Books

Bootleg faith

In this week's Oriental Outlook, Jilin resident Zhang Yunmei writes about an interesting experience buying bootleg books:

During the October 1st holiday, I went to buy some books near the university I had once attended. I found that not only were there many bookstores in the area around the university, but vendors with pushcarts selling pirated editions were all over. The vendors typically pushed three-wheeled carts packed with all kinds of popular books — whatever was selling well at the time, they'd be able to find in their cart.

I was aware that the books they were selling were undoubtedly bootlegs, but since their prices were seductively low, and pirated editions these days come in several classes — a top-level bootleg is little different from an authorized edition — I dove into the crush of people and began picking through the books. Suddenly, among the layers of mass-market books, I saw a superbly-bound copy of the Bible. I thought to myself, so there's even a bootleg of the Bible. Would those people who believe in Jesus look to save money by buying a pirated copy to read every day? So, though I knew the answer, I asked, "Is this Bible a pirated version, too?" "Bootleg editions offend the Lord!" the vendor quickly replied. I never would have thought that even book vendors might have faith.

Er Hei, who noted that street booksellers were trading in bootleg Bibles back in 2005, offers this assessment:

This can only mean one thing: the Bible has started to become like those kung-fu novels, has started to find an enthusiastic audience.

There are currently 2 Comments for Bootleg faith.

Comments on Bootleg faith

Exact. About a year ago, in Beijing, not far from the Workers' stadium, in the posh area, at my favorite's book bootleger (where Wolf Totem even came in 2 bootleged formats) there was bootlged bibles including one in English (or bilingual, I forgot) together with a few mass market pocket books in English such as Da Vinci Code (these guys know how to adapt to their market; they sell also fake cigars). I guess the astute and ecumenical vendor felt the need to put the bible next to the controversial Da Vinci Code. For the record, what looks like bootleged books in English at these little street vendors are most probably genuine cheap editions discreetly printed in the PRC for Western publishers (who apparently illegally forget to print 'made in China' on their books). A few boxes of these genuine cheap books usually fall from the back of the truck...

What would be nice as a pirated bible would be the TaiPing 太平天国 version. Hong's (洪秀全) startling corrections to the text, including his account of Jesus helping him beat Confucious with a stick up in Heaven, would be just desserts for those buying a pirated version. (English speakers not familar with the story may enjoy Jonathon Spence's God's Chinese Son).

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