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Beijing Bestsellers: Initial D, Jonathan Spence, and Chrysanthemum translations

Jay Chou and Edison Chen on the cover of the celebrated classic, Initial D.

Teenage readers put two new books into the overall top ten list this week. Pictured is Initial D: The Movie Book (#4), which according to the publisher, contains "a fascinating story, images from the film, dialogue and interviews, and behind-the-scenes tidbits, all in one volume. Also included with Initial D: The Movie Book is a valuable, collectable movie poster."

New at #10 is The Basement, the third novel in the "Island" series put out by Guo Jingming's publisher (the second was Finally We Are No One by Luoluo). The author goes by the name BENJAMIN and has published several award-winning graphic novels in recent years. The Basement is the story of rock musicians and their lives and loves. The remainder of the overall bestseller list is pretty much the same as last week's, with the joint history text giving up the top spot to Dan Brown.

Most of the academic bestsellers list is made up of translations of foreign books. Harold Bloom's The Western Canon is at the top for the second week, while the remainder of the list contains such varied authors as Jane Jacobs, Ruth Benedict, Jonathan Spence, Raymond Williams, and Machiavelli.


The Shanghai Far East Publishing House has been reissuing uniform editions of previously translated works by Jonathan Spence. Most of them have been on the academic bestsellers list at one time or another; in the first week of June there were four Jonathan Spence books in the top ten. The Search for Modern China (#8) has been on the list pretty regularly since early this year, with the other books (Ts'ao Yin and the K'ang-Hsi Emperor, The Death of Woman Wang, Treason by the Book, Chinese Roundabout, and The Emperor of China) rotating in and out. The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, The Chan's Great Continent, and God's Chinese Son have also been translated. The translators preface to The Gate of Heavenly Peace (published in English in 1982; mainland translation in 1998 after an earlier translation from Taiwan) reads:
Of course, due to ideological differences between East and West, it is impossible for the views of an American historian on the Chinese revolution to have no differences from our own. We trust that readers will be aware of this point...Moreover, during the course of translation and editing, we have dealt with certain unsuitable paragraphs through necessary deletions or technical alterations.
Naturally, Spence's biography of Mao, translated and published by Taiwan's Left Bank in 2002, is absent from his collected works on the mainland.

Three versions of The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

Another popular work in translation is The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, the classic analysis of wartime Japan by the American cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict. It occupies the third position on the academic chart this week. Or, at least the version published by The Commercial Press does (far right). There are actually three separate translations currently in print, all of them legal since international copyright expired on the book expired in 1998. The Commercial Press translation was originally published in 1990 while the copyright was still in effect. The current printing uses the same plates, so it's still quite cheap.

The other versions came out just this year to take advantage of the country's fascination with and distaste for things Japanese. They include wartime photos and images of Japanese art, and hence are two or three times more expensive than the plain-text Commercial Press edition. The teaser text on the cover of the edition published by China Social Press (far right) somewhat oversells the content, promising to answer the following questions:

Why did Japan invade China?
Why did America drop the atomic bomb?
Why then did America help Japan rebuild?
Will Japan once again turn its butcher blade on Asia?

The academic bestseller list for the week of 7/2--7/9:

  1. (1) The Western Canon by Harold Bloom. (布鲁姆, 《西方正典》)
  2. (-) The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. (雅各布斯, 《美国城市的死与生》)
  3. (2) The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict. (本尼迪克特,《菊与刀》)
  4. (3) Classroom Lectures on Research into the History of Thought by Ge Zhaoguang. Subtitled Scope, perspective, and methodology. (葛兆光, 《思想史研究课堂讲录》)
  5. (4) Ts'ao Yin and the K'ang-Hsi Emperor by Jonathan Spence. (史景迁, 《曹寅与康熙》)
  6. (6) Keywords by Raymond Williams. (威廉斯, 《关键词》)
  7. (5) Discourses on Livy by Niccolò Machiavelli. (马基雅维里, 《论李维》)
  8. (9) The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence. (史景迁, 《追寻现代中国》)
  9. (7) Stepping Backwards by Chen Danqing, an artist who spent the 1980s and 90s in New York. This book contains his thoughts over the past five years on the question of "progress" in Chinese art. "Danqing" in his name means "painting." (陈丹青, 《退步集》)
  10. (10) A Biography of the Historian Chen Yinke by Wang Rongzu. Chen Yinke (1890-1969) was a Tsinghua professor who refused to follow the Marxist historical model after the revolution. When his books began to be republished in the 1980s, he became a model for the type of independent scholarship that had been missing in the previous decades. (汪荣祖, 《史家陈寅恪传》)

The overall bestseller list for the week of 7/2--7/9:

  1. (3) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: For the past few months this novel has been a best-seller shared by the mainland, Taiwan, and the United States. Digital Fortress is a perennial on the fiction list, too. (丹·布郎,《达·芬奇密码》)
  2. (1) Modern and Contemporary History of Three East Asian Countries: The new textbook jointly edited by scholars from China, South Korea, and Japan. Danwei recently reviewed the book. (《东亚三国的近现代史》)
  3. (2) About Going to Work by Zhu Deyong: The author is a cartoonist from Taiwan whose earlier work was the inspiration for the incredibly popular television series Pink Ladies. A sample of Work is available on Sina. (朱德庸,《关于上班这件事》)
  4. (-) Initial D: The Movie Book. Pictures are available on (《头文字D电影写真书》)
  5. (4) Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong: Another long-running best-seller, this loosely-plotted novel is being made into a movie (mentioned earlier on Danwei). (姜戎,《狼图腾》)
  6. (9) 1995-2005 Not Yet Summer Solstice by Guo Jingming: Young writer is still hot despite losing a plagiarism case. Novel is serialized on Sina. Danwei has previous stories on Guo Jingming. (郭敬明,《1995-2005夏至未至》)
  7. (7) Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (丹·布郎,《天使与魔鬼》)
  8. (6) Short Stories, Great Truths edited by Ya Qin: 500 classic parables. (雅琴,《小故事,大道理》)
  9. (8) Tell the World, I Can Do It! by Lu Qin: Educator writes from a child's perspective about problems they might face while growing up. See this earlier Bestsellers post on Danwei for more information about Lu Qin. (卢勤,《告诉世界,我能行》)
  10. (-) The Basement by BENJAMIN. (BENJAMIN, 《地下室》)

Bestseller rankings are taken from the Friday Book Review section in The Beijing News, which compiles its data from the city's major online and brick & mortar bookstores.

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