J.K. Rowling Taken to Task for Fetishizing Asian Women in Harry Potter

Poet Rachel Rostad has zeroed in on some inconvenient truths for Harry Potter fans, namely that J.K. Rowling managed to create a fantastical universe crammed full of exotic, magical creatures while still marginalizing and fetishizing people of color. It’s really a stunning achievement, when one considers just how robust the world of Harry Potter is, that Rowling could manage to fuck up the last name of her only Chinese character, since “Cho Chang,” Rostad points out, is an amalgamation of two Korean last names, and to come upon a Chinese person named Cho Chang would be like finding “a Frenchman named García Sánchez.” Burn.


Though naming Chinese character “Chang” may be slightly less egregious than she says it is (in a conscientious response to the original poem, Rostad explains how she glossed over some of the nuances of Chinese naming in order to streamline the "García Sánchez" punchline), Rostad has a point. It’s unlikely that her criticisms about, say, the manner in which Dumbledore was outed after all seven books were released will prevent most people from professing their undying adoration for Harry Potter, but her takedown may raise at least a few eyebrows.


Another thing, in the Chinese edition of Harry Potter, Cho Chang is transliterated to 张秋 Zhang1 Qiu1 (in Chinese, family name goes first, qiu is Chinese for autumn).

Both Cho Chang and Qiu Zhang are equally valid ways to transcribe the aforementioned Chinese name. The former uses the Wade Giles system (popular before the communist revolution), and the latter uses the Pinyin system (invented in the 10950s). Although Cho should have been rendered as Chu1, but you can't win everything. Qiu in Manarin sounds a bit like "chee-YO", if you slur the syllables together really fast, and keep the first syllable really soft.

That's why Mao Tse-tung and Chang Kai-shek became Mao Zedung and Jiang Jieshi.

If the Changs where Cantonese (in which case 秋 is pronounced cau1) or emigrated early, they might very likely have stuck on naming their daughter using the old transliteration scheme.