Born in 1979 in Kuitun City, Xinjiang, Li Juan spent her formative years shuttling back and forth between Xinjiang and Sichuan as her parents were members of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and paramilitary unit involved in agricultural reclamation projects. Her experiences among the herdsmen of Altay during this period have inspired much of her work. Her first collection of essays, titled Nine Shapes of Snow, was published in 1999, and this was followed by several more short essay anthologies and a trilogy of longer collections – Distant Sunflower Fields, Winter Pasturelands and The Herd’s Path – on life in northern Xinjiang. She has also published a volume of poetry titled The Quickly Departing Train. Her works have gained wide acclaim in China and been translated into several languages, including French, Korean and Arabic. Distant Sunflower Fields is the first to be published in English.