Meet the Chinese web novel volunteer translators

Meet the people behind the frenzy of translated Chinese online literature.

They are members of 20 active Chinese-to-English translation groups, composed primarily of ethnic Chinese and Chinese learners from all over the world, responsible for one of the most significant non-governmental outputs of Chinese culture, and they do it for free.  To find out what impelled these volunteers to translate Chinese web novels for foreign readers, Thepaper.cn interviewed Lai Jingping, founder of Wuxiaworld, an international Chinese web novel translation forum.

Born in 1986, Lai immigrated from Chengdu to the US with his parents at the age of 3. Growing up in an English-speaking environment, Lai barely spoke Chinese or recognize Chinese characters when he was a teenager. It wasn’t until he became enthralled with the 1996 version of “Return of the Condor Heroes,” a television series adapted from Louis Cha’s famous wuxia novel, that he started to study Chinese with real enthusiasm.

Lai made his debut on a wuxia novel-sharing forum by translating Cha’s popular book. A Vietnamese friend of Lai’s introduced him to online Chinese literature in 2014, when most traditional wuxia works were being translated by enthusiastic volunteers.  Thus began his first step toward setting up Wuxiaworld.

Wuxiaworld now ranks around No. 1,500 among global websites; it comes in around No. 1,000 on the list of American sites.  Relying on over 30 completed and still-updating works, the website reaches 240,000 people, receiving daily page views of 3.5 million. Lai moved back to China last year, seeking to cooperate with Chinese web novel platforms.

Whether in China or America, unauthorized translation is still an act of infringement. Wuxiaworld recently embarked on a cooperation project with Qidian.com, the first Chinese internet literature website, involving 20 works. This will be its second “license” since an earlier contract with 17k.com.

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