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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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The Invention of Humor 幽默年‎

The Invention of Humor 幽默年‎

(p.132) 6 The Invention of Humor 幽默年‎
Age of Irreverence

Christopher Rea

University of California Press

In the 1930s—possibly for the first time in Chinese history—humor itself became an object of reverence. Youmo (humor), a transliteration coined by the popular writer Lin Yutang, came to stand for a new comedic sensibility that sought to displace the irreverence of the early 1900s. In the 1930s, in his new Chinese-language humor magazine The Analects Fortnightly (Lunyu banyuekan), Lin popularized not only youmo but also the notion that humor was a humanistic virtue that China—for all its previous comic traditions—lacked. The vogue for humor literature continued for over half a decade, during which time laughter became the focus of an unprecedented degree of polemical debate. What was laughter? How could and should Chinese people laugh? Ultimately, Lin Yutang’s youmo campaign succeeded in promoting an idealized conception of humor, and the term youmo became a naturalized part of the Chinese language.

Keywords:   humor, youmo, satire, The Analects Fortnightly, Lin Yutang, Shao Xunmei, Zhou Zuoren, Qian Zhongshu, World War II, Chinese Civil War

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