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Chinese version of Harry Potter tie-in unveiled for World Book Day

Updated: 2024-04-23 08:41 ( China Daily )
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At an event in Beijing ahead of World Book Day, a Harry Potter tie-in book in Chinese was launched. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The People's Literature Publishing House released a new Harry Potter tie-in book on April 13 in the run-up to World Book and Copyright Day, or World Book Day in short, which falls on Tuesday.

Revolving around the curriculum of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it features content from the British Library's exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic, and includes valuable Harry Potter-themed collections and sections of author JK Rowling's manuscripts.

This year marks the 24th anniversary of the release of the first Chinese editions by the People's Literature Publishing House, which introduced the series to the Chinese market and continues to be its domestic publisher.

Over the years, the publishing house has produced a variety of Harry Potter publications for Chinese readers, including paperbacks, collector's editions, Chinese-and-English bilingual editions and illustrated editions, as well as various tie-in books.

The British Library exhibition was held in 2017 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the series. The original English version of the book was published under the same title. By that time, the series had sold 450 million copies, had been translated into 79 languages and had been made into 8 blockbuster films.

It serves as a bridge connecting real world items with the spellbound world, and extends the magic for readers who were not able to visit the exhibition.

The oldest items in the British Library's collection are Chinese oracle bones dating back to the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC). One of them was among the displays, and was listed as the oldest exactly datable object in the exhibition.

"The Harry Potter stories are rooted in centuries of popular tradition. Predicting the future, for instance, has a long history," Julian Harrison, lead curator of the exhibition, writes in the book.

Harrison then proceeds to explain in detail how the ancient people used oracle bones to tell the future, possibly by engraving and heating them until they cracked.

The reverse side of the bone that was exhibited records a lunar eclipse seen in Anyang, Henan province, on the night of Dec 27, 1192 BC.

"These artifacts were known historically as 'dragon bones', emphasizing their magical qualities," Harrison writes.

The book explores thousands of years of magical history, under the guidance of experts and by following the Hogwarts curriculum, from the Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology to Defense Against the Dark Arts and Astronomy.

"I could never have imagined I was about to embark on a remarkable journey, that I was but one of a legion of fellow travelers around the world embarking on the same journey, all of us falling under the spell of this unknown author, JK Rowling, a spell that, 20 years on, only grows more powerful," says Steve Kloves, screenwriter and producer on a number of films in the Harry Potter series.

Also joining that journey is Wang Ruiqin. She was the first of the series' Chinese editors, and has participated in the copyright purchase of the series in 1999.

"It touches me because it is about growing-up, and about courage and wit in the process," Wang says at the Chinese version's launch in Beijing.

"And I suppose People's Literature was chosen because of its long tradition and achievements in publishing translated work," she adds.

Zhai Can, who is part of the younger generation of editors overseeing Harry Potter titles, says that she was chosen because Wang believed that the only requirement was that an editor be a genuine fan of the series, or a Potterhead.

The Chinese version of the new book is the work of two such Potterheads, Xiang Xun and Dong Yi, who were the winners of a contest held by the publisher to locate fans to help with the translation. Over the past 24 years, the house has held many live events bringing together Harry Potter fans. The two translators were pursuing higher education respectively in Britain and the United States when they were approached in 2018.

Like veteran translator of the series Ma Ainong, who says she's been thrilled by Rowling's humor and has burst into laughter at times when working on the translations, the duo say they enjoy translation very much, and were greatly honored by the experience, which they described as a "dream coming true".

"We are Harry Potter fans, and though we split the work in two, we communicated without any hurdles," says Dong Yi, who is a geography major.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." That well-known quote by Arthur Clarke suits the new publication well, the editors say.

Zhang Jinshuo, director of the National Zoological Museum under the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Tsinghua University astronomy professor Cai Zheng, also shared their thoughts with readers at the launch.

"As the book shows, Rowling's magic is based on the real world, and animals make up a great portion of her imagination," Zhang says. "The traits of certain animals in Harry Potter's world take us by wonder, which is exactly a reflection of our understanding of the real animals."

Xinhua and China Daily

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