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Yi's history

Updated: 2013-06-25 10:13
By Sun Ye and Mei Jia ( China Daily)

Yi's history

Author Yi Zhongtian compares writing history books with solving complex criminal cases — journeys of observation and discovery. Provided to China Daily 

Retired academic Yi Zhongtian shot to fame with his humorous retelling of the history of the Three Kingdoms. The 66-year-old is embarking on his most ambitious project to date — a series of books detailing thousands of years of Chinese history. Sun Ye and Mei Jia report.

TV celebrity and best-selling author Yi Zhongtian will write a series of books on Chinese history that are already predicted to be publishing sensations.

President of Guomai Culture and Media, Lu Jinbo, who also publishes such popular authors as Han Han, estimates the books will sell 36 million copies over the next decade and rake in 1.3 billion yuan ($212 million).

Lu says his high hopes for the series is based on the author's popularity.

Yi, 66, is a retiree from the department of Chinese literature at Xiamen University. He became a household name after he appeared in the CCTV program Lecture Room in 2005 and performed a unique, humorous retelling of the history of the Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280). The program was so popular that his book on the topic sold nearly 6 million copies.

His other books sell an average of 700,000 copies.

Yi's new series has the ambitious title Yi Zhongtian's Chinese History. The 36-volume series recounts 3,700 years of Chinese history from the primitive era to the end of the 20th century.

Yi plans to establish a "history of his own style". Yi and his team will release six volumes a year, making the series a standing best-seller.

He released the first two books, Ancestry and State in May.

"I have been anticipating a book like this for 10 years," says Zheng Zhong, president of the series' co-publisher, Zhejiang Literature and Arts Press.

"It's rare for a Chinese title to appeal to readers across age groups," Zheng says.

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