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:
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.