William Dolby

Classical Chinese Translations and Research

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19. Chinese Humour: an Anthology


Book Details

"Chinese Humour: an Anthology" consists of two separate volumes. Compiled and translated by William Dolby in its current paper-backed form in 2005, although the original translations were undoubtedly first completed decades earlier. This work represents the 19th of 33 of the Chinese Culture Series.

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Humour figures large at the very basis of traditional Chinese civilisation. China’s two major earliest philosophies, Confucianism and Taoism, both made much use of wit, and the desire to create laughter remained strong through the ages, showing itself in literature, entertainments, visual art, and the very fabric of society, seeming to wait in the wings of all other fine thinking. This present book is a sample of the huge range of humorous works, including many of the most famous, providing a few examples of the more culture- and language-specific pieces, but mostly of humour that can be savoured internationally.

There’s plenty of slapstick, not a little course jocundity for raucous guffawing, but also much faint and subtle whimsicality, for savouring of a quiet smile. The material comes from joke-books, story-telling dramas, and other genres. We meet with feisty viragos, hen-pecked husbands, misers, ludicrously extreme tyrants, corrupt judges, mockers of bullies, court-jesters, calculating harlots, gentle scholars, blundering yokels, infatuated lovers, boastful blades, horse-lovers, failed examiners, quarrelling neighbours, ogres, demons, ghosts, and many other vivid characters, as well as skeeters, fleas, donkeys and tigers.