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Humour in Chinese Life and Culture

Resistance and Control in Modern Times

Jessica Milner Davis, Jocelyn Chey

Publication Year: 2013

This volume covers modern and contemporary forms of humour in China’s public and private spheres, including comic films and novels, cartooning, pop songs, internet jokes, and advertising and educational humour. The second of two multidisciplinary volumes on humour in Chinese life and letters, this text also explores the relationship between the political control and popular expression of humour, such as China and Japan’s exchange of comic stereotypes. It advances the methodology of cross-cultural and psychological studies of humour and underlines the economic and personal significance of humour in modern times.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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p. C-C

Title Page, Dedication, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of illustrations and tables

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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xviii

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Editors’ note

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pp. xix-xx

Proper names, titles, references, quotations and key words in this book are given in both Chinese and English. The spelling of Chinese words is standardized using pinyin, except where people or places are internationally known in Cantonese or other dialects, or by other spelling systems....

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pp. xxi-xxii

This volume is designed to complement studies collected in Humour in Chinese life and letters: Classical and traditional approaches; however, even in two books, the editors do not claim to have covered all the genres and types of humour in Chinese culture or the many cultures that make up China or the diaspora more broadly. The scope is simply too vast. While these are not the first studies to ...

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1: Humour and its cultural context

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pp. 1-22

Recognizing humour is easy enough (with the help of appropriate cultural knowledge) but, as many scholars have found, pinning down a general definition is extremely difficult. Any definition “at once isolates an essence and provides an idealised form” of the thing to be defined1—and there is no essence of humour susceptible of easy definition. If there were, imposing any idealized ...

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2: The phantom of the clock

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pp. 23-46

This chapter is principally concerned with the infl uence of French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941) on two humour-related works by Qian Zhongshu...

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3: Unwarranted attention

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pp. 47-80

Humour is as much a cultural force in China as it is in other East Asian regions, although in the English-speaking world we might not always regard the offerings as “funny” in a strict laugh-out-loud sense. Humour in East Asia, as elsewhere, is often clever and instructive, but it can also be biting, sarcastic and mean-spirited. As a deep-seated barometer of social attitudes, humour is an...

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4: Chinese cartoons and humour

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pp. 81-102

Humour is often culture-bound, taking on meaning that makes sense only in a particular socio-political atmosphere, thus rendering it diffi cult to translate. “Before the joke can be discharged in all its swiftness,” wrote humour theoretician Walter Nash, “there is much to be apprehended about cultural and social facts, about shared beliefs and attitudes, about pragmatic bases of communication.”1...

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5: “Love you to the bone” and other songs

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pp. 103-130

A study of early Cantopop (Cantonese popular) songs1 suggests that syllable structure may play a contributing role in both the choice of the tempo of a melody, and its emotional and specifi cally humorous effect. Of specifi c interest in this chapter are checked, or...

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6: A “new” phenomenon of Chinese cinema

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pp. 131-148

The history of the Chinese so-called “Happy-New-Year” comic movie ...

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7: Spoofing (e’gao) culture on the Chinese internet

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pp. 149-172

Imagine it is 16 December 2008 and you’re in your university dorm room in Beijing Normal University’s (BNU) Zhuhai campus in Guangdong province sweating bullets over a standardized test that you need to pass to get your communications degree. The national College English Test-Band 4 (CET-4) is less than two weeks away and the stakes are high. In this economy, your chances...

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8: Humour in new media

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pp. 173-192

Surfi ng the net in 2006, China’s youth would instantly have recognized the fi gure staring sidelong at them in the spoof poster for Pirates of the Caribbean Two (2006): the puffy face and suspicious eyes could only be...

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9: Chinese concepts of humour and the role of humour in teaching

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pp. 193-214

In considering the history of humour and terminology about humour in both the West and China, this chapter relies on more general studies elsewhere, in order to focus on the terminology and role of humour in teaching and behavioural contexts. In 2002, Willibald Ruch’s important study of humour and personality psychology posited two defi nitional categories. The first regards humour as only...

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10: Laughing at others and being laughed at in Taiwan and Switzerland

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pp. 215-230

Laughter is an innate emotional expression in human beings, accompanied by a distinct facial and vocal pattern.1 It plays an important role in the daily life of people. In the psychological literature, laughter frequently has been regarded as an expression of maturity. For example, one of the founding fi gures of American personality psychology, Gordon Allport,2 notes that a mature person “participates...

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11: Freedom and political humour

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pp. 231-254

The last two months of 2008 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the commencement of China’s reform and opening-up policy. Tons (literally) of articles and commentaries were published both within and outside China about this historic event, all in an understandably serious tone. Here, I wish to pick up a lighter dimension of the profound and dramatic changes through which China has so ...


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pp. 255-306


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pp. 307-342


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pp. 343-348

Image Plates

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pp. Plate1-Plate 16

E-ISBN-13: 9789888268054
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888139231

Page Count: 388
Illustrations: 30 colour and 19 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1