Exploration of Chinese humor : Historical review, empirical findings, and critical reflections

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-420
Journal / PublicationHumor
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


Humor was first documented around 2,500 BC in China when the first Chinese poetry and literary books appeared. Zhuangzi, a co-founder of Taoism, is recognized as the very first humorist in China. Chinese humor has been mostly characterized by joke-telling and funny show-performing. Humor has been traditionally given little respect in Chinese culture mainly due to the Confucian emphasis on keeping proper manners of social interactions. Confucius once ordered to execute humorists for having "improper performance" before dignitaries in 500 BC. The term humor was translated by Mr. Lin Yu-tang in 1920s and it has been increasingly popular in China. During the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976), however, humorists of various kinds were all criticized and even prosecuted. Since 1980s, humor got rehabilitated as an important element of creativity, personal charisma and social harmony. Important as it is, humor has rarely been studied in China. Of the few studies conducted, it was shown that (1) humor was not valued by the Chinese even though they all enjoyed it; (2) humor was often considered the least important factor in ration to creativity, and ideal Chinese personality. © Walter de Gruyter.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese culture, Chinese humor, Confucianism, Huaji