Game of Translations: Virtual Community doing English Translations of Chinese Online Fiction

  • Rachel Suet Kay Chan Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), National University of Malaysia
Keywords: Fan Translation, Fan Subculture, Chinese Online Literature, Virtual Settlement, Gamified Practice


Fan translations are an important part of global fan subculture activity, intensified especially through the new media platforms which connect producers and consumers all around the globe. One recent trend within this category is that of English translations of Chinese online fictions. It is a newly emerging form of activity which takes place on blogs connected through a blogroll. Through these channels, fans comprising blog moderators, translators, and readers can engage in exchanges which add value to the appreciation of literature. Thus, it can be imagined as a ‘virtual settlement’ (Jones, 1997) after Anderson (1983)’s ‘imagined community’. Within this community, a further observation can be made about the mechanics of this practice. Like a game, the fans act as players where they negotiate rules regarding the production of translations. Given the community-centric nature of these websites, my paper outlines the formation of ‘illusio’, or “agreed rules of the game”, a concept introduced by Bourdieu. This is operationalised using Järvinen (2007)’s framework, locating the nine elements of a ‘gamified practice’ within the interactions of this community, known as Shusheng Bar.  The findings suggest that members of Shusheng Bar possess a shared history and connected future. The significance of this observation assists in understanding the dynamics of online subcultures. 

Author Biography

Rachel Suet Kay Chan, Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), National University of Malaysia
Rachel Chan Suet Kay is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), National University of Malaysia. She received her PhD in Sociology and Master of Arts by research from the University of Malaya, and a BSc (Hons) in Sociology and Diploma in Economics from the University of London. Her research areas lie in Malaysian Chinese identity, cultural capital, popular culture, and subculture. She recently published a book titled 'Ah Beng Subculture and the Anti-Capital of Social Exclusion'.


Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.

Annett, S. (2011). Imagining Transcultural Fandom: Animation and Global Media Communities. Transcultural Studies, (2), 164-188.

Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Theory, culture and society, 7(2), 295-310.

Attard, A. & Coulson, N. (2012). A thematic analysis of patient communication in Parkinson's disease online support group discussion forums. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 500-506.

Black, R. (2006). Language, Culture and Identity in Online Fanfiction. E-learning 3(2), 170-185.

British Psychological Society (2013). Ethics Guidelines for Internet-mediated Research. INF206/1.2013. Retrieved from: Accessed 15 November 2016.

Castells, M. (1999). The information age: Economy, society and culture. Vol. 2, The power of identity. New Jersey: Blackwell.

Chan, R.S.K. (2017). Ah Beng Subculture and the Anti-Capital of Social Exclusion. UKM Ethnic Studies Paper Series, Institut Kajian Etnik (KITA). Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Chen, P.Y. (1988). Zhongguo xiaoshuo xushi moshi de zhuanbian (Changes in the form of Chinese fictional narrative). Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chuban she.

Coles, B.A. & West, M. (2016). Weaving the Internet together: Imagined Communities in newspaper comment threads. Computers in Human Behaviour 60(2016), 44-53.

Cuille, T.B. (1997). Bourdieu: Illusion and the Illusio. Retrieved from:

Douglass, J., Huber, W., & Manovich, L. (2010). Understanding scanlation: how to read one million fan-translated manga pages.

Evans, S., Davis, K., Evans, A., et al. (2016). More Than Peer Production: Fanfiction Communities as Sites of Distributed Mentoring.

Fan, S.Y. (1999). Translation of English fiction and drama in Modern China: social context, literary trends, and impact. Meta: Journal des traducteurs/Meta:Translators' Journal, 44(1), 154-177.

Fiske, J. (1992). The cultural economy of fandom. The adoring audience: Fan culture and popular media, Lewis, L.A. ed., London and New York: Routledge, 30-49.

Gouanvic, J.M. (2005). A Bourdieusian Theory of Translation, or the Coincidence of Practical Instances: Field, 'Habitus', Capital, and 'Illusio'. The Translator 11(2), 147-166.

Hage, G. (2013). Eavesdropping on Bourdieu's philosophers. Thesis Eleven 114(1), 76-93.

Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The meaning of style. New York: Methuen.

He, X.B. (2007). Translation norms and the translator's agency. SKASE Journal of Translation and Interpretation, 2(1), 24-29.

He, X.B. (2007). Power relations and translational inequality in China. Language and Intercultural Communication, 7(3), 240-252.

Hockx, M. (2015). Internet Literature in China. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hoge, C.W. (2011). Whodology: Encountering Doctor Who fanfiction hrough the portals of play studies and ludology. Transformative Works and Cultures 2011(8).

Jenkins, H. (2002). Interactive Audiences? The 'Collective Intelligence' of Media Fans. Retrieved from: Accessed 15 November 2016.

Kowalski, R. (2011). The Gift – Marcel Mauss and international aid. Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, 27(3), 189-205. Retrieved from: Accessed 15 November 2016.

Lee, H.K. (2009). Manga scanlation: between fan culture and copyright infringement. Media, Culture & Society. 31(6), 1011-1022.

Lee, Kai Shun. 1 May 2014. 'Declining Chinese standards reveal cracks in Singapore's bilingual policy'. Campus Eye NUS. Retrieved from: Accessed 1 June 2017.

Manovich, L. (2012). How to compare one million images. Understanding digital humanities, Berry, D.M. ed., London: Palgrave, 249-278.

Mead, G.H. (1962). Mind, Self and Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 151-154.

Mei Jia. 24 April 2017. 'Novel concept bridges worlds with translations to English'. China Daily. Retrieved from:

Peterson, R.A. (1997). The rise and fall of highbrow snobbery as a status marker. Poetics, 25(2), 75-92.

Stevens, G., O'Donnell, V.L., & Williams, L. (2015). 'Public domain or private data? Developing an ethical approach to social media research in an inter-disciplinary project'. Educational Research and Evaluation, 21(2), 154-167.

Tian, X. & Adorjan, M. (2016). Fandom and coercive empowerment: the commissioned production of Chinese online literature. Media, Culture and Society 1-20.

Vail, D.A. (2007). Game Stage. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, Ritzer, G., ed. Blackwell Reference Online.