The publication of Gao Jianqun's Tongwan City in English marks another step forward in the country's efforts to promote its publications abroad.
The novel's translation gained 137,000 yuan ($22,400) in funding from the State General Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television, according to Han Jihong, deputy editor-in-chief of Xi'an-based Taibai Literature & Art Publishing House, which published Tongwan City at the end of 2012.
Gao's novel is one of 165 projects enlisted in this year's China Classic International project, launched by the administration in 2009 to introduce Chinese books abroad. A total of 86 Chinese and overseas publishers will benefit from this project, whose total funding has more than doubled this year to 35 million yuan from 15 million yuan in previous years.
However, even with government funding, Chinese publishers still have a hard time sending their books to a foreign bookstore.
The biggest obstacle has been the lack of qualified translators who truly understand Chinese culture and can faithfully convey the content in another language, Han says.
In 2010, Han's publishing house joined the administration's project for the first time with Ye Guangqin's Greenwood Riverside (Chinese title Qingmuchuan).
Han says they took a tortuous course before the English version was published by Prunus Press in the United States in 2012. They had to abandon the version by some Chinese translators and find a native English-speaker to do the translation all over again.
Things had been somewhat easier with Tongwan City. George Zhu, president of New York-based CN Times Books, was familiar with Gao Jianqun's huge success in China with The Last Xiongnu.
"It is his intention to duplicate that success here in the United States with Tongwan City," says Anthony W. LaSasso, publicity manager of CN Times, which chose Mu Xiaoliang out of several candidates as the translator.
LaSasso noted a growing interest over recent years among Americans in historical pieces not only in literature, but also in film and television series.
"We think the most attractive aspect of this book for a Western reader, who may not know much about Chinese history, let alone the very chaotic period in the 5th century, is that very fact," LaSasso says.
"The traditional components that make any book interesting to read are very clearly represented in Tongwan City: murder, love, drama, etc."
The novel's film adaptation could begin in a year, if funding and a manuscript could both materialize. Plans for a TV serial are also under way, Gao Jianqun says.
Gao has been traveling in northern Shaanxi to help with the manuscript.
An important part of the film will be shot at the ruins of Tongwan city in Jingbian county, Yulin city, Shaanxi province. The local government is applying for the ruins to be listed among UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage sites.