Japanese culture book proves a best-seller


Published: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 10:12 p.m.
"The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," a book written by U.S. cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict in 1946 to shed light on Japanese culture, has become a best-seller in China.
The book was first translated into Chinese about 16 years ago. In 2005, 70,000 copies were sold.
It is believed that Chinese people have become more interested in finding out what the Japanese are like because the relationship between the two countries has been strained by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine as well as other historical problems.
Since the launch of the Chinese version of the book in June 1990 by Beijing-based publisher Commercial Press, up to 10,000 copies were printed each year until 2004.
However, in 2005, sales of the book sharply increased. The publishing firm reprinted 10,000 copies each in February and May then 50,000 more copies in June. By the end of the year there had been 14 reprints which resulted in 124,000 copies of the book being printed.
At a large bookstore operated by the publisher in Beijing, the book was ranked fourth on the best-seller list of the company's books as of late December. Dozens of copies of the book were given prime position in the store.
Zhen Yingnian, who was involved in publishing the book at the publishing firm, said, "I think the deteriorating bilateral relationship has caused many people to think about the problem and want to better understand it."
Lu Wanhe, translator of the book and former head of the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences, in Tianjin Municipality, said: "I believe the boom of 'The Chrysanthemum and the Sword' is closely connected with recent comments by Japanese politicians and central government officials, and the rise of the conservatives (in Japan). Chinese people want to understand Japanese people and their society."
In "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," Benedict describes Japanese culture as "shame culture" but sees Western culture as "guilt culture."

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