Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book Title in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese


"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Simplified Chinese (China)
Hālì Bōtè yǔ Fènghuáng-shè
哈利・波特 Hālì Bōtè = phonetic transcription
= 'and' (written Chinese).
凤凰 fènghuáng = '(Oriental) phoenix'.
shè = 'society'.
Harry Potter and the Society of the Phoenix
Simplified Chinese (China)
哈利波特 鳳凰會的密令
Hālì Pōtè -- Fènghuáng-huì de mìlìng
哈利波特 Hālì Pōtè = phonetic transcription
鳳凰 fènghuáng = '(Oriental) phoenix'
huì = 'society, association'.
de = connecting particle
密令 mìlìng = 'secret order, secret command'
Harry Potter: The Secret Command of the Society of the Phoenix
Harii Pottā to Fushi-chō no kishi-dan
ハリー・ポッター Harii Pottā = transcription into katakana (phonetic).
to = 'and'.
不死鳥 fushi-chō = 'non-death bird' = '(Western) phoenix'.
no = connecting particle
騎士 kishi = 'knight' (Western style).
dan = 'group, corps'.
Harry Potter and the Knightly Group of the Phoenix
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Harry Potter và hội phượng hoàng Harry Potter (pronounced Ha-ri Pốt-tơ according to footnotes).
= 'and'.
hội () = 'society'.
phượng hoàng (鳳凰) = '(Oriental) phoenix'
Harry Potter and the Society of the Phoenix


In the West, the phoenix is a bird of ancient Egyptian myth, a symbol of non-death and resurrection. The phoenix is a solitary male bird with beautiful gold and red plumage that lived in the Arabian desert and immolated itself in a nest of fragrant wood at the end of its life cycle every 500-600 years. From the ashes a new phoenix would arise. This is the background to Fawkes' habit of burning up and reappearing in a pile of ash -- although Fawkes' life cycle appears to be considerably shorter than the traditional 500 years. The word 'phoenix' is sometimes rendered in Chinese as 不死鳥 / 不死鸟 bù-sǐ-niǎo 'not-die bird' or 長生鳥 / 长生鸟 chángshēng-niǎo 'long-life bird'. The Japanese equivalent term, 不死鳥 fushi-chō = 'not-die bird', is used in the Japanese version of Harry Potter to translate the word 'phoenix'.

However, the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese translations all use the word 鳳凰 / 凤凰 fènghuáng or phượng hoàng to translate the word 'phoenix'. The 鳳凰 fènghuáng is actually the name of a mythical Chinese bird that somewhat resembles the Western phoenix but is in fact different in many ways.

The 鳳凰 fènghuáng or Chinese 'phoenix' is a mythical bird that is said to look like a qilin (a mythical creature) at the front and a deer at the rear, having a neck like a snake, a tail like a fish, a back like a turtle, a chin like a swallow, and a bill like a chicken. It has five-coloured feathers, lives in the Chinese scholar tree, eats the fruit of the bamboo, and drinks from the sweet springs of peace. The appearance of a Chinese phoenix presages the birth of a great and wise ruler. The word 鳳凰 fènghuáng is made up of fèng, the male bird, and huáng, which is the female bird. The dragon was traditionally associated with the Chinese emperor and the phoenix with the empress. The phoenix thus gradually came to be associated with femininity.

It is unfortunate that 鳳凰 fènghuáng has become the conventional translation of the word 'phoenix', and unfortunate but probably inevitable that the Chinese and Vietnamese translators have followed this convention.


The English word 'Order' here refers to groups of monks or mediaeval knights who embraced certain rules of religious or chivalrous conduct. Typical examples are the Order of Franciscans (monastic) and the Order of the Templars (knightly). 'Order' is also used in reference to certain secret mutual-help societies in modern times, such as the Order of the Masons.

The Japanese translator uses the conventional Japanese term for a mediaeval order of knights, i.e. 騎士団 kishidan, literally 'knight corps'. (Note that 騎士団 kishidan is used exclusively for Western knights; there were no orders of samurai in mediaeval Japan!). 不死鳥の騎士団 Fushi-chō no kishidan 'Knightly Corps of the Phoenix' sounds slightly quaint. The word 騎士団 kishidan gives a specific and narrow impression -- quite literally a body of knights -- that sits rather strangely with Dumbledore and his group.

The Chinese and Taiwanese translators choose names suggestive of a society or association: 凤凰社 Fènghuáng-shè (Mainland) and 鳳凰會 Fènghuáng-huì (Taiwan). Both shè and (simplified ) huì mean 'society, association', although there is some difference in usage:

  • shè tends to be used for groups of a commercial or economic nature (but is also used for student clubs and associations in Taiwan -- see Book 2 Chapter 11 'The Duelling Club').
  • / huì is likely to be of a non-commercial nature, such as an academic association or an association of people from the same province.

As has been pointed out, however, the connotations of the two are quite different.

  • 凤凰社 Fènghuáng-shè sounds like a membership-only club.
  • 鳳凰 Fènghuáng-huì recalls the secret societies of the late Qing dynasty (late nineteenth century) whose political agenda was the overthrow of the foreign Manchus (Qing) and restoration of the native Ming dynasty. Well-known examples were the 老哥會 / 老哥会 Lǎogē-huì and 三合會 / 三合会 Sǎnhé-huì ('Triad'). The Triad lost its political goals along the way and degenerated into a well-known criminal grouping that is still active in Hong Kong and other places. (See Triads, review of "The Dragon Syndicates", and The World of Early Chinese Revolutionaries for some background.)

鳳凰會 Fènghuáng-huì thus sounds much more subversive than 凤凰社 Fènghuáng-shè. Given the clandestine, anti-Ministry nature of the 'Order of the Phoenix', this is an exciting and romantic name and, in certain ways, quite fitting. However, it is also rather incongruous because it makes Dumbledore sound like the leader of a Chinese secret society!

The word 'order' has another meaning: 'command'. This does not make sense in this context as there is no implication of commands being issued either by or on behalf of phoenixes. However, this meaning has been taken up in several of the CJV editions.

  • Before the translation appeared, the Mainland publisher tentatively translated the title as 哈利・波特与凤凰令 Hālì Bōtè yǔ Fènghuáng-lìng, meaning 'Harry Potter and the Command of the Phoenix'. This was changed upon publication as it was realised that this was not the intended meaning.
  • The Vietnamese translator began with Harry Potter và Mệnh lệnh phượng hoàng ('Harry Potter and the Command of the Phoenix') at the first instalment but switched to Harry Potter và hội phượng hoàng ('Harry Potter and the Society of the Phoenix') from the second instalment onwards.
  • The Taiwanese translation retains the meaning 'command' in the final title, which means 'Harry Potter: The Secret Command of the Society of the Phoenix'. Presumably the translators felt that this was a hidden meaning intended by the author.
Book 4 Chapter 37
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