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Chinese and Western humour can often be quite different. Whilst Western humour is often based on sarcasm, Chinese jokes may sometimes be described as ‘black humour’. When it comes to TV and movies, slapstick is a popular choice, as well as short skits.
Since Chinese jokes often rely heavily on linguistics, it may sometimes be difficult for non-natives to ‘get’ a joke, and the same can be said of English jokes for a Chinese native. Sometimes things just get lost in translation! Similarly to how sarcasm is used in the west, jokes in Chinese will sometimes be described as a ‘cold’ joke. This is a joke that is so bad, it’s not really funny…
Traditionally, the most common type of humour in China was ‘crosstalk’, a type of stand up between two people. You can see an example of crosstalk in the video below. Although they speak quite slowly, you can also turn on the English subtitles and follow along!
Continue reading to learn some Chinese vocabulary for joking and tricks. If you want to make your Chinese friends laugh, why not learn how to say some Chinese jokes?
愚人节快乐! (yú rén jié kuài lè) April fool!
愚人节 (yú rén jié) April Fool’s Day
玩笑 (wán xiào) to joke
笑料 (xiào liào) laughing stock
恶作剧 (è zuò jù) mischief/mischievous/practical joke/prank
开玩笑 (kāi wán xiào) to play a joke/to make fun of/to joke
捉弄 (zhuō nòng) to make a fool out of someone
小丑 (xiǎo chǒu) clown
相声 (xiàng) sheng cross talk / sketch
小品 (xiǎo pǐn) sketch show
冷笑话 (lěng xiào huà) ‘cold joke’ joke intended to be so corny it makes one groan
魔术师 (mó shù shī) magician
魔术棒 (mó shù bàng) magic wand
纸牌魔术 (zhǐ pái mó shù) Card trick
杂耍 (zá shuǎ) sideshow performance
戏法 (xì fǎ) magic trick
错觉 (cuò jué) optical illusion
幻觉 (huàn jué) magical illusion
The Blind Crab
(páng xiè chū mén sàn bù bù xiǎo xīn zhuàng dào le xiǎo yú)
(xiǎo yú hěn shēng qì: “nǐ shì bú shì xiā ā?”)
(páng xiè hěn wěi qū: bú shì ā, wǒ shì páng xiè!”)
The crab went out for a walk and knocked down a fish,
The little fish was very angry and asked: “are you blind?”
The crab felt wronged and replied: “no, I am a crab!”
This joke plays on the similar sounds of 虾 (xiā), meaning ‘shrimp’ and 瞎 (xiā) meaning ‘blind’.
The Communications Deer
(xiǎo xióng duì xiǎo tù shuō: “wǒ yào gěi hóu zi dǎ diàn huà, dàn shì bù zhī dao tā de hào mǎ.”)
(xiǎo tù shuō: ”nǐ qù wèn xiǎo lù ba!”)
(xiǎo xióng wèn:”wèi shén me tā huì zhī dao?”
(xiǎo tù dá: ”yīn wèi tā shì tōng xùn lù!”)
Bear said to rabbit,”I want to call the monkey, but I do not know her number.”
Rabbit said, “you can ask deer for it!”
Bear asked, “Why would he know it?”
Rabbit answered: “Because he is the phone book”
This joke plays on the similarity between the word ‘deer’ 鹿 (lù) and the last character in the word for ‘phonebook’ 通讯录 (tōng xùn lù). Both use the same pronunciation, and so without the context, they can easily be confused.
The Panda’s Dream
(xióng māo jīn nián yǒu liǎng gè shēng rì yuàn wàng: zhì hǎo hēi yǎn quān hé zhào yī zhāng cǎi sè zhào piàn.)
The panda has two birthday dreams this year: to cure the black rimmed eyes and have a colour photo taken.
(yī gè rén qù chǒng wùdiàn xiǎng mǎi yī zhī xiǎo gǒu)
(“zhè zhī kàn qǐ hěn kě ài.”)
(“zhōng chéng dù zěn me yàng?)
(“hái bù cuò, fǎn zhèng wǒ mài le tā sì cì, zuì hòu tā dōu zì jǐ huí lai le.”)
A man went to a pet shop to buy a dog.
“This one looks cute.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Is it loyal?”
“Yes, I sold it 4 times, and it always came back to me”
Octopi in Love
(cóng qián yǒu liǎng zhī zhāng yú xiāng ài le, rán hòu tā men qiān shǒu qiān shǒu qiān shǒu qiān shǒu qiān shǒu qiān shǒu…)
Once upon a time, two octopi fall in love with each other, then they held hands, held hands, held hands, held hands, held hands, held hands….
Lion vs Turtle
(shī zi yù wū guī zhǔn bèi dǎ jià, dǎ jià qián wū guī duì shī zi shuō: “dǎ jià qián, má fan bǎ nǐ de tóu fa zā qǐ lai.”)
(shī zi yòu duì wū guī shuō: “nà nǐ yě yào bǎ nǐ de bāo fàng xia.”)
The Lion and Turtle were getting ready to fight with each other. Before they began, the turtle said, ”Please tie your hair up.”
The lion replied, “In that case, you should take your bag off too.”
(xiǎo míng hé cǎo méi, xī guā, xī hóng shì yī qǐ shàng jiē wán.)
(dì yī gè lù kǒu, xī guā bèi chē zhuàng le, xiǎo míng shuō: “hā hā hā, xī guā zhī!”)
(dì èr gè lù kǒu, xī hóng shì bèi chē zhuàng le, xiǎo míng shuō: “hā hā hā, fān qié jiàng!”)
(dì sān gè lù kǒu, xiǎo míng bèi chē zhuàng le, cǎo méi shuō: “hā hā hā, rén zhā.”)
Xiao Ming went out with a strawberry, a watermelon, and a tomato.
At the first intersection, the watermelon was hit by a car. Xiao Ming laughed, “ha ha ha, watermelon juice!”
At the second crossing, the tomato was hit by a car. Xiao Ming said, “ha ha ha, ketchup!”
The third intersection, Xiao Ming was hit by a car. The strawberry said: “ha ha ha, scumbag!”
The Mighty Ant
(yī zhī mǎ yǐ zài lù shang kàn jiàn yī tóu dà xiàng, mǎ yǐ zuān jìn tǔ lǐ, zhǐ yǒu yī zhǐ tuǐ lòu zài wài mian.)
(xiǎo tù zi kàn jiàn bù jiě de wèn: “wèi shén me bǎ tuǐ lòu zài wài mian?”)
(mǎ yǐ shuō: “xū! bié chū shēng, lǎo zi bàn tā yī jiāo!”)
An ant saw an elephant on the road. The ant burrowed into the soil, and left one leg outside.
A rabbit saw and asked curiously, “why do you have one legs outside? ”
The ant said, “Hush! Keep quiet, I will trip him over! ”
(dì yī tiān, xiǎo tù zi qù hé biān diào yú, shén me yě méi diào dào, huí jiā le.)
(dì èr tiān, xiǎo tù zi yòu qù hé biān diào yú, hái shì shén me yě méi diào dào, huí jiā le.)
(dì sān tiān, xiǎo tù zi gāng dào hé biān, yī tiáo dà yú cóng hé lǐ tiào chū lái, chōng zhe xiǎo tù zi dà jiào: “gāi sǐ de nǐ yào shi zài gǎn yòng hú luó bo dāng yú ěr, wǒ jiù biǎn sǐ nǐ.”)
On the first day, the rabbit went fishing. He caught nothing and went home.
On the second day, the rabbit went fishing again. He still didn’t catch anything, so he returned home.
On the third day, the rabbit went to the river, when a big fish jumped out from the river, rushed towards the small rabbit and shouted: “Damn it, if you dare to use carrots as bait again, I will beat you to death!”
(xiǎo tù zi bèng bèng tiào tiào dào miàn bāo fáng, wèn: ”lǎo bǎn, nǐ men yǒu méi yǒu yī bǎi gè tián tián quān a?”)
(lǎo bǎn: “ā, zhēn bào qiàn, méi yǒu nà me duō.” “zhè yàng ā…” xiǎo tù zi chuí tóu sàngqì de zǒu le.)
(dì èr tiān, xiǎo tù zi bèng bèng tiào tiào dào miàn bāo fáng, ”lǎo bǎn, yǒu méi yǒu yī bǎi gè tián tián quān a?”)
(lǎo bǎn: “duì bu qǐ, hái shì méi yǒu a.” “zhè yàng ā…” xiǎo tù zi yòu chuí tóu sàng qì de zǒu le.)
(dì sān tiān, xiǎo tù zi bèng bèng tiào tiào dào miàn bāo fáng, ”lǎo bǎn, yǒu méi yǒu yī bǎi gè tián tián quān a?”)
(lǎo bǎn gāo xìng de shuō: “yǒu le, yǒu le, jīn tiān wǒ men yǒu yī bǎi gè tián tián quān le!” xiǎo tù zi tāo chū qián: “tài hǎo le, wǒ mǎi liǎng gè.”)
A small rabbit went to the bakery and asked, “Hey shopkeeper, do you have 100 doughnuts?”
“Sorry, we do not have that many doughnuts.” The shopkeeper answered.
“All right…” The small rabbit dropped his head dejectedly and left.
On the second day, the small rabbit went to the bakery again and asked, “Hey shopkeeper, do you have 100 doughnuts?”
“Sorry, we do not have so many doughnuts.” The shopkeeper answered.
“All right…” The small rabbit dropped his head dejectedly and left.
On the third day, the small rabbit went to the bakery again and asked, “Hey shopkeeper, do you have 100 doughnuts?”
“Yes, today we have 100 doughnuts!” The shopkeeper answered happily.
The small rabbit took out his wallet and said: “Great! I want two!”
Do you know any Chinese jokes? Share them with us below!