Wit and Humor in Chinese Characters

Dec 9, 2022, 17:40 - Dec 17, 2022, 00:00


Chinese characters are logograms used in writing, not only in Chinese, but also in Japanese, Korean, and, formerly, Vietnamese. While there are many previous studies on Chinese humor, not much ink has been spent on discussing the innate wit and humor observed in Chinese characters. Based on Bergson’s ([1911] 2014) account of laughter and two recognized functions of Chinese humor – yùjiàoyúlè ‘wrapping instructions in entertainment/amusement’ (Liao 2001) and huìxīnwéixiào ‘a hearty laugh or a knowing smile’ (Chen 2017) – this talk aims at illustrating and discussing the wit and humor in Chinese characters from a socio-cultural and historical perspective. More specifically, funny Chinese characters should contain human behavioral attributes and wrapped instructions and will evoke a hearty laugh or knowing smile from the in-group members of a Chinese-speaking community.


Prof. Li-Chi Chen 陳力綺 (Department of Oriental Linguistics, Casimir the Great University)

The National Central Library (Taiwan), Center for Chinese Studies (Taiwan), National Library of Poland
National Library of Poland (al. Niepodległości 213, 02-086 Warszawa, Poland)