Censorship Be Damned: Fifty Shades of Grey Makes Its Way Into China

In News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. JamesThe Telegraph reports reports that although no publisher has (of yet) dared to bring Fifty Shades of Grey — “the world’s best-selling bodice-ripper” — to China, copies have been finding their way to Chinese readers (printed in Guangzhou from books smuggled in from Taiwan) ever since the trilogy was translated into Chinese for the Taiwanese market last August.

As many as 400 booksellers on Taobao, one of China’s largest shopping websites, are reported to be selling pirated versions of the trilogy.

The Good Union bookstore, which specializes in selling college textbooks, told the Telegraph that it sold approximately 80 sets of the trilogy over the last month. Taobao’s number one bookseller, Travel Keeps You Young, sold 400 copies last month. And that’s only the beginning.

“Not many people know about it yet,” said a spokesman for the Foreign Multi-Resource bookstore. “There has been no publicity, so it’s only a cult book at the moment.”

And as a cult book, and a contraband one at that, Fifty Shades of Grey has stirred strong reactions both positive and negative as readers have posted their feelings about Christian Grey and Anastatia Steele’s steamy romance (their names are Ge Lei and Si Di’er in the Chinese version) on Douban, a popular Chinese networking site.

“Lots of people say it is a sex book, but I think it is a love story,” wrote one reviewer. “It is about how to make a compromise for the person you love.”

Another reviewer, on the other hand, didn’t quite understand the book’s popularity. “Who would have thought that such a vulgar novel would be so popular all over the world, even breaking Harry Potter’s record,” wrote a reviewer with the online name Girl with a Mushroom Tattoo. “I suppose nothing can compete with sex.”

As of now, the average user of the site gave the book a rating of 5.3 out of 10.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.