NEW CLASSICS MEDIA
When online literature first came out in the 1990s, it was considered low-quality, “fast food” content, with cheap plots and stereotypical characters. Most serious fans of literature looked down upon it.
Oh, how things have changed.
Now serialized on websites and mobile apps, making them easy to access, online novels are being embraced by Chinese readers. The number of readers accessing literature online reached 455 million, making up 53 percent of Chinese internet users. These numbers come from a report released earlier this month by the China Internet Network Information Center.
The most popular works may get published in print or adapted into games, movies and TV series.
Over the past decades, online literary works have developed into relatable stories, and authors now write with more imagination. In Jade Dynasty and Legend of Fuyao, for example, the authors use fictional settings to tell their fantastic stories.
Their readers have also turned out to be aspiring youths. “Most online novels are essentially coming-of-age stories about the protagonist’s endeavors,” Gai Bo, of Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, wrote in Publishing Journal. “Young readers can … project their hopes and dreams on the characters, by identifying with them.”
The massive appeal of China’s online literature, which revolves around universal themes, has also extended its reach to millions of readers worldwide.
The most popular novels with overseas audiences tend to be classified as xuanhuan, which means fantasy stories that feature adventures and warfare. Jade Dynasty and Legend of Fuyao fall into this category.
最受海外读者欢迎的小说多为玄幻主题 —— 讲述冒险和战争的奇幻故事。《诛仙》和《扶摇》都是这类小说。
“Fans can easily find commonalities between the imagined supernatural universes of Chinese xuanhuan and Western fantasy novels,” Ren Xiang, a research fellow at the Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture at Western Sydney University, told China Daily.
“It’s not hard to understand Chinese web novels,” Jongmay Urbonya, a US college student in China, told China Daily. “Fantasy stories and novels related to power struggles are global topics.”
With more translation forums flourishing, it’s not difficult to imagine how curious foreign readers will feel about China’s online literature, just as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings were first introduced to China.