HAPPINESS AND UNHAPPINESS IN CHINA
Sanmao, irreverent Chinese humor When asked about the quality of their life on a 1 to 10 scale, 23 percent of the Chinese surveyed ranked themselves as 7 or better, compared to 60 percent in the United States and 8 percent in Tanzania. The Chinese have a saying “extreme happiness begets tragedy.”
The Chinese actress Bai Ling told Time, “Chinese culture is more laid back...The West is always too busy to respect silence.” In the early 1600s, Matteo Ricci observed that the Chinese “are quite content with what they have...in this respect they are different from the peoples of Europe who are frequently discontent with their own governments and covetous of what others enjoy. While the nations of the West seem to be entirely consumed with supreme domination, they cannot even preserve what their ancestors bequeathed them, as the Chinese have done through a period of some thousands of years.”
Ellen Li wrote in The Atlantic: “While China has created an economic miracle in the past three decades, there is scant evidence that the Chinese people are, on average, any happier, according to an analysis of survey data by Richard A. Easterlin, a professor of economics at the University of Southern California. If anything, they are less satisfied than in 1990, despite a seventeen-fold increase in real per-capita GDP during that span. Decreasing satisfaction is most evident in the least wealthy third of the population. Satisfaction among Chinese in even the upper third has risen only moderately. More Chinese are feeling less happy because of growing income disparity, a deteriorating natural environment, and the proliferation of other social problems. [Source: Ellen Li, The Atlantic, December 12, 2012]
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In general, do you feel happy? If you had a second chance in life, would you rather be an honest farmer, a hard-working laborer, a worry-free civil servant, a respected manager, a designer, an office clerk, a teacher, a homemaker, or stay in your current profession? What would make you happier? It seems almost gratuitous to be posing such questions in a country where income levels have increased fivefold in half a generation. But the Chinese are discovering one of life's greatest lessons: that money doesn't necessarily buy you happiness. And increasingly, they are asking themselves and each other not "Did you eat today?"-- a traditional greeting in China -- but "Are you happy?" [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2011]
“The concept of happiness, xingfu, is somewhat alien here, there being no equivalent of Thomas Jefferson, credited with enshrining "the pursuit of happiness" at the same level as life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. (An exception is one verse of the revolutionary ballad "The East is Red," which states that "Chairman Mao seeks happiness for his people.")”
Happy Talk in Beijing
Sanmao, irreverent Chinese humor In the spring of 2011 happiness suddenlly became a hot topic among Chinese politicians. "Everything we do is aimed at letting people live more happily and with more dignity," Premier Wen Jiabao declared in his New Year's address. During the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March, it came up so often that the official New China News Agency proclaimed, "No doubt, 'happiness' is the keyword for the two sessions." "It even sounds a little weird in Chinese to ask, 'Are you happy?' but now there is so much talk about happiness, it's almost become a cliche," Christopher K. Hsee, a Chinese-born University of Chicago professor who is credited with bringing happiness studies to China, told the New Yorker.
David Pilling wrote in the Financial Times, For many middle-class city dwellers...today’s China is a fantastic adventure, a lunge into a world of previously unimagined possibilities. Even among the generation that lived through the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, this is widely regarded as the most optimistic time to be alive in China in hundreds of years. [Source: David Pilling, Financial Times, June 10, 2011]
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker in April 2011: “Everywhere you turn in Beijing these days, the city is reminding us to be happy. “Laborers’ Happiness To Be Broadcast Around Capital,” was the headline on a piece in the Global Times... explaining that the Beijing Trade Union has arranged for forty thousand screens on buses and subway trains, as well as jumbotrons in city train stations and shopping malls, to play “happy testimonials” from workers, farmers, and teachers. A crew called the “Happy Blossom” is also making short films about the happy lives led by factory workers, to be shown on Beijing television. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker blog, April 22, 2011]
“It was in that spirit that China Central Television called me... to ask if I would be on a talk show to discuss the subject of happiness. I obliged. ...In the event, the questions were apt enough: “How happy are the Chinese?” and “Can the Chinese afford to talk about happiness, not G.D.P.”“ I was delighted to see the most vexing query tossed past me to my co-panelist, a pleasant, if nervous, Chinese scholar: “A philosophical question: What is happiness?” [Ibid]
“All this happy talk began last month when Premier Wen Jiabao opened the annual meeting of the legislature with the declaration that the government exists to “let people live more happily and with more dignity.” The government has since announced plans to adopt a “happiness of the people” index to measure the performance of officials, replacing the sacred yardstick economic growth. Guangdong province has vowed to become “happy Guangdong,” Beijing set out to make sure its citizens lead “happy and glorious lives,” and the city of Chongqing said it would make its people the happiest in the country.” A few years before Wen quoted a famous Chinese poem by Ai Qing, the father of Ai Weiwei: “If you ask me what happiness means, I tell you to ask a meadow in bloom, or a river that’s no longer frozen.” [Ibid]
Happiness, as a Chinese political objective, did not fare well under Marx. But it has a history going back to Confucian thinkers, who felt that “a key task for rulers is to strive to improve a peoples’ happiness, which is itself grounded in a moral way of life,” Yan Xuetong, the Tsinghua scholar whose new book, edited by Daniel Bell, is “Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power,” wrote recently. “Because poverty was an obstacle to moral behavior, they believed that the state should be vitally concerned with eliminating it. The idea that the state should pursue economic growth without consideration for moral concerns was anathema to Confucius and his followers.” [Ibid]
In its article on happiness Global Times recognized not everyone in China is happy. “Not every laborer appears to lead a happy life,” the articled read. “I am not happy at all to be a teacher. I majored in bel canto and I have to teach pupils because I don’t have better job opportunities,” a 25-year old music teacher told the paper.
China's Happiness Campaign
Sanmao, irreverent Chinese humor Under Premier Wen Jiabao’s call to make prosperity more "balanced" a torrent of happiness campaigns, happiness surveys and happiness-promotion measures were launched. Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, “In Beijing, for the May Day holiday, 17 giant screens across the city and thousands of small televisions on buses and subways and in office buildings showed "happy testimonials" from workers. Beijing Television ran a series of short films called "Happy Blossoms," documenting the apparently contented lives of teachers, factory workers and others.” [Source: By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, May 17, 2011]
Other provinces joined the happiness caravan. Wang Yang, the party secretary of Guangdong province, promoted the idea of "happy Guangdong" as part of his government's five-year plan. "Happiness for the people is like flowers," Wang wrote in an article. "The party and the government shall create the proper environment for the flowers to grow." Guangdong released the results of a happiness survey in which 500 residents ages 17 to 35 were interviewed. More than 90 percent scored 60 out of 100 on a happiness scale, with 100 being bliss and 1 being outright misery. Not to be outdone, Chongqing city announced a bold plan to become "the central city of the country where people have the strongest feelings of happiness."
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “At the local level, municipal governments are drawing up happiness indexes and competing with one another for the title of "China's happiest city." The Beijing municipality announced last month that colleges would soon be adding courses in how to handle pressure, relations and mental health. The courses will be optional at first, but could become mandatory. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2011]
Although happiness is not yet on the bestseller list in China ("Self-help books in China only look at how to get rich," Zhang said), interest is growing. Online lectures by the happiness guru Tal Ben-Shahar are also popular. Kevin Liu, a 32-year-old psychology graduate who runs a consulting firm, says there are a number of start-up companies training people in the art of happiness. "This kind of service has just emerged in China in the past five years," said Liu, whose company works with corporate employees. "We think through training you can raise your ability to be happy." [Ibid]
Why is the Chinese government suddenly jumping on the happiness bandwagon? Cynics might argue that officials are looking for an alternate measure of success for that inevitable point when economic growth plateaus. But Hsee believes the concept of happiness is a natural corollary of the Communist Party's propaganda about creating a "harmonious society." "Happiness is a subject that is consistent with harmony," Hsee said.
Political Side of China's Happiness Campaign
Sanmao Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, “There was a serious purpose behind the new approach, which includes lowering economic growth targets to a more modest 7 percent. Chinese officials worry that years of "GDP obsession," as one of them put it, could contribute to a public backlash against rising prices, unemployment and other economic woes.” [Source: By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, May 17, 2011]
“The central government has embarked on a series of measures aimed at improving people's livelihoods. Measures were announced to try to rein in the spiraling cost of real estate, including building more low-income housing. People with lower incomes were given a tax break, and the government announced a price rollback on 162 types of common medications. Also, taking direct aim at one of the largest sources of discontent across the country, the government announced restrictions on forced demolitions of homes by private developers.
"The policy orientation has changed from enriching the country as the first priority to enriching the people as the first priority," said Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, the ruling State Council's training school for mid-level bureaucrats. "People's happiness and livelihood are now given more weight in the government's decision-making process."
The happiness campaign coincides with a widespread crackdown on internal dissent, including the arrest of scores of lawyers, bloggers and activists, among them the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei. Restrictions on foreign journalists, academics and foreign embassies also have been increased. Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Beijing's Renmin University, said the actions reflect alarm at the turmoil unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa, including the toppling of authoritarian leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. "On one hand, the government control is more strict, in all aspects of the society, such as on the Internet, and they try to maintain the stability by force," Zhang said. "On the other hand, the government tries to ease social tension by implementing more favorable welfare policies."
Happiness Surveys in China
Sanmao A survey conducted in 2010 found that life satisfaction levels were on the decline among both urban and rural Chinese, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-affiliated research organization that published the findings. The poll found a huge gap between recognition of the country’s economic achievements and people’s well-being on an individual level. Topping the list of concerns were prices, the health-care system, high property costs and employment. But a separate report published in May 2011 by the organization, based on a survey of 4,800 people, found that more than 74 percent were either happy or very happy. [Source: By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, May 17, 2011]
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Nearly a dozen different polls, some commissioned by government agencies, have recently tried to gauge the happiness of the Chinese people. The answers aren't always what the leadership is looking for. The happiness surveys show great disparities in China. Among the findings: Northerners are happier than southerners. Urban residents are happier than rural ones, but not by as large a margin as people would expect given that getting off the farm is a badge of success in China.
Within the occupations, civil servants are happiest, enjoying the security of a steady paycheck rather than the stress of entrepreneurship. Second as far as happiness are real estate brokers. Men are happiest at the age of 41. Women are happiest at 28. The most unhappy group of people are women ages 40 through 44.
Interpretations of the Happiness Surveys
Sanmao Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Many countries, including Britain and France, are considering "happiness indexes" as a supplement to more traditional measures of success, but there is perhaps greater urgency in China because of the vertigo-inducing nature of change. And for scholars of what makes people happy -- "hedonomics," as it's known in academia -- China is the perfect laboratory for studying some of the most vexing questions in the field. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2011]
Are people happier when everybody is equally poor (more or less the scenario in China for much of the late 20th century)--- When people get richer, but some much more so than others, do the income disparities create unhappiness--- The research now underway in China builds on what is called the Easterlin Paradox, named for the economist who in the 1970s wrote that once people get enough money to meet their basic needs, higher incomes don't necessarily lead to more happiness.
Much of the academic research is being done in Shanghai at Jiaotong University's Antai College of Economics and Management. Using surveys, experiments involving volunteers and computer simulations, researchers there are studying the effect of rapid economic and social change on happiness levels. Swift change, even positive change, can breed discontent. "People respond dramatically to change, good or bad. In our studies of happiness, we find that people can't get used to the new situation," said Wang Fanghua, a professor who is leading the research.
Another phenomenon that is potentially worrisome for the Chinese: When people get richer, they quickly adjust to the new reality, taking for granted what is behind them and looking with envy at those who are ahead. "What is clear is that satisfaction with money is relative. If somebody got a higher salary this year than last, he might not be happy," Wang said. "But if his income is better than his friends', then he will be happy."
The rub for the Chinese is also that aspirations often outpace reality. "In a time of rising expectations, people are often unhappy because they have higher expectations about what they need. It is obvious from the surveys that social development is lagging behind the economy," said Zhang Hui, who is in charge of the happiness studies at Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group, one of China's leading pollsters. Separate polls conducted by the agency show a steady slide in both happiness and quality of life since 2005.
Unhappy People in China
Demon and victim
in a Taoist Temple Not everyone seems to be feeling happier. In advance of the National People's Congress, a state-owned information portal, China.com.cn, polled 1,350 people and discovered that only 6 percent listed themselves as "very happy," as opposed to 48 percent who were distinctly "not happy." (The rest were "so-so" or "unsure.") A news story reporting the unhappy results in the English-language China Daily was promptly zapped from the Internet. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2011]
The results of another poll must have been even more alarming to the powers that be. Gallup last month ranked China 92nd out of 124 countries in a poll in which people assessed their own "well-being." Only 12 percent of Chinese described themselves as "thriving." That put China roughly on par with Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, countries where the discontent bubbled up in the form of popular uprisings. Denmark led the pack with 72 percent of people reporting that they were thriving, while the United States came in at No. 12, with 59 percent.
Rising commodity and real estate prices were major causes of dissatisfaction. Many of those surveyed blamed corruption and an unfair social system for their hardships.”The pressure of living is too much for me,” Sun Wenguang, a 27-year-old real estate agent in Beijing told the Washington Post . “I sell and rent houses to people all day, but I can’t afford even the smallest apartment.” Wang Luxia, a 57-year-old retired worker, said her main worry is that the increases in pension payments never seem to be enough, especially as the price of groceries continues to increase. “I feel I am poorer in the society than before,” Wang said. “I know that the government made efforts to improve people’s livelihood. But it’s still not enough.” [Source: By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, May 17, 2011]
Stephen Caraher of China Geeks wrote, “Everything I see, from the internet to my daily interactions with regular people, is telling me that things are getting worse and people are not happy. The atmosphere is very different from the way it was even a year ago. Some of that may just be me, but not all of it; even the apolitical Chinese people I know seem to be feeling it. All you have to do is log on to Weibo, search for “inflation”, “demolition”, or the name of whatever food has been discovered most recently to be poison. People, lots of people, are very angry. [Source: Stephen Caraher, China Geeks, May 29, 2011]
The government, for its part, remains steadfastly dedicated to the idea that everything can be fixed if they can just continue developing the economy. I have no doubt that China will continue to develop, but if the current situation continues, development could actually be worse than if the economy were to recess. Now, people are left to wonder why the GDP is climbing by 9 percent and prices are doubling but their salaries are staying the same. Mix that question with a hearty dose of tales of corruption fed via Weibo, and it’s no wonder that Weibo users---lots of them---are calling for executions of government officials every time a new food product turns out to be unsafe. ..It seems like pretty much everything is worse, and to be perfectly honest, it’s fucking depressing."
Psychological Problems in China
Demon in a Taoist Temple When asked what problems he sees most often among his patients, Zhong Jie, psychoanalytic an assistant psychology professor at Peking University, told The New Yorker, "If a grandfather, for example, was criticized and abused in the social upheaval of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, then he couldn't take care of his child, so the child was raised in a chaotic situation and had to develop defensive ways to cope." In that way, the Cultural Revolution can produce marital or family problems that trickle down to a third generation. "From my point of view, the upheaval never ended," he said. "It repeats within the family."[Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, January 10, 2011]
Zhang also treats patients who during childhood were separated from their parents, because of the demands of their parents' work. "This can create a lot of trauma for a child," he said. After a moment, he added, "My experience was like this." His parents, who were laborers in Sichuan Province, sent him, at age four, to be raised by grandparents. "This led to a very complicated life," he said, with a slight smile. He recently divorced. "It's sad, but it's the reality." He was spending a lot of time with his own analyst: four hundred and eighteen sessions and counting. "I told my analyst that maybe the separation explains why I work very hard on my work, and why I keep a distance in interpersonal relationships." He laughed awkwardly. "It's easy to understand, but it's a little bit hard to change. That's why I need more sessions." [Ibid]
Elise Snyder, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale who provides analysis to Chinese patients over the Web via Skype told The New Yorker she heard the story of a man in his early twenties in a gritty, industrial city who is saving up for sex-change surgery; in the meantime, his father has suggested a local therapy that involves learning to box in order to become more masculine. A few days later, Snyder received a briefing on an elite graduate student who was paralyzed with the fear of failing the English exam that is required for study abroad. In some instances, younger students spoke candidly with her about their lives. In a classroom at one university, a well-dressed undergraduate raised her hand and said, "Sometimes I go a whole month where I hardly eat any food. I drink only liquids, and I have trouble sleeping."
Psychological Problems and the Mao Era
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “To capture contemporary China's specific combination of stresses, the analyst Huo Datong separates problems into two categories: jiating xiaoshi , or household issues---the private dynamics of couples and families---and guojia dashi , national issues, the things, as Huo puts it, that “are handled by the ruling Party on a national level and which people are never supposed to express doubts about: politics, freedom of speech, the right to demonstrate, and religion.” owever, the more time I spent among China's new therapists and patients, the more these two realms seemed to be indistinguishable.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, January 10, 2011]
Zhang Jingyan, a retired art-history professor in Chengdu who was 12 when the Cultural Revolution broke out told The New Yorker,"I went to watch, and it was terrifying. I watched people being thrown off buildings," she said. "I couldn't move or run away. I was completely frozen by it. And then I felt ashamed: Why don't I have more class consciousness? These are the enemies of our class! How come other people are capable of hitting them, and I'm not?"
“Zhang's father was a senior Party scholar at Sichuan University, and his stature made him a target for persecution.” Esnos wrote. “He was beaten, humiliated, and assigned to hard labor; he had cirrhosis, but his political status made it impossible for him to get decent care, and he died at forty. Zhang built an academic career and a family, but, over time, she became haunted by a sense of loss.” "What do I want in this society? Where do I fit in? Where is my place?” she asked, “These are the things that have always bothered me. It didn't affect my work, but, spiritually, I always felt that I was lacking something."
Zhang has come to see a symmetry in China's lurch from political mania to capitalism at all costs. "We had a mission—to liberate the world!—and then, all of a sudden, that bubble burst, and none of it was true. So what were we to do now? That's when we started making money, and now we cling to our money. But it can't bring us spiritual satisfaction." As Zhang sees it, that's the modern Chinese predicament. For all that separates her experience from that of a factory worker on an assembly line in Shenzhen, she empathizes with the factory worker. "We all need to know the value of our own existence," she said. "If they don't see the value of their existence, then they won't see the meaning of living."
“Psychoanalysis may give the Chinese a vocabulary for discussing the effects of the Cultural Revolution, or the true costs of a frantic sprint to prosperity, or the toll of life under authoritarianism,” Osnos wrote, “but I find it hard to picture the latest Freud Fever lasting long here. Three or four years on the couch is an eternity in China, and an absurd mismatch for the life of an iPhone assembly-line worker. China is more likely to absorb the most practical of Freud's ideas and discard the rest, as it has with Marxism, capitalism, and other imports. With luck, it might leave behind more than a few people inclined to demand respect for the value and idiosyncrasy of individual minds.”
Jokes and Sense of Humor in China
Hong Kong radio and television personality Harry Wong told Newsweek: "The Chinese have quite a vulgar sense of humor, but it's subtle. The Chinese are discreet. The humor is much more complex, and calculated with a lot of wordplay and puns. the complexity of Chinese characters allow poetic schemes on dirty jokes."
Chinese are more selective than Americans about what they can poke fun of. Hung-hsiang Chou, a Chinese culture specialist at UCLA told the Los Angeles Times, “Americans make fun of everything. China has taboos. Ancestors are off-limits. They also don’t ridicule their leaders, who are only fair game after they’ve fallen from grace.” Chinese also don’t like it when a senior person is teased in front of his juniors.
Many Chinese jokes are puns or play on words. The tonal Chinese language provides many opportunities for jokers and wits because a single pronunciation can have several wildly different meanings. Many jokes circulate online, or via text message on mobile phones.
Chinese sometimes have difficulty understanding American sarcasm. When Channel V veejay Nonie Tao showed a postcard of New York sent from India, and commented about what a nice view of India it was, she received tons of letters saying: "That was New York stupid!"
Creativity and Humor in China
The Australia scholar Michael Keane wrote: Recently I pondered an unfathomable question: were Chinese people as creative as people in the free world? If imagination is constrained by channels of expression we have to ask: is this something recent or are there more serious underlying issues? Chinese people obviously have a well attuned sense of humour; if we care to examine ancient texts like the Zhuangzi we find plenty of examples of wit and humour. However, humour really comes to the fore in China as social critique. A recent edited collection by Jocelyn Chey and Jessica Milner Davis entitled Humour in Chinese Life and Letters argues that the modern origins of Chinese humour date to the 1930s, when the term ‘humour’ (youmo) gained popular currency. [Source: “Are Chinese people less creative than people in the free world?” by Michael Keane creativetransformations.asia \=\]
“Everyone has a sense of humour and some people make a living from developing their capabilities. But does the form that humour takes in China have a relationship to innovation? The education system in China is focused on rote learning, success in the high school examinations (gaokao), and a productive life to reward one’s parents. Imagination does not disappear; chances are it finds expression in informal channels, in less formal ways. Humour goes online, social critique is its muse, and it is often anonymous. The internet in China is home to a great deal of innovation. \=\
“Imagine what might happen if humour and creativity were given full rein in the PRC rather than being forced into prescribed formats, into online enclaves. Imagine what the nation might achieve in the next decade if government officials and educators were able to comprehend the real meaning of a creative economy.... A study of creative behaviour in Chinese school students has shown that divergent thinking (critical imagination) is evident in early primary school years. By the time the students get to high school the education system and the schooling environment has effectively eradicated overt manifestations of creativity. Critical thinking skills are not at the top of the list of educational reforms in China. \=\
John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, In April 2014 “the director Oliver Stone did something leading dignitaries rarely do when they go to China: He spoke his mind. Addressing the Beijing International Film Festival, Stone lambasted China’s movie industry for its censorship and silly offers of joint production with American directors and production teams. “It’s all platitudes,” he said. “We are not talking about making tourist pictures, photo postcards about girls in villages, this is not interesting to us. We need to see the history . . . for Christ’s sake.” Stone’s comments caused the predictable quotient of defensive harrumphing from the wardens of China’s system. A middling director rushed to China’s defense. But Stone has a point. China’s censorship is clearly holding back its culture and its understanding of itself. The best work exploring China is being done outside the country, mostly in English. The new novel “Kinder Than Solitude,” by Yiyun Li; the stories of the writer Ha Jin; the recent histories by Odd Arne Westad and Rana Mitter; even DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda” are all examples.[Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, May 16, 2014. John Pomfret, the author of “Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China” /*\]
Humor in China: Sources
Liao, Chao-chih. 2003. "Humor Versus Huaji." Journal of Language and Linguistics 2.1: 25-46. "Disasters from Pun in Chinese History". Paper presented at Sociolinguistics Symposium. April 1-4, 2004. Newcastle Upon Tyne, England; Attardo, Salvatore. 1994. Linguistic Theories of Humor Berlin [etc.] : Mouton de Gruyter; "The Semantic Foundations of Cognitive Theories of Humor." HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research. 10.4: 395-420, 1997; "The Analysis of Humorous Narratives." HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 11.3: 231 - 60, 1998; Humorous Texts : A Semantic and Pragmatic Analysis. Berlin [etc.]: Mouton de Gruyter, 2001; Attardo, Salvatore and Victor Raskin. "Script Theory Revis(It)Ed: Joke Similarity and Joke Representation Model." HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 4.3-4: 293-348, 1991]
Baccini, Giulia. The Forest of Laughs (Xiaolin): Mapping the Offspring of Self-Aware Literature in Ancient China. Dissertation. CA' FOSCARI University of Venice, 2010.; Hauer, Jutta. Mit Lachen Den Schlaf Vertreiben: Literatur- Und Kulturhistorische Aspekte Des Lachens Im China Und Japan Des 17. Jahrhunderts - Ein Vergleich Von Xiaohua Und Kobanashi. Dissertation. Ludwig-Maximilians-University München, 2001; Hsu, Pi-ching. 2012. "Jokes on the Human Body from Feng Menglong's Treasury of Laughs." Ming Studies 64: 46-62; Levy, Howard S. 1974. Chinese Sex Jokes in Traditional Times. Taibei: Orient Culture Service; Xu, Weihe. 2004. "The Confucian Politics of Appearance: And Its Impact on Chinese Humor." Philosophy East and West 54.4: 514-32; Yue, Xiaodong. 2010. "Exploration of Chinese Humor: Historical Review, Empirical Findings, and Critical Reflections." Humor - International Journal of Humor Research 23.3: 403-20.
Paul Pickowicz, "Political Humor in Postsocialist China: Transnational and Still Funny." In Perry Link, Dick Madsen and Paul Pickowicz, eds. RESTLESS CHINA (Roman and Littlefield, 2013); Dr. David Moser, has "several excellent articles on cross talk and other forms of humor. You can find his work by searching the website www.danwei.org"; A history of laughter: Comic culture in early twentieth-century China. Author: Christopher Gordon Rea Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--Columbia University, 2008. OCLC Number: 310502540. Rea, Christopher G. Comedy and cultural entrepreneurship in Xu Zhuodai's Huaji Shanghai. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 20, no.2 (Fall 2008) p. 40-91. Published in Columbus, OH. ISSN: 1520-9857 Keywords: comic sensibility; comical writer-reader relationship; 'funny' stories; plagiarism; false advertising; comedic treatment of media themes; urban mass culture; trickster; playing tricks on the reader; Rea, Christopher G. 'I envy you your new teeth and hair': humor, self-awareness and Du Fu's poetic self-image. T'ang Studies nos.23-24 (2005-2006) p. 47-89. Published in Boulder, CO. ISSN: 0737-5034 Keywords: self-mockery; poetic modes; effects of advancing age; comic interlude; self-representation; What a joke. By: Yang, Jiang; Rea, Christopher G., tr. Renditions no.76 (Fall 2011) p. 34-67. Published in Hong Kong. ISSN: 0377-3515.
Tan, Daren . 1997. Humor and language humor ]. Beijing: There is a chapter in Popular China: Unoffical Culture in a Globalizing Society by Perry Link and Kate Zhou, about shunkouliu and their political valences (Link also translates a xiangsheng comedy routine in the anthology Stubborn Weeds). "For contemporary raw materials: . . . there are a host of published jokes in mass-market magazines like (Reader magazine) and ? (Youth Digest) [. . .] sections of heavily sanitized jokes. Meanwhile, on Weibo there are many accounts that are mostly jokes: @ is one, but they change fast." "Rabbits also bite", a cartoon distributed online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_efbS1qfwQ. more political-animal parables: Hexie Farm series online, http://hexiefarm.wordpress.com/ . Don't forget the humorous tendency for "the Onion satirical newspaper to be republished as non-satire in papers like the People's Daily. This has happened a few times. There's a CNN article about it here (http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/30/world/asia/china-onion-humor-florcruz), and plenty of other materials on the web." Also this, on how some jokers are harrassed for trying to be funny: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/29/world/asia/29namu.html or http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/29/world/asia/29namu.html?_r=1 + from BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ASIAN STUDIES March 2013. The (r)evolution of modern Chinese humor By: Sample, Joseph Journal: Chinese Culture 37, no.3 (Sep 1996) p. 87-110 Published in Taipei. ISSN: 0009-4544
Traditional Chinese humor: a study in art and literature 1971. 9, 242p., By: Wells, Henry Willis Publisher: Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press Subject: China -- Literature: The Chinese sense of humor By: Hsia, C.T. Sino-American Relations 11, no.4 (Win 1985) p. 11-21 Published in Hwa Kang, Taiwan. ISSN: 0377-5321; The Chinese sense of humor By: Hsia, C.T. Renditions no.9 (Apr 1978) p. 30-36 Published in Hong Kong. ISSN: 0377-3515; The Chinese sense of humor By: Hsiao, Shi-ching Annals of the Philippine Chinese Historical Association 8 (1978) p. 80-98. Published in Manila; Humor in traditional Chinese literature By: Kao, George Sino-American Relations 13, no. 3 (Fall 1987) p. 43-50 Published in Hwa Kang, Taiwan. ISSN: 0377-5321
Myhre, Karin Published in: Mair, Victor H., ed. The Columbia history of Chinese literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. xx, 1342p., pages 132-148. Subject: China -- Literature: A pink humor [essay] By: Hu, Xin; Wu, Hui, tr. Published in: Wu, Hui, ed. Once iron girls: essays on gender by post-Mao Chinese literary women. Lanham, Md.; Plymouth, England: Lexington Books, 2010. xiii, 154p., pages 85-87 Subjects: China -- Anthropology & Sociology -- Women -- Literature. A light touch of the brush: humor in Chinese painting By: Dickson, Ronald J Asian and Pacific Quarterly of Cultural and Social Affairs 13, no.1 (Spr 1981) p. 27-39 Published in Seoul. ISSN: 0251-3110 Subject: China -- Arts -- Painting. Humor, history, and postmodernity: exploring contemporary Chinese cinema By: Gieselmann, Martin Berliner China-Hefte: Beiträge zur Gesellschaft und Geschichte Chinas 34 (2008) p. 113-129 Published in Berlin. Keywords: postmodern aesthetic; Lai Shengchuan; Edward Yang; Wong Kar-wai; Stephen Chian; Jiang Wen; Zhang Yimon; film directors.
Humor in discourse: a linguistic study of the Chinese dialect film, Crazy Stone [examined three levels of humor: linguistic level, societal level, and the interaction between language and the sociopolitical context] By: He, Yi Published in: Chan, Marjorie K.M.; Kang, Hana, eds. Proceedings of the 20th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-20): dedicated to Professor Edwin G. Pulleyblank in honor of his 85th birthday. Columbus, Ohio: East Asian Studies Center, Ohio State University, 2008. xxi, 1075p., pages 989-998 Keywords: lexical devices; phonetic devices; discourse devices
Chinese wit & humor; Introd. by Lin Yutang; incl. a translation by Pearl Buck 1974. 347p. By: Kao, George, ed. Publisher: New York, Sterling Pub. Co.: Subject: China -- Literature: Wit, humor, and satire in early Chinese literature (to A.D.220) By: Knechtges, David R. Monumenta Serica 29 ( 1970-1971) p. 79-98 Published in Sankt Augustin, Germany. ISSN: 0254-9948 Subject: China -- Literature: Chinese animal fables of the eighteenth century: translations from Shen Qifeng's Words of Humor From An Ancient Bell By: Chan, Leo Tak-hung Asian Culture Quarterly 23, no.1 (Spr 1995) p. 29-36 Published in Taipei. ISSN: 0378-8911; Humor styles, dispositional optimism, and mental health among undergraduates in Hong Kong and China By: Yue, Xiao Dong; Xia, Hao; Goldman, Giovanna Loretta Journal of Psychology in Chinese Societies 11, no.2 (2010) p. 173-188 Published in Hong Kong. ISSN: 1563-3403 Keywords: university students; Chinese culture; Humorous anecdotes in Chinese historical texts By: Cohen, Alvin P Journal of the American Oriental Society 96, no.1 (Jan-Mar 1976) p. 121-124 Published in New Haven, CT. ISSN: 0003-0279 Subject: China -- Literature
Feng Meng-Lung's treasury of laughs: humorous satire on seventeenth century Chinese culture and society By: Hsu, Pi-Ching Journal of Asian Studies 57, no.4 (Nov 1998) p. 1042-1067 Published in Ann Arbor, MI. ISSN: 0021-9118; Redrawing the past: modern presentation of ancient Chinese philosophy in the cartoons of Tsai Chih-Chung By: Wei, Shu-chu Published in: Lent, John A., ed. Illustrating Asia: comics, humor magazines, and picture books. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001. 249p., pages 153-170 Subjects: Taiwan -- Arts -- Prints & Drawings. China -- Philosophy & Religion: Ming-dynasty humorous fables; tr. by Simon Johnstone By: Jiang, Yingke Chinese Literature no.4 (Win 1989) p. 124-131 Published in Beijing, ISSN: 0009-4617 Subject: China -- Anthropology & Sociology -- Folklore; Jiang Yingke's humorous fables; tr. by Simon Johnstone By: Wang, Xuetai Chinese Literature no.4 (Win 1989) p. 132-135 Published in Beijing, ISSN: 0009-4617 Subject: China -- Anthropology & Sociology -- Folklore
From warlocks to Aryans: the slippery slope of cultural nuance in reading Harry Potter in Taiwan By: Moskowitz, Marc L. Published in: Moskowitz, Marc L., ed. Popular culture in Taiwan: charismatic modernity. London; New York: Routledge, 2011. xi, 187p. (Routledge research on Taiwan, 3), pages 167-180 Keywords: Chinese translation; marketing strategy; localization of Potter; preadaptation to Harry Potter themes; Western pop culture; traditional and modern; local and transnational cultures; online fan humor; Justice, morality, and skepticism in Six Dynasties ghost stories [explores the religious and ethical implications of the ghost stories, in particular those represented by the zhiguai (anomaly tales)] By: Poo, Mu-chou Published in: Chan, Alan K.L.; Lo, Yuet-Keung, eds. Interpretation and literature in early medieval China. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2010. vi, 288p. (SUNY studies in Chinese philosophy and culture), pages 251-273 Keywords: avenging ghosts; administration of justice; revenge; ghostly intervention in a person's fate; humor. Long-term oral administration of ginseng extract modulates humoral immune response and spleen cell functions By: Liou, Chian-Jiun; Huang, Wen-Chung; Tseng, Jerming. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 33, no.4 (2005) p. 651-661 Published in Garden Hills, NY. ISSN: 0192-415X Keywords: antibody response; cytokines; T-cell population
Classical Chinese humour By: Kowallis, Jon, tr. Chinese Literature no.1 (Spr 1985) p. 194-200 Published in Beijing. ISSN: 0009-4617 Subject: China -- Literature; An anthology of Chinese humour 1987. 203p By: Tao, Yin Hong Kong: Joint Subject: China -- Literature; Chinese black humour By: Uimonen, Terho Orientaliska Studier no.66 (Oct 1989) p. 47-49 Published in Stockholm. ISSN: 0345-8997 Subject: China -- General & Miscellaneous; Red Humour (Hongse youmo) [artist group] By: Welsh, Eduardo Published in: Davis, Edward L., ed. Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. London; New York: Routledge, 2005. xxxiv, 786p., pages 503 Subject: China -- Arts
Humour, satire and parody in Zhang Tianyi's writing By: Sun, Yifeng Chinese Culture 40, no.2 (Jun 1999) p. 1-44 Published in Taipei, ISSN: 0009-4544 Subject: China -- Literature -- Fiction -- Studies & Criticism; Satire and humour from a Chinese cartoonist's brush: selected cartoons of Hua Junwu, 1983-1989 1991. 276p By: Hua, Chun-wu; Yang, Gladys, tr. Publisher: Beijing: China Today Subject: China -- Arts -- Prints & Drawings; Laughter across the Great Wall: a comparison of Chinese and Western humour By: Waters, Dan Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 38 (1998-1999) p. 1-50 Published in Hong Kong. ISSN: 0085-5774 Subject: China -- Anthropology & Sociology; Realism, intertextuality and humour in Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn. By: Wood, Chris Journal of Chinese Cinemas 1, no.2 (2007) p. 105-116 Published in Bristol, England. ISSN: 1750-8061 Keywords: realism; Chinese cinema Subject: Taiwan -- Arts -- Cinema; An ethnic dance drama full of humour; tr. by Niu Jin By: Peng, Wanting; Liu, Junli Chinese Literature no.4 (Win 1995) p. 184-191 Published in Beijing. ISSN: 0009-4617 Subject: China -- Arts -- Dance; The spectrum of accessibility: types of humour in the The Destinies of the Flowers in the Mirror By: Elvin, Mark Published in: Ames, Roger T.; Chan, Sin-wai; Ng, Mau-sang, eds. Interpreting culture through translation: a festschrift for D.C. Lau. Hong Kong: Chinese UP, 1991. 290p., pages 101-117 Subject: China -- Literature -- Fiction -- Studies & Criticism
A survey of Chinese and German family jokes By: Cui, Peiling Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia 39-40, pt.1 (2007-2008) p. 135-152 Published in Canberra. ISSN: 0030-5340 Keywords: humour; family structures; family values; situations; targets; script oppositions Subject: China -- Anthropology & Sociology -- Social Structure -- Family + Showing 1 - 7 of 7 results for search all fields:chinese jokes; Some preliminary notes on Chinese jokes and cartoons By: Harbsmeier, Christoph Published in: Arendrup, Birthe; Thogersen, Carsten Boyer; Wedell-Wedellsborg, Anne, eds. China in the 1980s-and beyond. London: Curzon Press; Copenhagen: SIAS, 1986. 175p., pages 30-77 Subject: China -- General & Miscellaneous; Jokes By: Mair, Victor H., tr. Published in: Mair, Victor H., ed. The Columbia anthology of traditional Chinese literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. xxxvii, 1335p. (Translations from the Asian classics), pages 658-670 Subject: China -- Literature; On jokes By: Bian, Ji; Wu, Ling, tr. Chinese Literature no.1 (Spr 1985) p. 201-202 Published in Beijing. ISSN: 0009-4617 Subject: China -- Literature
Political jokes By: Wu, Helen Xiaoyan Published in: Davis, Edward L., ed. Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. London; New York: Routledge, 2005. xxxiv, 786p., pages 474 Subject: China -- Politics & Government; Political jokes mock Chinese leadership By: Hood, Marlowe Published in: Sullivan, Lawrence R., ed. China since Tiananmen: political, economic, and social conflicts. Armonk, N.Y.; London: M.E. Sharpe, 1995. 331p., pages 107-109 Subject: China -- Politics & Government; A survey of Chinese and German family jokes By: Cui, Peiling Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia 39-40, pt.1 (2007-2008) p. 135-152. Published in Canberra. ISSN: 0030-5340 Keywords: humour; family structures; family values; situations; targets; script oppositions Subject: China -- Anthropology & Sociology -- Social Structure -- Family; To send to Tu Fu as a joke [Li Po (701-762)] By: Li, Po; Eide, Elling, tr. Published in: Mair, Victor H., ed. The Columbia anthology of traditional Chinese literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. xxxvii, 1335p. (Translations from the Asian classics), pages 203 Subject: China -- Literature -- Poetry -- Translations From: Paul Pickowicz
Exploration of Chinese humor: Historical review, empirical findings and critical reflections by Xiao Dong Yue, 2010.
Humour in Chinese Life and Culture
Books on Humor in China: 1) Jessica Davis and Jocelyn Chey, eds.,Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times, Hong Kong University Press, 2013; 2) Jessica Davis and Jocelyn Chey, eds., Humour in Chinese Life and Letters: Classical and Traditional Approaches, Hong Kong University Press, 2011.
Contents “Humour in Chinese Life and Letters”: Volume 1: Classic and Traditional Approaches to Humour in China, edited by Jocelyn Chey and Jessica Milner Davis. Editors Preface (Jocelyn Chey and Jessica Milner Davis) 1. Prof. Jocelyn Chey, Chinese Studies, University of Sydney. ‘Youmo’ and the Chinese sense of humour.. An overview of expressions of humour in history and in contemporary China, arguing that humor is a universal phenomenon but some characteristics of Chinese language, culture and society that give rise to unique humour forms. 2. Dr Jessica Milner Davis, Letters, Art and Media, University of Sydney. The Theory of Humours and Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Preamble to Chapter 3. An exploration of the etymology of the term “humour” and its relationship to the classical “Theory of the Humours” in the West. 3. Dr Rey Tiquia, Independent Scholar, Melbourne. The ‘Qi’ that got lost in translation: Traditional Chinese Medicine, ‘humour’ and healing. TCM theory of Qi provides an explanation for the role of humour and other emotions, the importance of balance and the role of humour in healing. 4. Dr Weihe Xu, Department of Chinese, Middlebury College, Vermont. The classical Confucian concepts of human emotion and proper humour. Confucius was not humourless but believed that humour should be restricted to appropriate times and places. These beliefs were reinforced by Song Neo-Confucians. 5. Dr Shirley Chan, Chinese Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney. Identifying Daoist Humour: Reading the Liezi . Liezi provides many examples of humour that underpinned the creative and carefree tradition of Daoism. 6. Dr Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Chinese Studies, University of Sydney. Shared humour: The elitist jokes in ‘Shishuo Xinyu’. Much of the humour in Shishu Xinyu was directed for and created by literati and served to reinforce their social bonds. 7. Dr Andy Shui-Lun Fung, formerly University of Hong Kong, and Dr Hang-Lun Zhan, Chinese Studies, University of Hong Kong. Chinese humour as reflected in comic drama of the Yuan Dynasty. Comparative linguistic analysis is used to discuss irony, satire and other techniques used in Yuan love-theme comedies. 8. Dr Weihe Xu, Department of Chinese, Middlebury College, Vermont. How Humor Humanizes a Confucian Paragon: The Case of Xue Baochai in Honglou meng. Discussion of how humour reveals the humanity of the character of Xue Baozhai in Honglou meng. 9. Dr Joseph C. Sample, English, University of Houston Dowtown, USA. Lin Yutang’s ‘On Humour’, edited English text with introduction and annotations. An annotated translation of Lin Yutang’s seminal essay with an introduction setting it in its historic context. 10. Dr Qian Suoqiao, Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong. Discovering humour in modern China: The launching of the journal ‘Analects’ and the ‘Year of Humour’ (1932). The historical background to the Analects is examined with particular reference to the role of the CCP and Lu Xun and G. B. Shaw’s visit to Shanghai.
Volume 2: Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times, edited by Jessica Milner Davis and Jocelyn Chey 0. Editors’ Preface (Jessica Milner Davis and Jocelyn Chey) 1. Dr Jessica Milner Davis, Letters, Art and Media, University of Sydney. The challenge of culture in studying humour. Because unfamiliar conventions about humour can throw light upon what is taken for granted in a familiar culture, the field of humor studies increasingly seeks to compare and contrast different cultural approaches to humour and laughter. Using Chinese humour studies as an exemplar, the methodological challenges and potential rewards of this enterprise are discussed. 2. Dr Diran John Sohigian, Applied English, College of Creativity and Culture, Shih Chien University (Kaohsiung Campus), Taiwan. The Phantom of the clock: Qian Zhongshu, laughter and the time of life. A study of the impact of Henri Bergson’s thought on humour and time on two of the greatest and most popular writers of early 20th Century China, Lao She and Qian Zhongshu. Also addresses Qian Zhongshu’s critique of Lin Yutang’s earlier introduction of the concept of “humour” (youmo). 3.Dr Barak Kushner, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge. Unwarranted Attention: The Image of Japan in 20th entury Chinese humour. During the 20th century, both China and Japan developed politically inspired humour attacking the other country, for different reasons. Chinese humour drew richly on Japanese precedents. Humour used for propaganda is discussed. 4. Dr John A. Lent, Communication and Theater, Temple University, and Ying Xu, Independent Scholar, Assistant/Production Editor, International Journal of Cartooning Art. Chinese cartoons and humour: The views of first and second generation cartoonists. A profile of the careers and humorous styles of master cartoonists Feng Zikai, Zhang Leping, Liao Bingxiong, Hua Junwu and Fang Cheng with many illustrations courtesy of the artists. 5. Dr Marjorie K. M. Chan, Linguistics and Chinese Linguistics, The Ohio State University, and Prof. Jocelyn Chey, Chinese Studies, University of Sydney. ‘Love you to the bone’ and other songs: Humour and rusheng rhymes in early Cantopop. Rusheng (checked syllables) are typical of Cantonese language, although usually avoided in rhyming because they Constrain lengthening the final syllable. They are often used however in humorous Cantonese songs and both traditional and modern examples (e.g Cantonese operas and popular songs) and their social significance are discussed. 6. Ms Ying Xu, Independent Scholar, Assistant/Production Editor, Asian Cinema, and Professor Zhongquan Xu, formerly Central Drama Academy, Beijing and National First Grad Actor. A ‘new’ phenomenon of Chinese cinema: The Happy-New-Year comic movie. The history of China’s comic movie genre is illustrated by emergence and popularity of the Happy-New-Year movies, beginning in 1997. 7. Dr Christopher G. Rea, Modern Chinese Literature, University of British Columbia. Spoofing (e'gao ) culture on the Chinese internet. Explores the political and aesthetic significance of e’gao within the public forum of the Internet and evaluates the degree to which it “presumes emancipation”. A defining feature of e’gao is their appeal to a “community of sentiment”. 8. Dr Heather Crawford, Marketing, Charles Sturt University (Bathurst Campus), Australia. Humour in new media: Comparing China, Australia and the United States. Contemporary demand for humor among urban, educated consumers is illustrated by the comparative uptake in Mainland China, Australia and USA of new media and reactions to standardized global humorous advertising are discussed. 9. Dr Guo-Hai (Porter) Chen, Management, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Examining the Chinese Examining the Chinese concepts of humour and the role of humour in teaching. Chinese conceptions of humour and its role in daily life and teaching are examined in three studies with discussion of the implications for the role of humour in educational theory and practice. 10. Prof. Hsueh-Chih Chen, Educational Psychology & Counseling, National Taiwan Normal University, Dr Yu-Chen Chan, Educational Psychology & Counselling, National Taiwan Normal University, Prof. Willibald Ruch, Psychology, University of Zürich, and Dr René T. Proyer, Psychology, University of Zürich. Being laughed at and laughing at others in Taiwan and Switzerland: A cross-cultural perspective. A comparative study of personal attitudes to humour termed in current psychology, gelotophobia, gelotophilia, and katagelasticism, in Taiwan and Switzerland. The results highlight the importance of “face” in Chinese society. 11. Prof. X.L. (Xue Liang) Ding, Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Freedom and political humour: Their social meaning in contemporary China. Examples of political humour from contemporary mainland China are documented, discussed and compared with Western political humour to demonstrate that a certain degree of political freedom is necessary for humour to flourish.
Image Sources: Asia Obscura http://asiaobscura.com/ ;
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated June 2015