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History of Humor: Classical and Traditional China

  • By: Jocelyn Chey
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Humor in recorded Chinese literature and philosophy can be traced back for at least 3,000 years to the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE). An influential work of that era, the Shijing (Book of Poetry, also known as Book of Songs, Classic of Poetry, etc.), compiled between the 10th and 7th century BCE, was known to and quoted by Confucius (551–479 BCE) and revered by Confucian scholars over centuries. Often read as moral or political homilies, many of the poems derive from folk songs and deal with the stuff of everyday life, expressing its frustrations and humor. The lovers' remonstrances in Ji ming (“The Cock Has Crowed”), for instance, demonstrate a wry humor derived from the conflict between official duties and amorous dalliance—a theme developed in many ...

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