Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese & Mongolian Translation


Modern Magical History



Chinese (Mainland)
Xiàndài mófǎ shǐ
现代 xiàndài = 'modern'.
魔法 mófǎ = 'magic'.
-shǐ = 'history'.
Modern Magical History
Chinese (Taiwan)
Xiàndài mófǎ shǐ
現代 xiàndài = 'modern'.
魔法 mófǎ = 'magic'.
-shǐ = 'history'.
Modern Magical History
Kindai mahō-shi
近代 kindai = 'modern'.
魔法 mahō = 'magic'.
-shi = 'history'.
Modern Magical History
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Lịch sử pháp thuật hiện đại lịch sử (歷史) = 'history'.
pháp thuật (法術) = 'magic'.
hiện đại (現代) = 'modern'
History of Modern Magic
Mongolian (previous)
Орчин үеийн Ид шидийн түүх
Orchin üiin Id shidiin tüükh
орчин үе orchin üe = 'contemporaneous, present, modern' (genitive form).
ид шид id shid = 'magic' (genitive form).
түүх tüükh = 'history'.
Contemporary History of Magic
Mongolian (new)
Орчин үеийн Ид шидийн хөгжил судлал
Orchin üiin Id shidiin khögjil sudlal
Identical to "A Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry" Studies of Contemporary Development of Magic

This book obviously deals with very recent history since Hermione read about Harry in it. It has been dated to the period between 1981 and 1991.


There are two words for 'modern' times in CJV languages:

    1) 近代 jìndài (Chinese), 近代 kindai (Japanese), or cận đại (Vietnamese): The period up until the First World War (world history) or the Second World War (domestic Chinese or Japanese history). The meaning of is 'near'. This is thus the historical era that is 'nearest' to our own.

    2) 現代/现代 xiàndài (Chinese), 現代 gendai (Japanese), or hiện đại (Vietnamese): The contemporary era that we now live in. In world history this usually starts after the First World War. In domestic history, it starts after WWII (Japan) or after the Communist takeover of China and Vietnam.

While the theoretical distinction is reasonably clear, ordinary Japanese usage is less strict. Japanese often prefers 近代 kindai where Chinese and Vietnamese would use 現代 xiàndài or hiện đại. Given the actual recency of the book, however, the Japanese translation is clearly a little off.

In translating 'modern', Mongolian uses a native term, орчин үе orchin üe, meaning 'recent period'. This covers the period from modern to contemporaneous.

Curiously, the newest Mongolian translation translates 'history' in the name of this book as хөгжил судлал khögjil sudlal 'development study'. Either the translator has become confused with other books such as A Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry, or has deliberately chosen this translation due to the recency of historical events covered.

Note: 'Modernisation' in Japanese is 近代化 kindai-ka. In Chinese it is 現代化 / 现代化 xiàndài-huà. In Vietnamese it is hiện đại hóa. Mongolian uses шинэчлэлт shinchlelt related to шинэ shin 'new' (or in Inner Mongolia одоохчлолт odookhchlolt).


The word for 'history' is the same in the CJV languages: 歷史 / 历史 lì shǐ (Chinese), 歴史 rekishi (Japanese), or lịch sử (Vietnamese).

However, in describing a field of history as an academic subject, it is more usual to use the shorter form shǐ (Chinese), shi (Japanese), or sử (Vietnamese). The Chinese (Mainland and Taiwanese) and Japanese translators follow this custom.

For some reason, only the Vietnamese translator does not. Perhaps this is because Vietnamese no longer uses Chinese characters, which means that the full word lịch sử is clearer than the single syllable sử. (Note: The Korean translation, which does not use Chinese characters, also uses the full form 역사 yeogsa.)

The important role of Chinese characters in conveying meaning can be seen from Japanese. Looking just at the pronunciation, mahō-shi could conceivably mean 'magic poetry', 'magic words', 'magic paper', 'magic city', 'magician' or 'magical death' because shi can also mean 'poetry' (), 'word' (), 'paper' (), 'city' (), 'practitioner' (), or 'death' (). The character 'history' 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.

Mongolian has its own word for history, түүх tüükh, and does not use a Chinese loanword.

Category: History

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