Bathrobe's Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation
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The Titles of Magical Books in Harry Potter


A History of Magic


Chinese (Mainland) 魔法史
魔法 mófǎ = 'magic'.
-shǐ = 'history'.
History of Magic
Chinese (Taiwan) 魔法史
魔法 mófǎ = 'magic'.
-shǐ = 'history'.
History of Magic
Japanese 魔法史
魔法 mahō = 'magic'.
-shi = 'history'.
History of Magic
Vietnamese Lịch sử Pháp thuật lịch sử (歷史) = 'history'.
pháp thuật (法術) = 'magic'.
History of Magic

The Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese translators all used the same name (when written in Chinese characters). The Vietnamese translation, however, deviates from the other versions.


The word for 'history' in all languages is 歷史 / 历史 lì shǐ (Chinese), 歴史 rekishi (Japanese), or lịch sử (Vietnamese). This word is used by the Vietnamese translator.

However, it is much more usual to use the shorter form shǐ (Chinese), shi (Japanese), or sử (Vietnamese), used as a suffix for history as an academic subject. The Chinese (Mainland and Taiwanese) and Japanese translators use this form. For some reason, the Vietnamese translator does not. Is this related to the fact that Vietnamese no longer uses Chinese characters, which would quite naturally lead to a tendency to use the full word lịch sử rather than the single character .

Note that in Japanese, Mahō-shi could theoretically mean 'magic poetry', 'magic words', or 'death by magic' because shi can also mean 'poetry', 'word', or 'death'. The character makes the meaning clear. There is less of a problem in Chinese and Vietnamese because they have tones and a richer sound system than Japanese.


In English, 'magic', wizardry', 'witchcraft', and 'sorcery' are all different words for magic. Oriental languages also have a number of alternative names. In Harry Potter, the translators use the following names:

The Chinese (Mainland and Taiwanese) and Japanese versions use the word 魔法 (Chinese mófǎ, Japanese mahō), literally the 'way or methods of the ghosts'. In modern times this word has lost its unfavourable associations and generally has a positive meaning like that in English 'magic' (e.g., 'the magic of Disney').

The Vietnamese translator uses pháp thuật, which is related to Chinese 法術 fǎshù. Originally, 法術 fǎshù in Chinese referred to the human-style magic practised by Daoist (Taoist) masters as opposed to the magic of supernatural ghosts and demons. Note: 法術 fǎshù is also used at one or two places in the Mainland Chinese translation of Harry Potter to mean 'magic'. However, it is not the most normal or neutral Chinese term for expressing the meaning 'magic'.

Category: History

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