Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


Chapter 8: The Deathday Party


Simplified Chinese (China)
Jìchén wǎnhuì
忌辰 jìchén = 'deathday'.
晚会 wǎnhuì = 'evening party'.
The Deathday Party
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)
Jìrì yànhuì
忌日 jìrì = 'deathday'.
宴會 yànhuì = 'banquet'.
The Deathday Banquet
Zetsumei-bi pātii
絶命日 zetsumei-bi = 'death-day'.
パーティー pātii = 'party'.
The Death-day Party
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Tiệc tử nhật tiệc = 'banquet'.
tử () = 'death'.
nhật () = 'day'.
The Death Day Banquet
Mongolian (previous)
Үхсэн өдрийн үдэшлэг
Ükhsen ödriin üdeshleg
үхэх ükhekh = 'to die'.
өдөр ödör = 'day' (quasi-genitive).
үдэшлэг üdeshleg = 'party'.
Death-day party
Mongolian (new)
Үхлийн ойн баяр
Ükhliin oin bayar
үхэл ükhel = 'death'.
ойн oin = 'anniversary'.
баяр bayar = 'celebration'.
Death Anniversary Celebration


This is a party to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington's death.

Marking a person's 'deathday' is not a novel concept in the Orient, where it's familiar from Buddhism.

    The Chinese and Taiwanese translators conveniently make use of the Buddhist words 忌辰 jìchén and 忌日 jìrì, which literally mean 'day/occasion of abstinence'. The two words refer to the traditional practice of refraining from alcohol or pleasure on the anniversary (monthly or annual) of the death of an elder or respected person such as a parent.

    Japanese also has several terms for the 'death day', including the two Chinese terms above (忌辰 kishin and 忌日 kijitsu / kinichi) as well as 命日 meinichi. In Japan, Buddhist services are held every seven days after a person's death. Monthly anniversaries are known as 月命日 tsuki meinichi, the annual anniversary is known as 祥月命日 shōtsuki meinichi, or 命日 meinichi for short.

    But the Japanese translator avoids the traditional Buddhist terms -- maybe she felt the solemn overtones didn't fit in with the idea of holding a party. Instead, she makes up an entirely new word, 絶命日 zetsumei-bi ('death-day'), the opposite of 誕生日 tanjō-bi ('birth-day'). 絶命 zetsumei is not the common word for 'death'; it means 'the end of life'.

    Like Chinese and Japanese, Vietnamese has expressions meaning 'death anniversary': ngày giỗ or bữa giỗ. The banquet for a death day anniversary, at which special foods may be eaten, is called đám giỗ. (For an example of a Vietnamese deathday anniversary, see A Little Lesson on Ancestor Worship and My Great-Grandfather's Death Anniversary Dinner). However, the Vietnamese translation uses a completely literal translation of the English: 'death + day', that is, tử nhật (equivalent to 死日 sǐ-rì in Chinese characters).

    The Mongolian term for the Buddhist concept of death day is цээртэй өдөр tseertei ödör 'abstinence day'. However, the translations coin fresh terms based on the English. The previous translation uses үхсэн өдөр ükhsen ödör 'day (when) died', modelled on the Mongolian word for birthday, төрсөн өдөр törsön ödör 'day (when) born'. The new translation uses a more formal term: үхлийн ой ükhliin oi 'death anniversary'.

See Death Anniversary (Wikipedia).


'Parties' are a very Western thing. Of course all cultures have gatherings for people to drink, eat, and interact in various kinds of setting, but the concept of relatively free, informal, and unstructured gatherings where people (often people unknown to each other) just hang around, talk, drink, and eat is somewhat different from the more structured functions typical of Eastern cultures. These more usually tend to involve sitting at table, often with a certain seating or pecking order and the expectation that the attendees will be familiar to each other. Because the Western-style party is different from their own traditional kind of gathering, both the Chinese and the Japanese have adopted the word 'party' (Chinese 派对 pàiduì or even just 'party' in the original English spelling; Japanese パーティー pātii) in addition to their own existing words for such gatherings.

The translations of the word 'party' in this chapter title are:

    The Mainland Chinese translation uses 晚会 wǎnhuì, literally 'evening gathering'. This refers to functions held in the evening for the purpose of eating and drinking together.

    The Taiwanese translation uses 宴會 (simplified 宴会) yànhuì, which is commonly understood as a slightly more formal gathering involving eating and drinking.

    The Japanese translation uses the borrowed word パーティー pātii.

    The Vietnamese translation uses tiệc, also referring to a banquet.

    The previous Mongolian translation used the word үдэшлэг üdeshleg (from үдэш üdesh 'dusk, evening'), the conventional translation of 'party'. The new translation uses баяр bayar 'celebration'.

(A summary of this chapter can be found at Harry Potter Facts. Detailed notes on the chapter can be found at Harry Potter Lexicon)

Chapter 7
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