Episode 210: Ancient Chinese Jokes 7 – The Year Of The Rat

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Laugh is a world language. People from different cultures all have jokes and today we will continue the series in our podcast about ancient Chinese jokes and hope you can laugh or smile about it.

One of the most famous book of jokes is called XiaoFu 笑府 by the author Feng Menglong 冯梦龙, who was a Chinese writer and poet of the Ming dynasty, between the year 1574 ~ 1646. This book was introduced in Japan during the Edo period 江户时期, between the year 1603~ 1868 and has been a great influence on Japanese humorous literature. Today we will tell a couple of Japanese jokes originating from a Chinese joke about being born in the year of rat.




The first joke is from the book XiaoFu. In the book, it says, an official had birthday. All the people who worked for him collected money and bought a life sized rat made of gold as a gift. The official received the gift and was really happy and said, “you know my grandma’s birthday is coming soon. And she was born in the year of ox.”




In the Japanese book Hanashibon taikei 噺本大系 from the year 1772, there is a similar joke. It says, a samurai and his servant were walking on the road and saw a dead rat. The samurai asked the servant, “please go and pick up the poor rat.” The servant replied, “but the rat is dead.” The samurai said, “of course I know that. But I am born in the year of rat and I feel pity for the rat.” The servant said, “I am so lucky sir that you were not born in the year of ox.”




From the same book 噺本大系, there is another joke says, a state lord got a crane as a grant from the general. To celebrate this grant, he invited the locale officials for a feast. Everyone came to congratulate the state lord , “this is such a honor for your family.” When the feast started, people were only offered vegetable soup with tiny bit of oil in the soup. The state lord even said, “such a rare and great feast right?” Someone asked the state lord, “did you give the general a lot of money to get this grant?” The state lord said, “more than 1000 bucks.” The person replied sincerely, “it is great that you weren’t granted a turtle.” Both the crane and the turtle represent longevity in Chinese mythology and Japanese mythology. There is a saying in Japanese 鶴は千年亀は万年, literally means cranes live for thousands of years and turtles live for ten thousands of years. The meaning behind the person’s words is that “I am glad you are not blessed to live longer.”



笑府 XiaoFu

噺本大系 Hanashibon taikei

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