I am a literary and cultural historian whose research focuses on the modern Chinese-speaking world. My most recent publications concern laughter and comedy, print culture, cultural entrepreneurs, literary cosmopolitanism, and the scholar-writers Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang. I am an active translator and am currently working with my colleague Bruce Rusk on a selected translation of a 17th-century work called The Book of Swindles. Here’s a link to a Ming dynasty edition.

I am also director of UBC’s Centre for Chinese Research.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Dept. of Asian Studies
UBC Asian Centre
1871 West Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
CANADA

Tel. +1 604 822 5428
Fax +1 604 822 8937

chris [dot] rea [at] ubc [dot] ca

NEW BOOKS

The Business of Culture
The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China.
By Christopher Rea
Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. Publisher; Amazon. E-book. KindleAuthor Q&A. Podcast. Excerpt.

“I am confident that it is the finest in its field to include a lyric by me.” — Eric Idle

The Age of Irreverence tells the story of why China’s entry into the modern age was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As the Qing dynasty slumped toward extinction, prominent writers compiled jokes into collections they called “histories of laughter.” In the first years of the Republic, novelists, essayists and illustrators alike used humorous allegories to make veiled critiques of the new government. But, again and again, political and cultural discussion erupted into invective, as critics gleefully jeered and derided rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of practical joking and buffoonery. Eventually, these various expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a concerted campaign to transform the tone of public discourse, hoping to displace the old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor).

Christopher Rea argues that this period—from the 1890s to the 1930s—transformed how Chinese people thought and talked about what is funny. Focusing on five cultural expressions of laughter—jokes, play, mockery, farce, and humor—he reveals the textures of comedy that were a part of everyday life during modern China’s first “age of irreverence.” This new history of laughter not only offers an unprecedented and up-close look at a neglected facet of Chinese cultural modernity, but also reveals its lasting legacy in the Chinese language of the comic today and its implications for our understanding of humor as a part of human culture.

Here’s an audio podcast of a conversation about The Age of Irreverence between me and my UBC colleague Timothy Brook.

A few bonus visuals I wasn’t able to include in the book appear in this discussion (part 1 of 3) of Chinese laughter between me and Henry Jenkins, a scholar of new media, cinema, and vaudeville. And here’s a video of a recent discussion between me and Prof. Jenkins about “The Ancient Art of Falling Down: Vaudeville Cinema between Hollywood and China.”
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The Business of Culture

The Business of Culture: Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia, 1900-60.
Edited by Christopher Rea and Nicolai Volland
Vancouver, BC:UBC Press, 2015; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015.

From the late nineteenth- to the mid-twentieth century, changes in mass media, transportation, and communication technologies provided unprecedented opportunities for the entrepreneurially minded in China and Southeast Asia.

The Business of Culture examines the rise of these “cultural entrepreneurs,” Chinese business people who risked financial well-being and reputation by investing in multiple enterprises to build cultural, social, or financial capital. Featuring ten interlinked case studies, this volume introduces readers to three distinct archetypes who emerged during this time: the cultural personality, the tycoon, and collective enterprise. These include the likes of Lü Bicheng, a famous classical poet, who parlayed her literary prestige into a career as the principal of a Beijing girls’ school and then used her business fortune to build a high-profile persona as a glamorous foreign correspondent; Aw Boon Haw, the “tiger” behind the Tiger Brand pharmaceutical company; and the Shaw Brothers, ethnic Chinese filmmakers and exhibitors who drew thousands of people out each night to watch movies in Singapore and British Malaya.

Collectively, these portraits reveal how changes in social and economic conditions created the fertile soil for business success; conditions that are similar to those emerging in China today.

Read a sample chapter (PDF). Google Books preview (HTML).


China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, and the World of Letters.
Edited by Christopher Rea
Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2015.

China’s Literary Cosmopolitans
offers a comprehensive introduction to the literary oeuvres of Qian Zhongshu (1910-98) and Yang Jiang (b. 1911). It assesses their novels, essays, stories, poetry, plays, translations, and criticism, and discusses their reception as two of the most important Chinese scholar-writers of the twentieth century.

In addition to re-evaluating this married couple’s intertwined literary careers, the book also explains why they have come to represent such influential models of Chinese literary cosmopolitanism. Uncommonly well-versed in Western languages and literatures, Qian and Yang chose to live in China and write in Chinese. China’s Literary Cosmopolitans argues for their artistic importance while analyzing their works against the modern cultural imperative that Chinese literature be worldly.

Read the Introduction (PDF), chapter 7 (PDF), and Epilogue (PDF).

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Modern Chinese literature and drama
Late Qing (1895-1911) and Republican era (1912-1949) print culture
Cinema, cartoons, manhua, and visual culture
Translation
Cultures of comedy and laughter
Stories of swindles, fraud, and deception
Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang (see a brief video introduction to both authors)
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EDUCATION

M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Columbia University
A.B., Dartmouth College

SELECTED FELLOWSHIPS AND AWARDS

SSHRC Insight Grant, 2016-21
Visiting Fellow, Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, 2014-15
ANU Australian Centre on China in the World Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2012
SSHRC Standard Research Grant, 2010-13
Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Workshop Grant, 2010
Hampton Research Fund Grant, UBC, 2009-11
Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Early Career Scholar, UBC, 2009-10
ACLS/CCK “New Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society” Grant, 2009
Visiting Fellowship, Harvard University, 2006-08
Whiting Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship (declined), 2007-08
Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, 2007-08
Faculty Fellowship, Columbia University, 2002-07
Weatherhead Institute Ph.D. Training Grant, Columbia University, 2003, 2006
Fulbright Scholar (Taiwan), 2004-05
Foreign Languages and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, Columbia University, 2002-03

BOOK

The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China.
By Christopher Rea
Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. Publisher; Amazon. E-book. Kindle. Author Q&A. Illustrated Q&A. Podcast (25 mins). Audio interview (68 mins). Read an excerpt (HTML).

EDITED BOOKS

China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang and the World of Letters.
Edited by Christopher Rea
Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015.

The Business of Culture: Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia, 1900-65.
Edited by Christopher Rea and Nicolai Volland
Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2015; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015.


Humans, Beasts, and Ghosts: Stories and Essays by Qian Zhongshu
.
Edited by Christopher G. Rea
New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Read the first story (HTML).

(A collection of translated essays and short stories from Xie zai rensheng bianshang (1941) and Ren, shou, gui(1946), with a critical introduction. Here’s a video introduction to the book.)
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EDITED JOURNAL ISSUES

William Sima and Christopher G. Rea, eds. “Focus on The China Critic (Zhongguo pinglun zhoubao).” A combined issue of China Heritage Quarterly, nos. 30/31 (June/September 2012). Link to full issue (HTML).

Christopher G. Rea, ed. “Yang Jiang.” A special issue of Renditions, no. 76 (Fall 2011). Link to table of contents and extracts (HTML)

Christopher G. Rea and Nicolai Volland, eds. “Comic Visions.” A special issue of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, 20: 2 (Fall 2008).
Link to introduction (PDF) and abstracts (HTML)

JOURNAL ARTICLES

“The ‘Critic Eye’ of Qian Zhongshu,” Chinese Arts & Letters 2:2 (Oct. 2015), pp. 98-118.

Great Books and Free Wine” (in memory of C.T. Hsia), Chinese Literature Today 4:1 (2014). Article (HTML)

The Critic at Large.” China Heritage Quarterly, 30/31 (June/September 2012). Article (HTML)

‘The Critic Eye (piyan)’.” China Heritage Quarterly, 30/31. Article (HTML)

On Lun.” China Heritage Quarterly, 30/31. Article (HTML)

“‘To Thine Own Self Be True’: One Hundred Years of Yang Jiang.” Renditions, no. 76 (Fall 2011), pp. 7-14.

Yang Jiang’s Conspicuous Inconspicuousness: A Centenary Writer in China’s ‘Prosperous Age.’China Heritage Quarterly, 26 (June 2011). Article (HTML)

(with Nicolai Volland). “Comic Visions of Modern China: Introduction.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, 20: 2 (Fall 2008), pp. v-xviii. Article (PDF)

Comedy and Cultural Entrepreneurship in Xu Zhuodai’s Huaji Shanghai.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, 20:2 (Fall 2008), pp. 40-91. Abstract (HTML)

“‘I Envy You Your New Teeth and Hair’: Humor, Self-Awareness, and Du Fu’s Poetic Self-Image.” T’ang Studies, No. 23/24 (2005-2006), pp. 47-89.

Cong keting dao zhanchang: lun Ding Xilin de kangzhan xiju Miaofeng shan (From the Parlor to the Battlefield: Ding Xilin’s Wartime Comedy Mount Miaofeng). Dangdai zuojia pinglun (Contemporary Writers’ Review), Jan. 2006, pp. 124-131. Article excerpt (HTML)

BOOK CHAPTERS

“Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang: A Literary Marriage.” In The Columbia Companion to Modern Chinese Literature. Kirk A. Denton, ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016, pp. 231-236.

“Introduction: All the World’s a Book.” In China’s Literary Cosmopolitans, pp. 1-13.

“The Institutional Mindset: Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang on Marriage and the Academy.” In China’s Literary Cosmopolitans, pp. 157-178.

“All Will Come Out in the Washing.” In China’s Literary Cosmopolitans, pp. 227-231.

(with Nicolai Volland). “Introduction.” In The Business of Culture, pp. 3-8.

“Enter the Cultural Entrepreneur.” In The Business of Culture, pp. 9-31.

(with Sai-Shing Yung). “One Chicken, Three Dishes: The Cultural Enterprises of Law Bun.” In The Business ofCulture, pp. 150-177.

“Tianxia you zei: Mingdai ‘pianjing’ ‘Dupian xinshu’” (World of Thieves: The Ming Dynasty Swindling Classic “A New Book for Foiling Swindles”). In Cong Moluo dao Nuobei’er: Wenxue, jingdian, xiandai yishi (From Mara Poetry to the Nobel Prize: Literary Classics and Modern Consciousness). Ko Chia cian and Cheng Yu-yu, eds. Taipei: Rye Field, 2015, pp. 304-317. Publisher’s description (HTML)

 “‘He’ll Roast All Subjects That Might Need the Roasting’: Puck and Mr. Punch in 19th-c. China.” In Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair. Hans Harder and Barbara Mittler, eds. Berlin: Springer, 2013, pp. 389-422.Publisher’s description (HTML)

“Spoofing (e’gao) Culture on the Chinese Internet.”In Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times. Jessica Milner Davis and Jocelyn Chey, eds. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013, pp. 149-172. Publisher’s description (HTML)

“Foreword.” Twelve Towers: Short Stories by Li Yu, bilingual edition. Retold by Nathan Mao and Weiting R. Mao. Beijing: Foreign Language Research and Teaching Press, 2011, pp. 1-6. Preview (HTML)

Qian Zhongshu de zaoqi chuangzuo” (Qian Zhonghu’s Early Creative Works). In Zhongguo xiandai xiaoshuo de shi yu xue: xiang Xia Zhiqing xianzheng zhiqing (History and Learning in Modern Chinese Literature: A Tribute to C.T. Hsia). David Der-wei Wang, ed. Taipei: Lianjing chubanshe, 2010. A simplified character version was published in the PRC journal Wenyi zhengming and has been posted online here (HTML).

Cong keting dao zhanchang: lun Ding Xilin de kangzhan xiju” (From the Parlor to the Battlefield: Ding Xilin’s Wartime Comedies) [in Chinese]. In Wenxue xinglü yu shijie xiangxiang (Traveling Chinese Literatures and World Imaginations). David Der-wei Wang and Ji Jin, eds. Nanjing: Jiangsu Educational Press, 2007, pp. 165-187. Article (HTML)

“‘Zuori fei jinri’: Tian Zhuangzhuang Xiaocheng zhi chun zhong lishi yuyang de youling zaixian” (Hauntings of Historical Desire in Tian Zhuangzhuang’s Springtime in a Small Town [in Chinese]. In Xiangxiang de benbang: xiandai wenxue shiwu lun (National Imaginaries: 15 Perspectives on Modern Chinese Literature). David Der-wei Wang and Kim Chew Ng, eds. Taipei: Rye Field Publishing, 2005, pp. 161-180.

TRANSLATIONS

Shamlet: A Ten-Act Play by Lee Kuo-Hsiu. A translation with introduction prepared for Shakespearean Adaptations in East Asia: A Critical Anthology of Shakespearean Plays in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Alexa Huang and Ryuta Minami, eds. (Under contract with Eureka Press, U.K.; distributed in U.S. by Routledge)

Essays by Huang Chunming, Wang Zhenhe, and Zhong Mingde. In: The Columbia Sourcebook of Literary Taiwan. Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang, Michelle Yeh, and Ming-ju Fan, eds. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

Xu Zhuodai. “The Secret Room.” Renditions, no. 77 & 78 (Spring/Autumn 2012), pp. 78-86. Issue contents(HTML)

Zhang Letian. “Consuming the Absurd: Satire and Humour in Contemporary Chinese Art.” Go Figure!: Contemporary Chinese Art. Claire Roberts, ed. Canberra: National Portrait Gallery of Australia, 2012, pp. 58-70.Book description (HTML)

Yang Jiang. “Heart’s Desire: Act I.” Renditions, no. 76 (Autumn 2011), pp. 15-33. Excerpt (HTML)

Yang Jiang. “What a Joke.” Renditions, no. 76 (Autumn 2011), pp. 34-67. Issue contents (HTML)

Ding Xilin. “Three Dollars in National Currency: A One-Act Comedy by Ding Xilin,” with critical introduction.Asian Theatre Journal, Vol. 25, no. 2 (Fall 2008), pp. 173-192. Full text (PDF)

Xu Zhuodai. “The Fiction Material Wholesaler.” Renditions, 67 (Spring 2007), pp. 47-62. Issue contents(HTML)

BOOK REVIEWS

Yu Hua. Brothers: A Novel. Tr. Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and Carlos Rojas. New York: Pantheon, 2009. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Centre (online), October 2011. Review (HTML)

Alexander Huang. Chinese Shakespeares: Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. China Review International, 16:4 (2009), pp. 521-526. Review (PDF)

GENERAL MEDIA / BLOG

“From the Year of the Ape to the Year of the Monkey,” The China Story (2 Mar. 2016). Article (HTML)

“Spawn of China’s One-Child Policy,” Asia Pacific Memo (5 Nov. 2015). Article (HTML)

“Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize in Literature,” Asia Pacific Memo (15 Oct. 2012). Article (HTML)

“China ‘vindicated’ by Mo Yan’s Nobel literature prize,” Radio Australia (12 Oct. 2012). Interview (MP3, HTML)

(with Ji Jin). “Qian Zhongshu yu Yang Jiang toushi” (New perspectives on Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang), Mingpao Monthly (1 Mar. 2011). Article (HTML) (in Chinese)

“China’s Nobel Prize Complex, circa 1946,” Toronto Star (10 Dec. 2010). Article (HTML)

“‘Life, it’s been said, is one big book…’: One hundred years of Qian Zhongshu,” The China Beat (21 Nov. 2010). Article (HTML) Chinese version (HTML)

CURRENT PROJECTS

Stories of Chinese Deception. A history of how and why deception has been such a dominant theme in Chinese storytelling traditions, and in stories circulating worldwide about Chinese culture.

The Book of Swindles: Selections from A New Book for Foiling Swindlers, Based on Worldly Experience, by Zhang Yingyu (fl. 1700s). Selections from China’s first known collection of stories about swindles, translated with Bruce Rusk.

Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Chinese Celebrities, by Wen Yuan-ning. A collection of idiosyncratic sketches of famous Chinese writers, artists, political figures, socialites, and businessmen, ca. 1934-35.

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Modern Chinese literature and drama
Late Qing (1895-1911) and Republican era (1912-1949) print culture
Cinema, cartoons, manhua, and visual culture
Translation
Cultures of comedy and laughter (see video on “The Ancient Art of Falling Down“)
Stories of swindles, fraud, and deception
Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang (see a brief video introduction to both authors)

CHINESE STUDIES WEB RESOURCES

UBC Department of Asian Studies
UBC Centre for Chinese Research
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Center at The Ohio State University
Scripta Sinica (searchable full-text Chinese classics and histories) at Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Heidelberg Digital Archive for Chinese Studies (must request password, no charge)
Chinese Language Dictionary, R.O.C. Ministry of Education
Zdic.net Chinese language etymological dictionary
Lin Yutang Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage
Paper Republic: Chinese Literature in Translation

CHINESE STUDIES LIBRARY CATALOGUES

UBC: www.library.ubc.ca
Harvard: lib.harvard.edu
Columbia: www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/
UC Berkeley & UC system: www.lib.berkeley.edu
Academia Sinica: las.sinica.edu.tw/*cht
PRC National Library: www.nlc.gov.cn/GB/channel1/index.html
Taiwan National Library: www.ncl.edu.tw/mp.asp
Shanghai Library: www.library.sh.cn

VIDEOS AND MEDIA

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PROSPECTIVE GRADUATE STUDENTS

I welcome inquiries from prospective MA and PhD students interested in conducting research on modern Chinese literature, cinema, and culture. When writing, please include a brief summary of your research interests, academic background (including your proficiency in Chinese and other languages), and why you are interested in studying at UBC.

COURSES TAUGHT AT UBC

CHIN 411: Introduction to Modern Chinese Literature I (non-heritage)
CHIN 413: Introduction to Modern Chinese Literature II (non-heritage)
ASIA 351: Modern Chinese Fiction in Translation
ASIA 361: Modern Chinese Fiction in Translation II
ASIA 363 (prev. ASIA 360A): Fiction and Film from Modern Taiwan
ASIA 451: Modern Chinese Authors in Translation
ASIA 355: Chinese Cinema
ASIA 375: Global Chinese Cinemas
ASIA 502A: Modern Chinese Fiction and Western Criticism (graduate)
ASIA 514B: Topics in Modern Chinese Literature (graduate)
ASIA 560A: Directed Readings (graduate)