On Monday I’m off to China for 3 weeks. I’m leaving husband and son behind and am going with a Chinese friend.

Preparing for the trip, it occurred to me how little there is in all the Ladybird series about China, the most populous country on earth and the longest continuous civilisation. All the colour and drama and legends and heros and folklore.

All the inventions: paper, printing, gun-powder, the compass. The wonderful logographic script. Fine Ladybird fare, you’d have thought.

But all I can find is the curiously remote: Great Civilisations: China, a supporting role in Marco Polo and a couple of pictures of The Great Wall.

Why so little?

Well I suppose the first reason that in the 1960s and 1970s – the ‘golden years’ of Ladybird, China was still seen as pretty well closed to the outside world. After it’s ‘century of humiliation’ and the internal strife between Republicans, Nationalists and Communists, China turned in on itself – and the rest of the world pretended it didn’t exist.

Before that, perhaps the Korean War loomed large enough to make China look like a poor subject for Ladybird. China does at least have a ‘Great Civilisations’ book – and so fares much better than Japan. Presumably the trauma of the 2nd World War wiped Japan off Ladybird horizens?. But China seems very alien – very very remote from Ladybird Land – despite the Hong Kong connection.

At least Hong Kong gave us a few Ladybird Books in Chinese.

(Sadly these are not so good for my learning of the Chinese language – being written for the Hong Kong market they’re written in the ‘traditional’ script of the islands rather than the ‘simplified’ script of the mainland. And if you’re lucky enough to find one of the books accompanied by an audio cassette – being for the Hong Kong market they are in Cantonese, not Mandarin).

Anyway, I’m off tomorrow. Please wish me, as the Chinese say, favourable winds …