It is hard to track when Winnie-the-Pooh was introduced to China. But one thing for sure is that the cute yellow teddy bear is widely loved by Chinese, from children to adults.
Many find the stories of Winnie and his friends to be educational and inspiring.
Huang Fangfang, mother of a 5-year-old girl nicknamed Hu Lu, knows Winnie well and read stories of the famed bear to her daughter when she was very young.
"I love Piglet most," Hu Lu said after counting all the characters. "Piglet, Piglet," she said, chanting the name of the small pink pig who is Winnie's friend. Although still at preschool, Hu Lu has watched Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons and read many of the books in both Chinese and English.
Back in the 1920s, when A.A. Milne saw a teddy bear among his son's toys, he came up with an idea to portray a series of cartoon characters living in a forest.
Winnie-the-Pooh, named after a Canadian black bear in London Zoo, made his debut on Dec 24, 1925, in a Christmas story commissioned and published by the London newspaper The Evening News.
In October 1926, the first collection of this fl u7 y bear as well as his friends became available to the public.
In the series, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Owl and Rabbit, live in Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England. The stories are mostly about their daily lives and adventures.
The Winnie-the-Pooh series has won the hearts of Chinese parents, who have found it to be ideal reading material for their children.
"The contents are suitable for children. The stories are warm and touching, as well as educational," Huang said.
"The language is plain, but the stories are more than just simple. Winnie and his buddies often show kids how to make friends, encourage them to think and act, and even relate some philosophies that will benefit them for a lifetime."
To illustrate her point, Huang takes as an example one chapter in which Winnie and his friends become super detectives.
The story calls on children to keep thinking, try to find enough clues and to finally solve the problem."On one hand, it can fulfill the children's curiosity," Huang said. "And on the other, it can also encourage young ones to find the perfect solution."
In 2003, China's national broadcaster China Central Television imported The New Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, a new series on the bear produced by Walt Disney Television for its children's channel. This made Winnie a household figure in China, particularly among children.
Dong Lujing, who works at Peekabook House, a Beijing library providing books in Chinese and English specifically for children, said, "Winnie-the-Pooh is really innocent, direct to the point and also simple. But this kind of simplicity is exactly what children need, for they can't understand the complicated world of adults."
Unlike the popularity it has enjoyed in the educational field in China, Winnie-the-Pooh has not had similar success in the merchandising sector.
Compared with other Disney cartoon figures such as Mickey Mouse, it is hard to find Winnie-the-Pooh products.
In 2005, a Disney-authorized store opened in SOGO Beijing, occupying 400 square meters and with product lines including Winnie-the-Pooh.
Eleven years later, the sales area has been reduced to less than 10 square meters and only five or six Winnie-the-Pooh items are available.
However, Winnie lovers can still count on online shopping.
On Taobao.com, one of the biggest online shopping platforms in China, thousands of Winnie-the-Pooh products are available.
A stuffed Winnie toy costs between 5 and 650 yuan (74 cents and ) depending on the size. However, the best seller is not a Disney-authorized one.
"I would love to buy from a Disney store," one online buyer complained. "But there's not one in my city."
A female Winnie-the-Pooh fan said in her post: "I just can't stop buying Winnie stuff. If I can't afford it, I will take a photo of it."
Netizen "Xiao Mo", the administrator of the Winnie Bar on Baidu. com, China's biggest search engine, said she fell in love the moment she saw Winnie.
"He's simple and honest," she said. "I hope I can find a boyfriend like him."
Like her, many followers in the Winnie Bar are young women who also say they want Winnie-type boyfriends.