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Beijing Bestsellers: Moment in Peking and other TV hits

Flashing Swords: Tailoring war stories to the marketplace.

Danwei's Beijing Bestsellers feature returns this week to look at a marketplace brimming with media tie-ins.

Unsurprisingly, the heavily-promoted Chinese-language edition of Harry Potter VI is still tops for the second week. Though much cheaper than the English editions sold here over the summer, at 58 yuan the Chinese version is still pretty pricey for a kids' novel. The bestseller lists in the The Beijing News have just a few books above this price - the eagerly awaited translation of A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (60 yuan) by C. T. Hsia, the three-volume, illustrated Historical Outline of the Chinese People (75 yuan) by Taiwanese author Bo Yang, author of Ugly Chinese, a translation of Philip Short's Mao: A Life (60 yuan), The Complete Garfield Collection (160 yuan), and, oddly, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (59 yuan).

Pictured here is Flashing Swords (#4), a novel written in 2001 by Du Liang, which is selling well this season because of a popular television adaptation. The book is promoted as a new type of war novel - a "market-driven war story." It narrates events up through the Cultural Revolution, like the author's second bestseller, Crimson Romance (血色浪漫). Interestingly, the television adaptation breaks off at 1955 without getting into cross-straits relations or CR issues.

CCTV's broadcast of the new Moment in Peking adaptation starring Vicki Zhao has put Lin Yutang's original novel at #2 65 years after it was first published. Lin wrote in English for a US audience; he didn't particularly care for the first Chinese translation done in 1941. The current translation was done in 1977 by Zhang Zhenyu, a translator from Taiwan, but it did not come out on the mainland until a sanitized version was published in 1987 by a publisher in Jilin. Today's political climate has allowed Shaanxi Normal University Press to issue Zhang's full translation of Lin's original text.

According to some, this is not the best Chinese translation. Lin had originally wanted romantic poet Yu Dafu to do the translation, but he had only completed the first section when he was killed in the Japanese invasion. His son Yu Fei finished the translation in 1991, but his version, while capturing the flavor of old Beijing, is not too widely read.

Tibetan Mastiff: Another book about a canine by an author who spent years out among the grassland nomads.

Following the incredible success of stories of nomads and wolves in Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem (#6) comes this novel about Tibetan Mastiffs running about on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Tibetan Mastiff (#7) by Qinghai-born writer Yang Zhijun solves the age-old question of whether pursuing the spirit of a mastiff is more beneficial than pursuing the spirit of a wolf. Or at least it's being promoted that way.

Fully seven of the books on the general bestsellers list are novels. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (#9) will probably stay here until the movie comes out. His Angels and Demons is tenth on the fiction list this week as well. And a novel about post-college life, Days of Grass II by Sun Rui, rounds out the top ten. Also on the fiction list is another in a series of fantasy-martial arts novels, Slaying the Immortals 5 by Xiao Ding.

Demystifying Hongloumeng: A book adapted from a TV show that talks about a novel.

One of the non-fiction books on the list this week also is tied to a television program. Liu Xinwu, one of the "scar literature" writers, has given a series of television presentations on the classic novel Dream of Red Mansions. His interpretation, which starts off with the mystery surrounding the death of Qin Keqing, proved popular with viewers (though perhaps not with the scholarly establishment), and he has reworked his lectures into book form, Liu Xinwu Demystifies "Dream of Red Mansions" (#5).

Current events have pushed up sales of other books. The new boss of Google's China operations, Li Kaifu, reveals the secrets of his success in Be Your Personal Best (#8). A new printing of Ba Jin's Random Thoughts is second on the non-fiction list following his recent death. And Yu Hua's To Live makes the fiction list probably due to the strong sales of his new novel Brothers (Part I) (#3).

The overall bestseller list for the week of 10/28--11/03:

  1. (1) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Chinese translation) (J.K. 罗琳, 《哈利·波特与混血王子》)
  2. (-) Moment in Peking by Lin Yutang: 1977 translation by Taiwan's Zhang Zhenyu. (林语堂, 《京城烟云》)
  3. (6) Brothers (volume I) by Yu Hua. (余华, 《兄弟》)
  4. (5) Flashing Swords by Du Liang. (都梁, 《亮剑》)
  5. (3) Liu Xinwu demystifies Dream of the Red Mansion by Liu Xinwu. (刘心武, 《刘心武揭秘〈红楼梦〉》)
  6. (4) Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong. (姜戎, 《狼图腾》)
  7. (7) Tibetan Mastiff by Yang Zhijun. (杨志军, 《藏獒》)
  8. (2) Be Your Personal Best by Li Kaifu: motivational book and DVD by Google's new China head. (李开复, 《做最好有自己》)
  9. (9) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. (丹·布郎,《达·芬奇密码》)
  10. (8) Days of Grass II by Sun Rui. (孙睿, 《草样年华II》)

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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