives)合伙创立顶尖人物咨询公司，一个总部在北京的商务咨询公司。我主要承担为外国公司和中国公司做跨文化培训和咨询，来帮助他们理解文化差别和更融洽地共事。（我已经把在顶尖人物的股份转让了）
- Founded AbsoluteExecutive, a training/consulting company based in Dongguan, that focuses primarily on providing professional Business English training for Chinese companies.成立AE，一个在东莞的培训/咨询公司。目前主要开展为中国公司提供商务英语培训。
- Co-founded the Lugu Lake Mosuo Cultural Development Association (English Site; Chinese site), a non-profit charity that works with a Chinese indigenous minority group, the Mosuo, in areas such as education, health, economic development, and cultural preservation.合伙创立泸沽湖摩梭文化发展协会（英文网站；中文网站），一个帮助中国少数民族文化的非营利组织，旨在改善摩梭人教育、健康、经济发展和文化保护等。
- Was personal consultant to the Mayor of Beijing, Liu Qi, during the bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, including helping write his speech for the final presentation to the IOC, and training him to give that speech.在申办2008年北京奥运会期间，担任北京市市长刘淇同志的私人顾问，协助他撰写在IOC的演讲稿，并指导他进行演讲准备。
- Served on the Board of Directors of the Canada-China Business Council in Beijing, to promote business and trade between China and Canada.在中加贸易委员会担任干事，以促进中加两国之间的商业贸易。
- Was the founder and President of the first Toastmasters group to be established in Beijing.在北京创立并担任第一个Toastmaster组织。
- Have been a speaker at international conferences in China, Canada, the United States, and India, about issues related to China, Chinese culture, and doing business with China.曾在中国、加拿大、美国、印度等大型国际会议上作为演讲人，演讲主题关于中国、中国文化及在中国开展商务活动等。
I'm a businessman...but all of my business efforts have been focused on the dual goals of promoting understanding and communication between China and other countries; and using my profits to help those who most need it, with a particular focus on supporting education in rural areas of China.
About the Illustrator 关于插画师
Thomas Thesen is an illustrator and animation-designer and teaches as an Assistant Professor Animation and Digital Arts at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore.
During his professional animation career, Thomas has worked mostly in the visual development of feature animation productions, and thus combined his two interests and studies of illustration and animation. Among the companies he has worked for are Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks Animation and Sprite Animation. During his career he animated and designed for feature films such as Ratatouille, Shrek 2, Bee-movie, Puss in Boots and various other productions. He designed characters for commercials for Curious Pictures/ New York and did character and environment design for multiple animation projects in development worldwide.
Pictures/ New York，并在全球范围内为多样的动画项目制作了角色和环境设计。
His illustrations have also been published in print media and online, and have been recognized by the Bologna Children's Book Fair. He has published two e-books for children online and is working on his own animation-project at the moment. To see more of his work, check out his online profile.
"I have been living in Asia now for
over four years and my perception of Asian culture has since deepened
immensely. Reading The Journey To The West had a profound impact on me, and I
saw Chinese writing and culture from a totally different perspective. The wit
and fantasy of this influential work is astounding. What Western countries know
about Chinese culture is just a glimpse of what China actually has to offer and
I hope that the West will in the future open up to China's creative output even
On the other side of the coin, Christmas as a Western holiday has started to become popular in China, and there is the opportunity to explain what Christmas represents besides it's commercial aspects through the medium of Christmas books.
In my designs for the first two characters, the Rat and Santa Claus I tried to create both characters as very likeable and attractive personalities that fit stylistically into an Asian environment."
You aren't Chinese, what makes you think that you understand Chinese culture well enough to write books for Chinese children? 你并非中国人，是什么使你认为你懂得中国文化并足以写一部给中国孩子看的书？
A fair question. I'm not Chinese, and cannot claim to be an expert authority on all aspects of Chinese culture. However, what I am an expert on is in understanding how to bridge the gaps between Chinese and western culture (I've worked successfully as a consultant in this field for more than 15 years), and for this project, I think that knowledge is crucial. What I'm seeking to do is take a Western holiday, and make it Chinese. We've got Santa, who's still a fat white guy; and we've got animal characters drawn straight from Chinese culture and tradition. What I must do is unite the two sides into a new framework that incorporates aspects of both, to create a new mythology that is uniquely Chinese.
In addition, I have several close Chinese friends who've been integrally involved with developing these stories, giving me advice and guidance to make them as 'authentically Chinese' as possible.
Is this going to be another "Great White Savior" story? 这会是另一个“白人拯救世界”的俗套故事吗？
There are too many books and movies that depict the 'white man' as the savior of some other 'inferior' group (James Cameron's movie 'Avatar' being one of the most high profile recent examples of this). Yes, I'm a "white man". And yes, Santa is also a "white man". In fact, Santa in my books won't just look like me, his perspective will also mirror my own. I've done a great many things in China to help people, including starting my own non-profit organization, and helping to build several schools. I see this not as a white guy helping Chinese people, but as one human helping other humans. In my non-profit organization, which works with a minority group called the Mosuo, it is the Mosuo themselves who make the decisions and determine priorities; my only role is to help them find the money, resources, and people to accomplish their goals.
Santa in my books is going to be a very similar character. He provides support and encouragement, but he is never the one who solves the problem, or is the hero. It is the Chinese animals who are the heroes, the Chinese animals who solve their problems.
What about the Christian aspect of Christmas? 如何看待从宗教方面来看圣诞节？
My books will promote ideals that are fully compatible with Christian beliefs -- the importance of showing generosity towards others, even those people whom you don't know; and the value of helping others in need, without regard as to personal benefit for yourself. However, these are not religious books, and are not seeking to promote any religious agenda or beliefs. There is no hidden religious symbology, no Christian analogies...just enjoyable stories for children to enjoy.
What kind of charity are you going to set up? What kinds of programs will you support? 你会设立起什么样的慈善组织？你会支持哪些项目呢？
I am not going to set up a charity of my own -- I already have one, and it would take too much time to run another one. Instead, my plan is to partner with established charity organizations that work with children in China. This will include both local Chinese charities, and international charities.
Unfortunately, corruption is a significant issue for charity work in China, but I have a great deal of experience in this area, and will be monitoring each organization that I work with. If I find that any of them are abusing funds, or that not enough of the money is making it to the intended targets, then I will sever all ties with them. Those that can demonstrate integrity and honesty will hopefully, in the years to come, benefit significantly from the support they receive.
I think this is a really cool project, is there anything I can do to help? 我想这是一个非常酷的项目，我能够做什么来提供帮助呢？
Absolutely! Most obviously, you can donate...but you can also do much more. First, help spread the word about this project by linking to it on your Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or other such resources.
Second, rewards are extremely important to a project like this, and if you think that you could contribute some kind of reward that would help us raise more funds, please let me know!
Third, I'm actively looking for individuals, companies, and organizations that can work with me on this project after the Kickstarter campaign has concluded. I've already got publishers who are interested in the books; I've already got game design companies ready to make the games; but no contracts have been signed, and nothing will be signed until this Kickstarter campaign is concluded. This is both so that I can have the opportunity to identify the best partners/collaborators; and so that I can bargain with them from a position of strength, to be able to retain as much control over this project as possible.
So...if you design Flash games; or if you're a literary agent/publisher; or if you can help with formatting the e-books, or recording the audio e-books; or if you have connections who can help market this book, and relevant products/merchandise; or if you are an experienced web designer, particularly for designing commercial websites; or if there's any other way that you think you can help out, please do contact me!
How can I contact you? 怎样联系你？
I have set up a dedicated gmail account for this project -- firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to contact me there, I will do my best to respond, but can't promise I'll reply to everyone. I'd encourage people to leave comments and questions here on this site, as others may have similar questions.
Who is involved in this project?
Besides myself, I have several key people involved helping to make this a reality. Godwin Moy and his wife Aqina are close Chinese friends, living in the U.S., who are helping with aspects of translating the book into Chinese, and providing cultural advice. Bert Wu is one of my oldest and best Chinese friends, currently working for the United Nations Development Program office in Beijing, who likewise provides valuable cultural insight and advice in developing these books. Roger Wang is a Chinese businessman and entrepreneur with extensive experience in manufacturing, who is responsible for finding people to make many of the rewards (watches, diaries, etc.) that we are offering, and will be responsible for much of our merchandising in the future. And Charlene Fu, my fiancée, is an ongoing source of support and encouragement, and more than a little advice, as I pursue this project.
Risks and challenges
Well, the biggest risk, obviously, is that my books suck. However, I am determined not to let this happen...drafts of my first book have already been reviewed by both friends and publishing professionals, who all agree that it is well written and interesting. And if necessary, I will get others to help me with the book, to make it as successful and worthwhile as possible. This isn't about my personal pride in being an author...it is about making this dream a reality, and I'll do whatever is necessary to make that happen. Every author thinks that they are good, even if they are truly terrible...so I've done my best to gain feedback from people who are experienced in the industry, and who are brutally honest with me about what needs to be done to make these books great.
My biggest challenge is to make this project as appealing and popular as possible, as the more money I raise, the more I can do. The books, by themselves, will be great -- but the more I can add (games, website, audio e-books, merchandise, etc.), the better this will be. And doing everything in both English and Chinese doubles the work, and the challenge (but also makes it more worthwhile).
The biggest unanswered question is whether I will self-publish, or go with an established publisher. Both options are open to me, I already have two publishers who've expressed potential interest in these books. Self-publishing gives me greater control, and a much greater share of the profits (much of which will go to support various charities); but also creates additional work for me to do all the stuff that a publisher would usually do, not to mention that publishers have marketing channels and experience that I don't have. A significant part of this question will revolve around a potential publisher's specific experience with both children's books, and with books dealing with Chinese culture. I do not expect to resolve this question until after my Kickstarter campaign is finished...I hope that it will not only help me raise the necessary funds, but also to attract the attention of the best potential publishing partners.
And, of course, I've got my rather aggressive goal of writing one book every six months, for the next six years. As I've already worked out the characters for each book, and general story lines for each one, I'm confident that I can keep this schedule (or at least fairly close to it).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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