Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times

A China Studies Centre Book Launch (with the support of Inbooks, NSW), Offical opening event of the 2013 CSC Annual Conference

27 November

Launched by Mr Jim Harrowell AM, President of the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) in NSW, Partner, Hunt&Hunt Lawyers and Member of the Board of the Confucius Institute, UNSW

We know humour is often hard to translate and appreciate cross-culturally. Puns and socio-political context are often not understood and even a simple joke can offend. Jessica Milner Davis researches cross-cultural humour and comedy and Jocelyn Chey is a Visiting Professor in Chinese Studies, both at the University of Sydney.

Join us for the launch of their new book Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times published by Hong Kong University Press, and a discussion about their work. They look at modern and contemporary forms of humour in China’s public and private spheres, including comic films and novels, cartooning, pop songs, internet jokes, and advertising and educational humour. In the Chinese context, humour is a modernising cultural construct. Whether satirical or slapstick or any variation in between, it may be either amusing or hurtful, but always engages with conformity and orthodoxy. The second of two multidisciplinary volumes on humour in Chinese life and letters, this text also explores the relationship between political control and popular expression of humour, such as China and Japan’s exchange of comic stereotypes.

“This book is a fascinating tour of Chinese humour, its contexts and history, and its contemporary manifestations on- and off-line.”
— Jeremy Goldkorn, Founder of Danwei.com and previous guest at Sydney Ideas

Jocelyn Chen


Jocelyn Chey is a Visiting Professor, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney, and a consultant on Australia–China relations. After lecturing in Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney, in 1973 she joined the Australian Commonwealth Public Service and contributed to the development of Australia–China relations in the Departments of Trade and Foreign Affairs for over twenty years. She was posted three times to China and Hong Kong, including as Consul-General in Hong Kong from 1992 to 1995. At the foundation of the Australia–China Council in 1979, she served as Executive Director, building its activities and reputation. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Oriental Society of Australia, Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and received an Australia–China Council medal and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2009 for her contributions to the Australia–China relationship.

Jessica Milner Davis

Jessica Milner Davis is an Honorary Associate in the School of Letters, Art and Media at the University of Sydney and co-ordinates the Australasian Humour Studies Network. She has been a Visiting Scholar at Bristol and Stanford Universities, All Souls College Oxford, Università di Bologna and Clare Hall Cambridge, where she is a Life Member. She researches history and theory of comedy and cross-cultural humour and laughter. Her books includeFarce (2003) and two co-edited studies of humour Chinese culture, as well as Understanding Humor in Japan (2007) which won the 2008 Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor humour research book prize. Twice President of the International Society for Humor Studies (1996 and 2001), Dr Davis is a member of the Editorial Board for HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, a Commissioning Editor for the forthcoming Sage Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, and an Affiliated Researcher with the Centre for Comedy Studies Research, Brunel University UK (CCSR).