6 things you might not know about the Chinese editions of Harry Potter

All about Harry's journey from the United Kingdom to the Middle Kingdom

Image: courtesy People’s Literature Publishing House; artwork: Janelle Chew
The first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was published on 26 June 1997 by Bloomsbury – exactly 22 years ago today – but its simplified Chinese edition didn’t hit book stands in mainland China until three years later. Even more than two decades later, the books are still working their magic in China. Think you know everything about the boy who lived? Here are six facts about the series's Chinese editions.
1
The first three Potter novels hit stands in China at the same time

The first three Potter novels hit stands in China at the same time

It wasn’t until 1999, after JK Rowling wowed the world with the series's third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that publishers here began bidding for the overseas copyrights. That's why when the simplified Chinese version of Harry Potter first hit mainland stands, there were three books on sale at the same time. 

2
The deposit for the copyright was cheaper than you'd expect

The deposit for the copyright was cheaper than you'd expect

Although People’s Literature Publishing House didn’t disclose how much it paid for the copyright in total, reps have said the deposit was 10 thousand USD per book. According to Wang Ruiqin, the editor behind the series’s Chinese editions, People’s Literature Publishing House was in a battle for the copyright against seven other publishers. 


It didn’t win by biding the highest price, instead, it won the heart of JK Rowling’s British agent over long faxes in which Wang described the reputation of the publishing house and its contribution to Chinese literature by publishing writers like Lu Xun and Lao She.

3
The most difficult things to translate were…

The most difficult things to translate were…

A total of four translators worked on bringing the magic world of Harry Potter to Chinese readers. Among them, the Ma sisters (Ma Ainong and Ma Aixin) were attached to the project from beginning to end. According to the pair, the most difficult parts to translate were the creatures, charms and curses. ‘It is a test on a translator’s imagination and sense of humour,' Ma Ainong told Chinawriter.com.

4
There were at least a dozen fakes

There were at least a dozen fakes

At the height of the Harry Potter craze in the early 2000s, there were plenty of fake translations and fan faction trying to pass off as the real deal – which could've never happened in the age of social media. The most famous fakes include Harry Potter and the Leopard Dragon, which took a lot from The Hobbit; Harry Potter and the Overseas Chinese Students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in which Dumbledore reaches out to China’s elite magic school; and Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll, where Harry has to fight against Voldemort’s Chinese counterpart Yandomort. Local is the new global, huh?

5
But millions of the real deal were sold

But millions of the real deal were sold

Although the number of fakes actually sold is unknown, authorised copies sold very well, too. According to 2017 stats from People’s Literature Publishing House, more than 20 million copies were sold across China since its initial release with number still growing.

6
It has inspired some great cover art

It has inspired some great cover art

The first simplified Chinese edition used the same cover arts as American Scholastic's edition, with illustrations by Mary GrandPré. Later on, the 15th anniversary edition used the cover art from Japanese-American illustrator Kazu Kibuishi. Since 2016, the simplified Chinese paperback edition has come out with more than 100 illustrations by Jim Kay. Besides that, there are also two editions of Harry Potter currently on sale with cover art borrowed from the UK and an US editions.

Read more

Comments