Books On Books Collection – Maywan Shen Krach and Hongbin Zhang

D is for Doufu: An Alphabet Book of Chinese Culture (1997)
Maywan Shen Krach and Hongbin Zhang
Dustjacket, cased and perfect bound with decorative doublures. H305 x W 258 mm. 32 pages. Acquired from Ultimate Treasures, 9 November 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Text copyright © 1997 by Maywan Shen Krach. Illustrations copyright © 1997 by Hongbin Zhang. Permission arranged with Shen’s Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS Inc., New York, NY 10016. All rights reserved.
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Shen’s Books, founded as a retailer in San Francisco by Maywan Shen in 1985, published D is for Doufu in 1997 as one of its first books in a line of works introducing children to the cultures of Asia and emphasizing cultural diversity and tolerance. That Chinese is, of course, a non-alphabetic writing system presents a challenge and artistic opportunity. D is for Doufu imaginatively and colorfully seized them. Transliteration into Pinyin gave the author Maywan Shen Krach the alphabetic opening, and Hongbin Zhang exploited it by illustrating her twenty-three (no I, U or V in Chinese) words and phrases with their calligraphic representation and his distinctive artwork in handmade papers, brocades and mineral paints.

With its text and art for “Z for zhōng guó” (China), this late 20th century book now has an unintended wistfulness in the context of the minority Uighurs’ plight and the economic and welfare devastation of Covid.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Tsu, Jing. 2023. Kingdom of Characters: A Tale of Language Obsession and Genius in Modern China. London: Penguin Books.