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Age of IrreverenceA New History of Laughter in China$
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Christopher Rea

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520283848

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520283848.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

Jokes 笑話百出‎

Jokes 笑話百出‎

(p.16) 2 Jokes 笑話百出‎
Age of Irreverence

Christopher Rea

University of California Press

Literati compiled collections of jokes (xiaohua) throughout the imperial period. In the late Qing, however, jokes aided the livelihood of writers for Shanghai’s booming periodical press. Xiaohua differ from “jokes” in that they can relate true anecdotes as well as fictional scenarios. The ambiguous truth-claim of the xiaohua appealed especially to exposé writers like Wu Jianren and Li Boyuan, who mixed news items, gossip, and apocryphal stories into xiaohua-driven novels about the misbehavior of Qing officials. Formulaic jokes proliferated and became more commoditized during the Republican period, as newspapers and magazines became ever-more hungry for copy that would attract readers. Foreign jokes were widely translated. Chinese jokes from imperial collections were rediscovered and adapted by writers, cartoonists, and performers alike. Chinese jokes circulated abroad in greater volume than ever before. As late as the 1930s, however, critics like Lu Xun still warned of danger in a culture of joking that was more interested in the funny than the true.

Keywords:   Wu Jianren, jokes, anecdotes, gossip, publishing, late Qing dynasty, truth, Lu Xun, Li Boyuan, Shanghai

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