Book of the Day: The Hunger Games Chinese

The Hunger Games ChineseThe Hunger Games by  Suzanne Collins is a gripping read and the first in the trilogy of books. There was recently a popular movie produced of this book. Through reading The Hunger Games in Chinese you can improve your Chinese language skills as well as reading for pleasure. The Hunger Games is a publishing phenomenon similar to Twilight and has attracted readers all over the world. We at Chinese Bookstore are one of the few places in the English speaking world to sell the Hunger Games in Chinese.

The Hunger Games tells the story of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a world in the country of Panem (which used to be North America). The Capitol (the city at the centre of her universe) holds the Hunger Games annually to discourage people from rebelling against their power.

One boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle until only one person is left.

Although The Hunger Games is designed for teenage readers, it may not be suitable for some readers due to the levels of violence included. The Hunger Games is a gripping battle for survival.

We are also selling the other books by Suzanne Collins in our Chinese bookstore.

Chinese authors sue Apple over copyright

Apple iBooks

Image: Courtesy Apple Inc.

A group of 22 Chinese authors has alleged that Apple Inc. is guilty of copyright infringement. According to recent reports by the Xinhua News Agency, the group says that Apple has been illegally selling their books in the iBookstore. They have decided to sue Apple, a multi-billion dollar company and maker of popular products like the iPhone and iPad.

Collectively as the Writers Alliance, the group has alleged that Apple Inc. has been selling unlicensed copies of 95 different Chinese books in its online bookstore. The pirated books include works by a number of prominent Chinese authors, including controversial novelist, blogger and race car driver, Han Han (韩寒).

Among the other Chinese writers that teamed up to form the Writers Alliance, a group to protect their copyrights, are He Ma, author of the immensely popular series The Tibet Code, and Nanpai Sanshu, who wrote another popular Chinese series,  Secrets of a Grave Robber.

The Writers Alliance has been petitioning Apple to remove the allegedly pirated books from its store since 2011. They are now seeking ¥50 million ($8 million) in compensation from Apple. A spokeswoman from Apple, Carolyn Wu, confirmed that the company understands copyright infringement issues as holders of intellectual property rights themselves.

Earlier last year, the Writers Alliance also successfully bid mega Chinese search engine, Baidu, to stop publishing their books on its popular Baidu Library. This was on behalf of some 40 Chinese writers and resulted in the removal of roughly 3 million infringing works from the Baidu Library.

So far, it has not been confirmed where the claim was made or in which country the suit will be tried. The head of the Writers Alliance, Bei ZhiCheng, has said that the group’s lawyers have already sent off letters to Apple’s legal department, but that they are still waiting for a reply.

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl for Chicago city book club

Gold Boy, Emerald GirlChinese author Yiyun Li’s book Gold Boy Emerald Girl has been selected as the next read for Chicago’s city-wide book club. The book, which is Yiyun Li’s third release, is a collection of short stories depicting rich and haunting stories from China. The stories often juxtapose traditional values and ways of life with modern society to reveal a vastly complicated China of today not often seen in books.

Gold Boy Emerald Girl consists of nine short stories, each of which follows the lives of Chinese characters dealing with the realities of their everyday world and many of whom are haunted by a past tragedy. “Kindness”, for example – the book’s lead-off story – is about a Beijing girl who survived a year in the People’s Liberation Army and now leads a solitary life in a near-derelict apartment block. “House Fire”, meanwhile, recounts a group of middle-aged women who investigate cheating husbands.

Author Yiyun Li is a darling of the Chinese-American fiction scene. A native of Beijing, Li emigrated to the United States to do an M.A. in immunology after earning her B.S. in China. Yiyun Li’s life took a drastic change when she enrolled in the Nonfiction Writing program at the University of Iowa and began writing in English. Read the rest of this entry »

What is the Tao Te Ching?

Tao Te ChingOf all the ancient books of China, the Tao Te Ching (道德經; also known by its Pinyin name, Daode Jing) is one of the most widely read around the world. The Tao Te Ching is also one of the most translated works of literature on earth.

One of the fundamental texts of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism as well as Chinese Buddhism, the Tao Te Ching is often known to people in China simply by the name of its author: Laozi. Scholars have, for years, debated the existence of Laozi or whether this name could be attributed to one of several ancient writers. Likewise, some suggest that the Tao Te Ching was written by a series of scholars over hundreds or even thousands of years.

The Tao Te Ching is essentially a work of human philosophy. It has informed many fundamental elements of Chinese culture today, such as the ideas of yin and yang (opposite elements). Read the rest of this entry »

Chinese Lit: Four Great Classical Novels

Dream of the Red Chamber artwork

Dream of the Red Chamber scene by Xu Baozhuan (1810-1873). Photo: Wiki Commons

Among China’s greatest and oldest literary achievements are the so-called “Four Great Classical Novels” of Chinese literature. In Chinese, these are known as 四大名著 or sì dà míng zhù (“four big masterpieces”).

The novels traditionally included on this list are:

Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai’an
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
by Luo Guanzhong
Journey to the West
by Wu Cheng’en
Dream of the Red Chamber
by Cao Xueqin

The last on this list, Dream of the Red Chamber, is also the most recent, written in the 18th century. Before its time, another book called The Plum in the Golden Vase by Lanling XiaoXiao Sheng was considered the fourth great novel. However, the book’s sexually explicit content led to it being replaced by Dream of the Red Chamber and it has subsequently been banned in China for some time.

Of these four classical Chinese novels, both Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dream of the Red Chamber are considered to be the best and are beloved by their fans. Many of these books’ avid readers like to suggest that they are among the best classic works of literature ever written, both in China and anywhere else. Read the rest of this entry »

Xi Juan and the Chinese Romance Novel

Xi JuanMost people associate Chinese literature with the sweeping landscapes of the classic novels, like Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. However, in modern China, another type of book rules the sales racks: romance novels.

Born in 1972 in Taiwan, Xi Juan (席绢) is one of the most prolific and popular writers in modern China. Although her works may not end up in any Chinese literature curricula, she continues to be one of the most influential Chinese writers of her time.

Xi Juan’s works are classic romance novels. Often centering on a threesome – usually a girl and two guys – Xi Juan’s writing practically invented the formulaic styles that flood the shelves of romance books in China today. Most of Xi Juan’s novels – of which there are dozens – incorporate some type of mix up that creates a type of humor not terribly unlike the Western version of a romantic comedy. It is because of this lighthearted tone that Xi Juan’s works are often referred to in Chinese as “ice cream” lit. Read the rest of this entry »

Ghost Blows Out The Light – popular Chinese fantasy

Ghost Blows Out The Light - Gui Chui DengAlso known by its Chinese name, Guǐ Chuī Dēng (鬼吹灯), Ghost Blows Out The Light is a series of fantasy novels that have achieved incredible success in Mainland China. Following the story of a tomb raider, the eight installments of the series were first published in 2006.

Set in the 1980s, the story follows a retired soldier and his friend who team up to raid tombs. Their antics lead them around China, uncovering secrets, myths and legends held in the ancient tombs and, eventually, a terrible curse. Later, they meet a team of archaeologists and an American, who helps them solve the secrets and mysteries that release them from the curse.

The book’s rather unusual name is drawn from an ancient Chinese tomb raiders’ myth that states: “A human lights the candle and the ghosts blow it out.” According to the author, tomb raiders would thus place a candle in the southeast corner of the tomb. If the candle’s flame was extinguished on its own, it was a sign that the tomb’s resident was unhappy with their presence and all of the artifacts must be returned to their rightful places.

The series is praised for its creativity and the way it brings together Chinese historical themes and myths in  Western-style entertainment. The author, Zhang Muye, wrote the book during quiet mornings at his office, where he works in finance. Gui Chui Deng has been compared to popular Western movies like The Mummy, Tomb Raider and National Treasure for its sense of adventure combined with historical facts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tibet Code: a Chinese bestseller

The Tibet Code

Photo: Creative Commons/Göran (Kartläsarn)

The Tibet Code is one of the most popular works of Chinese fiction of recent times. The book follows the story of Qiang Ba, an expert on the prized breed of dog, the Tibetan mastiff, searching for ancient Buddhist treasure. Qiang and his mentor, Fang Xin, after receiving a mysterious letter containing photos of the prized dogs. Their search leads them into the wilds of Tibet, where they of course uncover much more than just a dog.

Although title of The Tibet Code is an obvious nod to a certain American bestseller, the book is arguable more historically accurate and interesting and bears little resemblance to Dan Brown’s work. The sweeping landscapes, continuous intrigue and historical detail contained in the book make it true page-turner that’s hard to put down. Read the rest of this entry »

Who was Lao She?

Lao She

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1899 to a poor Manchu family in Beijing, Lao She became one of the most important figures of 20th century Chinese literature. Both a playwright and novelist, Lao She’s works explore the dark side of the times he lived through, including the Sino-Japanese War (1937 – 1945). Among the major themes in Lao She’s writings are those of human frailty and cruelty with strong overtones of social and cultural commentary of the times in which they were written.

Lao She’s early childhood was critical in the way that his writings developed, especially thematically. In 1901, at the age of two, Lao She lost his father, who was a guard soldier, to a street fight during the Boxer Rebellion. Growing up, his mother struggled to provide for the family and often regaled Lao She with frightening stories of war and “barbaric foreign devils”, which the writer later recalled as being more terrifying than children’s monster stories.

Despite the family’s financial difficulties, Lao She attended Beijing Normal University and went on to teach in local high schools before moving to London in 1924. It was here, while serving as a lecturer at the School of Oriental [and African] Studies, that Lao She began to read in English. He absorbed a great deal of classical English literature and is said to have been especially influenced by the works of Charles Dickens, whose themes of social inequality and human suffering no doubt resonated with Lao She. Read the rest of this entry »

Unpacking the Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Romance of the Three Kingdoms“It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide” (話說天下大勢,分久必合,合久必分).

These lines open the epic historical novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Great Novels of Chinese literature. It is a book that offers incredibly (though perhaps not succinct) insight into the Chinese view of the world, especially history, as the above quote suggests.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms was written in the 1300s by Luo Guanzhong, who is also often attributed with Outlaws of the Marsh, another of the Four Great Novels.

Set in the 2nd and 3rd centuries in China, Romance of the Three Kingdoms chronicles the rough end of the dynasty. It follows the struggles and battles of warlords and nobles as they fought to maintain or gain power. Eventually, three main families come into play, and these become the Wu, Shu and Wei states, ushering in the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history. Read the rest of this entry »