All Things China

Berkshire Publishing’s China publications are windows into Chinese history, geography, and culture, as well as politics, food, sports and biography. As Kerry Brown 凯瑞布朗, editor in chief of the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography, puts it, “When [Chinese] history has a face, particularly the face of an individual with all their quirks, then it becomes more manageable.”

Berkshire Publishing

Led by CEO Karen Christensen, an award-winning environmental author, Berkshire Publishing Group is known for creating acclaimed academic resources on China past and present. Karen is a research associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard, focusing on community and women’s issues.

The Official Chinese Encyclopedia of China

Forthcoming online. This reference work is familiar to Chinese students, presented in clear, colloquial English. Berkshire assembled a team of US copyeditors who read Chinese and asked them to provide an accurate rendition of the original text. Berkshire did not try to eliminate the subjective voice or “official” understanding of Chinese history evident in many of the articles. This means that a non-specialist, who doesn’t know Chinese, can see something of what PRC students are taught and adults believe to be historical or scientific fact. Coverage is broad, including arts and culture, history and dynasties, government and leadership (biographies), geography and natural environment, society and social welfare, science and technology, (traditional Chinese) medicine, language and education, and business and economy. The topics were chosen by the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House in Beijing. Political articles include:  Dalai Lama, Diaoyu Islands, Mao Zedong, Qing Government Unifying Taiwan, Republic of China, and Taiwan Province.

The Berkshire Challenge: Pro-China or Anti-China?

In 2009, Berkshire published the Encyclopedia of China—the first major work of its kind to be published in English. At that point, the world was facing unprecedented challenges because of the global economic crisis. Not since World War II had diplomatic relations between nations been so crucial to our common future. That year was also the thirtieth anniversary the “normalization” of diplomatic relations between the US and China. The trajectory seemed positive. China was on a path to becoming not only a global power but a responsible stakeholder.

As a company where cross-cultural communication is an essential part of our work, we were glad when Chinese President Xi Jinping said on a trip to the United States, “It’s always important to make an effort to get a deeper understanding of the cultures and civilizations that are different from our own.” We have hoped to see action taken on another statement made by President Xi in June 2021. He said that the task is “to explain and promote more fine culture with Chinese characteristics, Chinese spirit and Chinese wisdom to the world. We should keep the tone right, be open, confident and modest, and strive to create a credible, lovable and respectable China.”

Today, however, the situation has changed. China continues to be a major global power, but it is not taking a leadership role even on issues as important as climate change. Tensions between China and other nations have grown, the Chinese economy is not faring well, and global opinion of China has sharply deteriorated.

Read CEO Karen Christensen’s “Pro-China or Anti-China? A Publisher’s Dilemma.”  Karen is now a non-resident research associate at the Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Years ago, when asked if Berkshire Publishing’s China publications were “for China or against China,” she replied that we are “about China.” Karen first went to China, taking her children, in 2001, because she knew that China was important and wanted it to feel like part of her children’s world. Helping Americans and other Westerners to learn about China, to appreciate the its culture and cuisine, became central to Berkshire’s mission. You can read how dozens of experts answered our question, “What’s the most important thing to know about China?” These responses come from all over the world. Many are from Berkshire authors. We have arranged them by author name, and you can click a name to read that person’s comment.

Eminent QingBerkshire publishes the leading academic resources on China past and present, including the 5-volume Berkshire Encyclopedia of China and the 4-volume Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography, the first general work of its kind since 1898, and a modernized edition of the renowned Eminent Chinese of the Qing Period. A new edition of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China is in progress, along with the groundbreaking Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines.

All these works are available digital through Oxford University Press (click here to visit Oxford Reference). The press also publishes shorter books, readers, and reference volumes such as Education in China and The Internet in China. Berkshire titles are sold in print around the world, and many of them, including the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, are available online through Oxford University Press.

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Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography

“All students of China and indeed of East Asia and world history will be greatly aided in their studies by this comprehensive reference work. The Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography is a true milestone in collaborative historical research.”

— Wm. Theodore de Bary, Columbia University, editor of Sources of Chinese Tradition

Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography 4-Volume Set

Chinese history can be overwhelming, and no one claims to understand in detail more than specific periods of this great sweep of political, social, and economic development. But the world’s leading China scholars can, together, tell us the whole story. The Dictionary of Chinese Biography will make this immense history manageable—easier to comprehend and digest—by taking the reader through it in the life stories of key figures who have shaped, influenced, and transformed China.

How Berkshire Went to China

Karen Christensen, Berkshire’s founder and CEO, has had a connection with China since her first book was translated into Chinese in 1997. She made her first trip to China in 2001, taking her children, then 12 and 15, along. They went to Beijing and Xi’an and all the way across China to the desert caves of Dunhuang and the remote city of Ürümqi in Xinjiang Province.

Karen writes, “I fell in love with China: the conviviality and humor of the people I met, the sense of possibility, the energy and enthusiasm, and of course the wonderful food. It was all new, and all irresistible. As an environmental author, with two books translated into Chinese, I was even then acutely aware of the influence China would have on my own and my children’s future, and I wanted China to be part of their world. That trip set me on a new path as a publisher committed to building bridges between the US and China. I was convinced that every American needed to know more about China’s history, culture, and language, its jokes and popular culture, and its politics and economic system in order to be ready for the 21st century.”

In 2013 she was invited by the Taiwanese government to speak on digital publishing and intellectual property rights, and she has spoken at the Beijing Book Fair and other international publishing conferences. Before the pandemic, she traveled to China regularly to give speeches, host events, and sign deals with Chinese companies, and in late 2020 she spoke to an online audience of thousands of Chinese publishing professionals about how to improve cross-cultural communications. Berkshire Publishing’s China publications are intended to meet that challenge.

In those early years, she was often asked how a Western press could possibly tell the world about China. One of her colleagues passed on the remark of a Chinese scholar who said that he hadn’t thought such a project was possible, “But somebody has the nerve to try. Best wishes to them.”

Tom Christensen, Karen’s son, studied Chinese at college. After graduation, he represented Berkshire from 2009 to 2013 before joining the finance department at United Family Healthcare in Beijing. In addition to setting up and managing East Asia distribution and sales networks, he became an expert advisor for the Hanban Confucius Institute Digital Library. He speaks Mandarin fluently and continues as a director of Berkshire Publishing Group.

It was Tom Christensen who enabled us to explain our work to Chinese colleagues, using a Chinese proverb about the importance of maintaining distance to gain perspective and objectivity:

不识庐山真面目,只缘身在此山中
Bù shí lú shān zhēn miàn mù,zhǐ yuán shēn zài cǐ shān zhōng.

One cannot see the complete or true nature of Mount Lu when one is
standing on the mountain.

Read the story of  How Berkshire Publishing Went to China  and watch the video below. Click here to find out how Berkshire got its Chinese name, Bao Ku Shan (宝库山),which means “treasure mountain library,” now trademarked in China.

The Way of Eating

The Way of Eating: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy (the Suiyuan Shidan) is the first translation into English of one of the world’s most famous books about food. It is a treatise, cookbook, and memoir written in the late eighteenth century by the Qing dynasty poet Yuan Mei. It includes recipes for well-known dishes such as birds nest and sharks fin, and offers modern readers an appealing perspective on Chinese history and culinary culture, and was translated and annotated by Sean J. S. Chen with editorial advice from E. N. Anderson and Jeffrey Riegel. Berkshire’s larger bilingual academic version of the book is also available as Recipes from the Garden of Contentment.

The editorial team’s aim was to convey the charm, humor, and erudition of one of China’s greatest writers. The bilingual (English-Chinese) edition was prepared from the original 1792 manuscript, with extensive annotations for academic use as well as pleasure reading. Also included are a glossary and a bibliography of additional sources. It is a unique introduction to the true cuisines of China, designed for students of the social history of food as well those interested in techniques and recipes. Chinese food expert Nicole Mones, author of the novel The Last Chinese Chef, contributed an engaging introduction to Yuan Mei and his work.

The Berkshire Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines will be the first comprehensive resource on the world’s most varied culinary terrain. It was inspired by great works on European cuisines, and is intended to be a treasure trove of food lore, food history, culinary concepts and techniques, dishes with their variations, and biographies of famous chefs, gourmets, and writers. Begun before the COVID-19 pandemic, the project is currently on a backburner but we have posted some of the Advance Articles.

Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability

Published in Chinese by Shanghai Jiatong University Press

Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History

Chinese edition from Sanlian Publishing in Shanghai

Classroom Readers and Teaching Materials

Becoming a Dragon: Forty Chinese Proverbs for Lifelong Learning and Classroom Study

Becoming a Dragon: Forty Chinese Proverbs, is a bilingual (English-Chinese) collection of proverbs, popular phrases, and two-part allegorical sayings, designed for self-study and classroom teaching. Each proverb comes with the story behind the proverb and its source in both English and Chinese, a literal translation, the figurative meaning, an English equivalent, a vocabulary list, and examples of how the proverb is used in modern written and spoken Chinese.