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Adventures of a Tintin fan in China

Jyrki21
Member
#1 · Posted: 2 Aug 2004 11:59 · Edited by: Jyrki21
So I just got back from a brief vacation in Beijing, and thought I'd share the Tintin-related curiosities I came across. (Don't worry, this thread is principally about Tintin publishing in China, not my own travel stories, even if I'm mentioning this in the context of my journey).

Angry with myself for forgetting to pick up a Thai Tintin book when I was in Bangkok, I was determined to find a Chinese one in Beijing. There do not seem to be many bookstores, so I actually had to resort to the shopping malls of the more touristy district to find anything.

The first shop I walked into had the entire series, one copy of each, sitting on a shelf. What luck, I thought, until I picked up The Crab with the Golden Claws and was ready to pay 25 yuan to have my own copy in Chinese, and the storekeepers started frantically waving their arms and such.

Now Beijing is not Hong Kong... not many people speak any English at all, so communication is awfully difficult for a Westerner. So I pretty much had to guess what all the ruckus was about. My first thought was that they were thinking, "The idiot! He doesn't realize it's in Chinese!" :) But it turns out, actually, that you could only buy the entire series in one fell swoop! They didn't offer single albums at all! (The total was about 420 yuan, which is excellent value by North American standards, but considering I can't actually read the books, I wasn't going to take home 20-some odd of them!)

I should have been suspicious when I noticed that the books were full-size... I'd seen Chinese ones before in Vancouver (we have a very large Cantonese-speaking population) and remembered that they were much smaller prints compared to the English/French ones.

But before leaving, my travel companion and I had a look at Tintin in Tibet in Chinese for interest's sake. We're both pretty adept with languages and were able to compare Chinese characters to see, at least, what some of them meant. Sure enough, as per my suspicion, it appeared (and of course I can't confirm this) that the book made no reference to Tibet at all. The words for "West" and "China" ('Middle Kingdom' in Chinese) clearly appeared in the title along with Tintin's name... so it appears the politics of the People's Republic have led them to rename that album "Tintin in Western China" or something of the sort.

It's possible that it was also called something like "Tintin in Tibet, in Western China" kind of in the way that the United Nations always tacks on "Province of China" to Taiwan's name whenever they mention it (lest you recognize any legitimacy in their claims to statehood, you see...)

But, curiously enough, on the overall diagram of all the albums on the back -- including Tibet itself, I believe! -- the title was noticeably different. It was shorter, which leads me to believe that, indeed, it did say "Tintin in Tibet."

All this is very curious... I believe Tibet was written before the Chinese occupation of that territory, was it not? This means that Beijing should calm the heck down... they didn't go around adding in Chairman Mao's picture to pre-Communist China in the Blue Lotus or anything, so why panic here?

In the end, I did manage to find a single copy I could buy though. In another, huge bookstore, we managed to ask for Tintin (by writing it down... perhaps the simplest combination of Chinese characters you can imagine... it's basically "TT"). They had a whole box for the albums (with the French title for the series) which was actually empty, but they managed to unearth three copies of Flight 714 (the Chinese title doesn't seem to mention Sydney) for me. And these are the small ones I was talking about before.

Curiously, one of the workers also had a full-size copy of Red Rackham's Treasure with her, which she showed me, and then promptly took away! No idea where she went, where she got it from, or where she put it... perhaps its full-size is an indication that they were also selling the entire series as a single unit, like in the other store... no idea.

Anyway, I now am the proud owner of a very small, but Chinese, version of Flight 714. :)
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 2 Aug 2004 13:27
Fascinating stuff Jyrki - congrats on your obtaining a copy of Flight 714 :)

Here's a link to an interesting news item from the bbc news regarding Tintin in (Chinese) Tibet
Jyrki21
Member
#3 · Posted: 2 Aug 2004 14:10
Aha, thanks for that!

One thing I forgot to mention is that the new version of Alph-Art was also in the store where I found the little Flight 714. I was half-tempted, if only because I could read the French in the sketches where it was legible (I already own the original English edition), but I thought a screenplay-style book, all in Chinese, was pretty pointless for me when I at least had the option of speech bubbles and clear pictures...
marsbar
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 4 Aug 2004 12:17
Jyrki21 wrote: I should have been suspicious when I noticed that the books were full-size... I'd seen Chinese ones before in Vancouver (we have a very large Cantonese-speaking population) and remembered that they were much smaller prints compared to the English/French ones.

As I recently mentioned in the thread about the Hong Kong edition Tintin series, the first mainland Chinese edition books were published in full size.

Jyrki21 wrote: But before leaving, my travel companion and I had a look at Tintin in Tibet in Chinese for interest's sake. We're both pretty adept with languages and were able to compare Chinese characters to see, at least, what some of them meant. Sure enough, as per my suspicion, it appeared (and of course I can't confirm this) that the book made no reference to Tibet at all. The words for "West" and "China" ('Middle Kingdom' in Chinese) clearly appeared in the title along with Tintin's name... so it appears the politics of the People's Republic have led them to rename that album "Tintin in Western China" or something of the sort ....

The actual modified title was "Ding Ding Zai Zhong Guo Xi Zang", which translates literally as "Tintin in Middle Kingdom West Zang", or less literally, as "Tintin in Chinese Tibet".

Jyrki21 wrote: But, curiously enough, on the overall diagram of all the albums on the back -- including Tibet itself, I believe! -- the title was noticeably different. It was shorter, which leads me to believe that, indeed, it did say "Tintin in Tibet."

The albums you saw were most probably of different editions and printings.

The first authorised mainland Chinese edition Tintin books appeared in May, 2001; and the first edition, first printing books included the modified Tibet album. The title modification, which had initially been approved by Casterman, angered Herge's widow, Fanny Rodwell. Rodwell complained to Casterman, who in turn refused to allow the Chinese to reprint the album with the modified title. This is probably why the second printing of the Tintin series later that year did not include the Tibet album, and why the Tibet cover was removed from the list of albums on the back cover of the 2nd printing books. I think the Tibet album only became available again - this time with its original title restored - in May, 2002, when the Chinese launched a new edition of Tintin books in A5 size.

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