Which Chinese book is the most sold?

I mean a book written in the Chinese language by a Chinese author.

1 Answer 1


According to Wikipedia's List of best-selling books, this would be Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem / 狼图腾, published in 2004, a semi-autobiographical book set during China's Cultural Revolution. According to an article in the Financial Times dated 15 March 2008,

Since it first appeared in 2004, Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem has sold as many as 20 million copies.

The List of best-selling books also points out that

The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, has produced a wide array of sales and distribution figures — with estimates ranging from 800 million[2] to over 6.5 billion printed volumes [4]. Some claim the distribution ran into the "billions"[5] and some cite "over a billion" official volumes between 1966 and 1969 alone as well as "untold numbers of unofficial local reprints and unofficial translations."

[2] Best selling book of non-fiction | Guinness World Records.

[4] Fu, Zhengyuan: Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics. Cambridge University Press 1994, p. 186.

[5] Kent, Allen; Lancour, Harold; Daily, Jay E.: Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Volume 22, CRC Press 1977, p.31.

The BBC News article Who, What, Why: What is the Little Red Book? (26 November 2015) claims that

More than a billion copies have been published, making the book, often wrapped in its distinctive vinyl cover, one of the most widely produced of all time. During China's "Cultural Revolution" it became virtually mandatory to own and carry one.

The article does not provide a source for that figure. Since Mao Zedong wrote mostly non-fiction, Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong is probably out of scope for this question.

According to Matt McIntyre's article The 20 Best-Selling Books of All Time (Updated 2020) on Wealthy Gorilla, the best-selling Chinese fiction book is the 18th-century classic Dream of the Red Chamber / 红楼梦, which the author claims has been sold 100 million times. McIntyre's list also mentions a non-fiction book, Xinhua Zidian / 新华字典 (literally "New China Character Dictionary"), which has been sold 400 million times.

The same two Chinese books are also included in Ed Grabianowski's article The 21 Best-selling Books of All Time (HowStuffWorks, 2011, updated August 2020).

Since dictionaries are non-fiction, Xinhua Zidian is probably out of scope for this question.

Based on the source one trusts most, either Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem or the classic Dream of the Red Chamber is the Chinese work of fiction that has sold most copies.

  • If Wolf Totem sold 20 million and Dream of the Red Chamber sold 100 million, then it seems logical that Dream of the Red Chamber is the winner.
    – Riemann
    Jun 19, 2023 at 13:46

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