New Books Network

Christopher Rea

China's Chaplin

Comic Stories and Farces by Xu Zhuodai

Cornell University Press 2019

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network July 1, 2019 Victoria Lupascu

Hoaxes! Jokes! Farces and fun! Christopher Rea‘s China’s Chaplin (Cornell University Press, 2019) introduces the imagination of Xu Zhuodai (1880–1958), a comic dynamo who...

Hoaxes! Jokes! Farces and fun! Christopher Rea‘s China’s Chaplin (Cornell University Press, 2019) introduces the imagination of Xu Zhuodai (1880–1958), a comic dynamo who made Shanghai laugh through the tumultuous decades of the pre-Mao era. Xu was a popular and prolific literary humorist who styled himself variously as Master of the Broken Chamberpot Studio, Dr. Split-Crotch Pants, Dr. Hairy Li, and Old Man Soy Sauce. He was also an entrepreneur who founded gymnastics academies, theater troupes, film companies, magazines, and a home condiments business. While pursuing this varied career, Xu Zhuodai made a name for himself as a “Charlie Chaplin of the East.” He wrote and acted in stage comedies and slapstick films, compiled joke books, penned humorous advice columns, dabbled in parodic verse, and wrote innumerable works of comic fiction. China’s Chaplin contains a selection of Xu’s best stories and stage plays (plus a smattering of jokes) that will answer the questions that keep you up at night. What is a father’s duty when he and his son are courting the same prostitute? What ingenious method might save the world from economic crisis after a world war? Who is Shanghai’s most outrageous grandmother? What is the best revenge against plagiarists, thieves, landlords, or spouses? And why should you never, never, never pull a hair from a horse’s tail?


Victoria Oana Lupascu is a PhD candidate in dual-title doctoral program in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her areas of interest include 20th and 21st Chinese literature and visual art, medical humanities and Global South studies.