In less than a week, thousands of copies of a book about Bowdoin—co-written by Yongfang Chen '10—will fill Shanghai bookstores.

The book, "A True Liberal Arts Education," aims to inform Chinese high school students and their parents about liberal arts colleges in the United States.

"I define what a liberal arts college is compared to a national university education," Chen said of the book. "Then I describe the classes I have taken at Bowdoin, what professors I have taken, and why I have taken specific classes."

Chen, an economics and neuroscience double-major, said his idea for the book came about during the summer after his first year at Bowdoin, when he realized that high school students in China did not have information about American liberal arts college readily available to them.

"There was no material...that elaborated on what a liberal arts college in America was about," he said. "I felt responsible for disseminating information about this system, because Chinese students only know Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and nobody knows about Amherst, Williams, Bowdoin. And I think they're equally important."

After contacting a publisher, the China Publishing Group in 2007, Chen said the publisher completed a market survey to find out what kind of interest there was in the book. According to Chen, there was considerable amount of interest, so the publisher approved the idea.

The book also includes two other perspectives from Chinese students currently studying at liberal arts colleges in the U.S., although these sections combined take up only about a third of the book, Chen estimated. The two students attend Bucknell and Franklin and Marshall College. Chen said that while he had initially planned to write the book himself, he realized that the addition of two other Chinese students describing their experiences would strengthen the book.

"I wanted to diversify the content," he said. "There are many liberal arts colleges in America."

Chen said that one fundamental difference between the Chinese higher education system and the American system was in the understanding of the word "college."

"In China, 'college' does not have a comparable meaning to 'university.' If you say 'I attended college' in China, it means maybe you were in vocational school, or maybe technical school." Chen did say there were liberal arts colleges in China, but according to him, "they're not regarded as highly as liberal arts colleges in America."

Chen, who had never been to the U.S. before he began at Bowdoin in the fall of 2006, said that he found out about the College through the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking, which he said Chinese students place "a lot" of emphasis on.

Although Chen's book is nearly all in Chinese, it does include an appendix written in English. The appendix includes interviews Chen conducted with Bowdoin faculty and administrators, including Associate Dean of Admissions John Thurston, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Laura Lee, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, Professor of Sociology Craig McEwen, and President Barry Mills.

According to Chen, the publisher will publish the book in three waves. The first wave—which Chen said was completed on Thursday, totalled roughly 5,000 copies. The second round of publishing, which has yet to be determined, will print another 5,000 copies. After the third round of publishing "depending on market reception and containability" Chen said, the total number printed could reach as many as 100,000 copies.

Chen said that he does stand to make money from book sales, although "it depends on how many volumes are sold and how many times they print the book." He added that he did not think the economic downturn would affect the sales of his book.

"Since the topic is very hot, and lots of parents in China want to know what American education really is, I don't think the economy will hurt sales," he said.

Chen is leaving for China next week to promote the book, where he will "sign copies of the books in Shanghai bookstores." A promotional event slated for the end of August to is supposed to have the mayor of Shanghai as a guest.

"I think Bowdoin will become famous immediately if this book is accessible to a Chinese audience," Chen said. "Next year, I think Bowdoin could have a huge increase in applications from China."