Chinese Paper Boats containing ‘secret messages’ to unknown mothers at the Essex Book Festival

Do you remember when we were young, and would make little origami boats? Not long ago, MBL organised for a group of Chinese children to make 1000 boats containing written messages to unknown mothers. With the help of our volunteers, these were brought to the UK, and the Essex Book Festival.

All hand-made by Chinese children, these paper boats are extra special because they contain ‘secret messages’ to unknown mothers.

On 31 March – Mother’s Day in the UK – MBL co-founder Xinran visited the Essex Book Festival to celebrate with Festival organisers and friends. These 1000 boats were transformed into a ’Mothership Installation’ by local artist Elaine Tribley at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford. Festival organiser Ros Green said that MBL’s boats had touched many visitors. The Mothership really captured people’s attention, with many hoping the Installation could stay on for at least another month!

Ros also proposed collecting boats from other parts of the world, and exhibiting in other places. Because in this digital age, it is even more important for family affection to be conveyed through art and culture.

We are very grateful to the MBL China Volunteer Centre, the MBL Suzhou team, and MBL’s three international branches for organising both the making of the boats and bringing them to the UK. We thank them for their hard work and dedication!




3月31日,2019英国母亲节之日,母爱桥创建者之一的薛欣然女士赶往Essex Book Fair,与当地文化团体庆祝母亲节。

母爱桥加盟埃塞克斯艺术节的“1000只载着心语游向世界母亲的小船”被艺术家Elaine Tribley设计成“亲子艺术流”展示在Chelmsford城市剧场。

据埃塞克斯艺术节的组织者Ros Green介绍,来自母爱桥中国孩子们的“1000只载着心语游向世界母亲的小船”感动了众多来访者。人们络绎不绝,赞叹留影,并希望继续保留母爱桥的“1000只载着心语游向世界母亲的小船组成的亲子艺术流”展,至少再多展示一个月!

Ros Green 还提议征集更多国家儿童的“献给世界母亲的心语小船”,并且在更多的地区巡展。因为在数字化的时代中,家庭亲情的交流更需文明艺术的传载和传承。


MBL wishes you a very happy Mother’s day!

Happy Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day falls on different days depending on the countries where it’s celebrated. In the UK,  it’s 31 March this year.

Since its birth, MBL has been reaching out to Chinese children in all corners of the world: those who have been adopted by Western families, those who have been raised abroad, and those living in China. As of today, MBL has built 27 international libraries for underprivileged children in rural China, and has helped many adoptive families and adopted children understand and explore China. Among MBL’s volunteers and supporters, many are mothers. We’re forever grateful for their love and commitment.

Mothers, you deserve the best. Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day. 母亲节快乐!

(A big thank you to our talented volunteer, Yifeng, for designing the lovely holiday card.)


Happy Women’s Day & MBL founder Xinran’s new Book, The Promise, a story of love and loss in modern China, is out now!

Happy Women’s Day!

We’re excited to announce that MBL’s founder Xinran’s new book, The Promise, has recently been released. Since her 2002 international best-seller, The Good Women of China, Xinran has established herself as a dedicated chronicler of the political and social changes that have impacted the Chinese people, especially women, in modern China. The Promise (I.B. Tauris), translated from the Chinese by William Spence, is yet another persuasive and absorbing exploration of her homeland.

In The Promise, Xinran, through a series of interviews, tells the story of the Hans over four generations. At the start of the twentieth century in China, the Hans were married in an elaborate ceremony before they were even born. While their future was arranged by their families, this couple had much to be grateful for. Not only did they come from similar backgrounds – and as such were recognized as a good match – they also had a shared passion in their deep love of ancient Chinese poetry. They went on to have nine children and chose colours portrayed in some of their favourite poems as nicknames for them – Red, Cyan, Orange, Yellow, Green, Ginger, Violet, Blue and Rainbow. Fate, and the sweep of twentieth century history would later divide these children into three groups: three went to America or Hong Kong to protect the family line from the communists; three were married to revolutionaries having come of age as China turned red; while three suffered tragic early deaths.

With her trademark wisdom and warmth, Xinran describes the lives and loves of this extraordinary family over four generations. What emerges is not only a moving, beautifully-written and engaging story of four people and their lives, but a crucial portrait of social change in China. Xinran begins with the magic and tragedy of one young couples wedding night in 1950, and goes on to tell personal experiences of loss, grief and hardship through China’s extraordinary century. In doing so she tells a bigger story – how traditional Chinese values have been slowly eroded by the tide of modernity and how their outlooks on love, and the choices they’ve made in life, have been all been affected by the great upheavals of Chinese history.

A spell-binding and magical narrative, this is the story of modern China through the people who lived through it, and the story of their love and loss.

Select Reviews

“A brilliant storyteller” – Hilary Spurling

“Much has been written about political, social, and economic changes in China since before the 1949, but few authors apart from Lynn Pan—who explored the common notion that love originated in the West before it arrived in China—have taken an intimate look the Chinese women’s private lives spanning four generations.” – Asian Review of Books

“Filled with poignancy, insights, and revelations, this is an ideal book for anyone curious about life in China—and surely, in this day and age, that means all of us.” – Book Review

Kirkus Reviews

Asian Review of Books 

The Spectator 



Upcoming Events 

Esses Book Festival 

Daunt Books ( Xinran talks to Paul French) 

BBC Radio 3 

The List (Xinran discusses the taboo topics of birth, marriage and death.)

MBL collaborated with V&A Museum of Childhood to celebrate the Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year of the Pig! On 9th Feb, 2019, MBL collaborated with V&A Museum of Childhood to host the Chinese New Year celebration at V&A Museum in London. More than five thousand visitors showed up to join the fun, and to participate in various activities. 

At our handcraft workshop, Mr. Fan taught traditional Chinese calligraph. His students were excited to learn how to write their names in Chinese. The Beijing Opera facial mask making workshop attracted quite a crowd, where participants painted their masks with fascination. Our MBL volunteer Jiayan Fan was so skilled at making paper lanterns and her workshop was very popular among children. 

Suifeng and Jingyi, also MBL volunteers, were busy at the dress-up room, where children tried on different Chinese ethnic costumes, and learned about Chinese ethnic minorities. A special abacus class was presented by Mrs. Tan and her assistant Xin Mo. Their curious and diligent students explored a new way to do calculation. Math was not a boring subject, but a fun adventure for both adults and children! 

As always, the performance stage was surrounded by enthusiastic audience. Wu’s Tai Chi Chuan Academy and Ping Lin’s Aubretia Dance Studio did a stellar performance of Tai Chi, Chinese traditional fan dance and the “long-sleeves” dance. Even the audience participated, following the dancers and waving the fans in their hands with much joy and laughter. 


Lion Dance was the highlight of the day, performed by the Chinese Association of Tower Hamlets. For this year, children got to feed the lions with their handwritten messages for blessings — all the wishes would come true in the new year!

The souvenir booth, where items like dance fans and abacuses were sold, attracted a steady crowd of customers. It was a fantastic way to raise money for our charity, and to raise awareness for the Chinese culture. 

A big shout-out to all our volunteers: Ruiyun, Sun Hong, Yanan, Kun Li, Rui, Jack, Tingting, Frank, Jiayan, Bin Tan, Xin Mo, Suifeng, Jingyi, Ping Lin, Chris, and our event leader Yifeng Shi. 

Special thanks to our photographer Rui for the lovely photos, and our souvenir provider Yuyang Zhang. 

And our big thank-you to V&A Museum of Childhood and all the participants and supporters! 

Xin Nian Kuai Le! 新年快乐!