The Chinese ambivalence to humor : Views from undergraduates in Hong Kong and China

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)463-480
Journal / PublicationHumor
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


This paper proposes that Chinese people have traditionally been ambivalent about humor in the following three manners: (1) they tend to value humor but consider themselves to lack humor; (2) being humorous is not associated with being an orthodox Chinese; (3) humor is important but not for everyone. The paper also proposes that the Chinese ambivalence toward humor is largely due to an appreciation-despising complex about humor that is deep-rooted in Chinese culture. To verify this, this author conducted a survey study among a sample of 337 undergraduates in Hong Kong and Huhehot. Results show that (1) participants all rated highly on importance of humor but low on perception of self humor; (2) male students considered themselves to be more humorous than female students; (3) the top ten important characteristics for humor are fundamentally different from the top ten characteristics important for Chinese personality; (4) perception of humor is more positive than that of the Chinese personality. The paper concludes with a discussion of the psycho-social implications of the present findings on studies and enhancement of humor in Chinese society as well on some thoughts on further directions of research. © 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese ambivalence to humor, Chinese culture, Chinese personality, Chinese undergraduates, Confucianism, humor