Confucius: More Popular Than Harry Potter?

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  07.24.07 | 12:55 PM ET

imageLooks like he is in China, and it’s not because the country somehow missed the boy wizard’s bandwagon. We posted recently that a self-help book based on the teachings of Confucius, “Notes on Reading the Analects” by Yu Dan, topped the nation’s best-seller list. Today the Washington Post weighs in with a wider-ranging story about the popularity of Confucianism in China, which notes that “Analects” sold more than double the copies of the country’s next best-selling book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

China’s economic growth has helped fuel the Confucius resurgence.

From the story by the Post’s Maureen Fan:

“With the fast economic growth, many people have become selfish and have no morality,” said Ren Xiaolin, founder of the Zhengzhou Young Pioneers school. “This has created a need for Confucianism. ... The change is overwhelming and many Chinese can’t get used to it. It’s created a clash of values.”

Because Confucianism has only recently regained its popularity—it was seen as an obstacle to modernization during the anti-intellectual Cultural Revolution of 1966-76—many Chinese today are hard-pressed to fully describe the philosophy. It has become a grab bag of ideas that people are tailoring to their own needs as they search for a new belief system.

For what it’s worth, in the U.S. Confucius currently lags far behind Harry Potter in popularity. For instance, the seventh Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” ranks No. 1 at A search for “Notes on Reading the Analects” returns no matches. A translation of “The Analects” by Confucius, however, ranks #174,210.

Related on World Hum:
* ‘Confucius Craze’ Sweeps China
* Confucius in Modern China

Photo by Marc van der Chijs via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

Tags: Asia, China

1 Comment for Confucius: More Popular Than Harry Potter?

Danny Liss 07.24.07 | 6:03 PM ET

I think there are some important pieces of context missing that have to be mentioned to properly frame the discussion of any culture imported into China, Harry Potter included.

First, imported books are more significantly expensive than most locally-written books.  (According to the Xinhua Bookstore website, Prof. Yu’s book is 23 RMB, on sale for 18.  The sale price for Harry Potter is 208 RMB, ten times as much as the book it’s “competing with.”)

Second, Harry Potter has to compete with black-market versions of itself that don’t get counted as official sales.  People are less likely to need to resort to illegal copies of a book that is available for under 20 kuai anyway.

If there’s a story here involving Harry Potter, it isn’t that another book passed it on the best-seller list; it’s that it was ever a best-seller to begin with.  Why the Washington Post felt compelled to throw that into a story about Confucianism is beyond me.

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