Harry’s Hold on China: Is Hogwarts the Latest Potter Preoccupation in the Middle Kingdom?

A Hogwarts-style castle in Hebei Province. (Screenshot)
A Hogwarts-style castle in Hebei Province. (Screenshot)

In a new crazy bid to attract tourists, a private arts school being built in Hebei Province, south of Beijing, now features a Hogwarts-style castle worth 400 million yuan ($64 million).

The Hebei Academy of Fine Arts is creating a campus from various architectural styles, and will also include Japanese pagodas, and a mosque.

The castle is supposed to be European Gothic, but “inspired by” may be more apt. The school’s fanciful take on European architecture has already given it the name “Asia’s Hogwarts.” Good for business–at least the tourist business the school is hoping to get–along with student tuition.

Harry doesn’t just show up in Chinese education, but also in politics. In January, the Chinese ambassador to the UK used The Daily Telegraph to blast Japan, saying: “In the Harry Potter story, the dark wizard Voldemort dies hard because of the seven horcruxes… If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni shrine in Toyko is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest part of that nation’s soul.”

Japan responded in kind, by comparing China to Lord Voldemort, also in the Telegraph. China could be the good guy, or it could “play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions.”

Meanwhile, Harry Potter knock-offs are still coming out of China. My favorite is a list compiled in 2011.

There’s a book copying the plot, but in post-modern 1st person, called Harry Potter and Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters; another that copies a Harry Potter title, but totally changes the plot, called Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Relative Prince, in this case making Harry evil; and many books that are just plain weird, like Harry Potter and the Filler of Big, where students keep turning into wooden stools.

Really, you have to just look at the list and hope these books get translated into English soon. Until then, we only have the absurdity of the real world keeping us going.

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