Book of dark China jokes tickles readers in Taiwan

Wed Oct 8, 2008 1:20am EDT
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By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Chinese officials have it hard because they drink themselves nearly to death. Soldiers earn so little they can't even afford to beat their wives. Natural disasters help control China's population growth.

A book of these dark jokes and more about contemporary China is stirring laughter in Taiwan, which shares a language with China but lacks Beijing's censorship rules and regards the butt of this humor as a long-time political rival.

The book, which goes by the English title "China Jokes and Behaves," carries quips on corruption, leadership largesse, environmental degradation and a host of social problems, from lazy students to marital infidelity. Some jokes read like classic Chinese poems; others are short dialogues.

Taiwan-born author Huang Wen-hsiung gathered 200 pages worth of jokes from ordinary Chinese citizens who often circulate them at parties, via mobile phone text messages or the Internet.

The jokes are seldom published in the Chinese media, which is controlled by the government.

"Once in a while a newspaper or magazine will publish a couple pages of jokes, but they get into trouble fast," said Zhang Zuhua, a Beijing-based political author. "Jokes are a type of information and should be freely circulated, but I don't know whether readers in Taiwan will find them funny."

Yushan Publishing, which released the book in late August, has so far printed 2,000 copies of the book in Taiwan and received orders for more. Hong Kong bookstores have ordered an additional 200 copies, supervisor Wei Shu-chuan said.

"Taiwan and China are very close, and Taiwanese understand the other side's political situation," she added.   Continued...