Labour of love: Chinese-to-English fan translations of BL web novels

Document Type


Publication Date



The genre of boys’ love (BL) has enjoyed huge popularity since its Japanese beginnings in the 1960s, and it has taken root in popular cultures in many countries. BL arrived in China via fan translations of Japanese manga into Chinese. With the rise of online fiction platforms in China, local writers produced widely popular male–male romances that gained traction locally and abroad. The outflow of Chinese BL mirrors fan activities that led to the popularity of Japanese manga and anime in the United States. Fan translations of Chinese-to-English BL fiction are one of the most important links in introducing Chinese BL to the rest of the world. This article focuses on the cultural outflow of Chinese BL through fan translations in gloBLizing the genre. Through interviews with five teams and one individual fan translator, this article examines their roles played in the dissemination of BL web novels beyond the native Chinese-speaking world. These fan translators all resided in anglophone countries, and are diverse in their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, ages and BL interests. We interviewed fan translators that translated works from fantasy, alternative history and contemporary romance. Some of these works have been adapted into multimedia and some have not.