How good are you at keeping a conversation going?
Holding a conversation is a social skill that doesn’t come naturally for all of us. Sometimes even chitchat in our native tongue can be a real challenge.
But the real question is this: How good are you at keeping a conversation going in Chinese?
The answer to this question varies from person to person. Nonetheless, one thing you might notice among language learners is that their conversational Chinese verges on formulaic, often sounding a little unnatural and forced.
We know that a good verbal exchange consists of more than just your average introductions and Q&As. To really sound like you’ve immersed yourself with the language and culture, you’ve got to go beyond your usual small talk.
After all, there’s more to a conversation than asking, “How are you today?” or “What are you doing this weekend?”
And one fantastic way to keep everyone immersed in a conversation is by telling jokes!
Why Tell Jokes in Chinese?
Of course, to really impress a native speaker you could discuss complex issues such as politics or world events. But don’t sweat it if you’re not there yet!
There are other ways to impress someone in a conversation. Little things are highly commendable too, like ordering an iced caramel macchiato for your friend or demonstrating the ability to flirt with your crush in Chinese (as pick-up lines are a more Western cultural concept).
If your aim is to be the comedian of the group, learning jokes in Chinese is the way to go.
Humor bridges the cultural divide, making it a fantastic conversational insert. Jokes are icebreakers that fill any awkward silences and help establish platonic connections with your group (although they can also be used in a flirty way).
So if you don’t have any jokes in Chinese up your sleeve, we’ve got you covered. And no, we’re not talking about those overdone Chinglish jokes that aren’t even funny.
We’re talking about the real stuff, actual Chinese jokes that would score you some major “cool” points with native speakers. Learning to deliver a good joke in Chinese will also improve your conversational skills.
Ready to get some chuckles out of fluent Chinese speakers? Until you get enough of the language under your belt to make your own jokes, let’s get started with some pretty easy, common Chinese jokes.
Want to see some Chinese comedy in action? Check out the Chinese videos on FluentU!
FluentU isn’t just about watching videos—it’s about learning and actively practicing Chinese. If you can understand Chinese humor, especially, you’re one step closer to fluency!
5 Fun and Easy Jokes in Chinese to Impress Your Friends
1. The Hidden Costs of Marriage
We’ll ease you in with the simplest one out of the bunch, a joke with a punchline that’s understandable and funny in both Chinese and English.
一个小孩儿问他的爸爸：“爸爸，结婚 需要 花 多少钱？”
(yī gè xiǎo hái ér wèn tā de bà ba: “bà ba, jié hūn xū yào huā duō shǎo qián?”)
A little kid asked his father: “Dad, how much does it cost to get married?”
爸爸说：“儿子，我 不知道。 我 还在付款!”
(bà ba shuō: “ér zi, wǒ bù zhī dào. Wǒ hái zài fù kuǎn!”)
The father said: “Son, I don’t know. I’m still paying!”
2. The Mistaken Identities of Spider-Man
This is another joke you’ll find floating around the web. There are actually three Spider-Man jokes, all of which make use of Chinese homophones, or words with the same pronunciation but different meanings.
Mistaken Spider-Man Identity #1
(Wèn: shéi zuì zhī dào zhū?)
Question: Who knows pigs very well?
(dá: zhī zhū rén!)
(Dá: zhī zhū rén!)
If you didn’t know Spider-Man in Chinese, you’re more likely to think of the characters “知豬人” instead of “蜘蛛人” when someone utters, “zhī zhū rén,” translated as “I know, the pig-man.” So the joke is pretty much referring to Spider-Man as a pig-man.
Mistaken Spider-Man Identity #2
(Wèn: shéi shì zuì huài de chāo jí yīng xióng?)
Question: Who is the worst superhero?
(Dá: shī bài de rén!)
Answer: A loser!
What does “shi bai de” sound like in English? Here, the joke utilizes the Chinese transliteration of “Spider” + Chinese translation of “Man,” which is “shi bai de” + 人(rén). When you apply different tones, “shi bai de” + 人 takes on different meanings. And in this case, the reason why Spider-Man is the worst superhero is because the homophone means “loser.”
Mistaken Spider-Man Identity #3
Let’s see what happens when we apply another set of tones to “shi bai de.”
(wèn: zhī zhū rén shì shén me yán sè?)
Question: What color is Spider-Man?
(dá: shì bái de rén!)
Answer: He’s white!
Assuming that the listeners know the homophone, the answer to this one is easier to guess than the second joke, since the clue really gives away the correct pronunciation of “shi bai de” + 人, meaning “white man” in this circumstance. Funny how different these Spider-Man jokes can be when you mix up the tones.
Try telling these three jokes in this exact sequence so that listeners can get it right by the time they hear the third one. Obviously, the jokes don’t make a lot of sense when translated into English, but they’re definitely witty in Chinese. It’s this level of playfulness that indicates your interest in and knowledge about the language.
3. The Perks of Being Married
Here’s another one for you that requires no additional explanation or contextual information:
(yī duì fū qī chū qù chī fàn. qī zi tú rán dà jiào: “a! wǒ wàng le guān wǎ sī, kě néng huì fā shēng huǒ zāi!”)
A married couple went out for dinner. Suddenly, the wife shouted: “Oh! I forgot to turn off the gas. There could be a fire!”
(zhàng fū què ān wèi tā shuō: “méi guān xì. fǎn zhèng wǒ yě wàng le guān xǐ shǒu tái de shuǐ.”)
To comfort her, the husband said: “It’s okay. Anyway, I also forgot to turn off the water faucet.”
4. The Class Orangutan
Just as we saw with the Spider-Man jokes, different Chinese characters can share the same pronunciation. These homophones provide numerous opportunities for jokes and puns. One example would be “xīng xīng,” the pinyin spelling of both 星星 and 猩猩, translated as “star” and “orangutan.”
(kuài kǎo shì le, lǎo shī zài kè táng shàng bāng tóng xué men zuò zhòng diǎn tí shì. lǎo shī shuō: “zhè yī tí hěn zhòng yào, zài qián miàn huà xīng xīng.)
Before the test, the teacher was helping the students by focusing on the key topics of the lesson. The teacher said, “This topic is very important. Mark this section with a star.”
(xiǎo zhì huí dá shuō: “lǎo shī… kě bù kě yǐ yòng dǎ gōu de a, xīng xīng hǎo nán huà ó….”)
Xiao Zhi replied, “Teacher, may I use a check mark? An orangutan is too hard to draw.”
5. How Well Do You Know Your Steak?
Another component of Mandarin is that certain characters can have multiple meanings depending on the context, another unique feature for Chinese jokes. In this example, the word 熟 (shú) means both “familiar” and “cooked well.”
(wèn: yī gè qī fēn shú de niú pái hé yī gè wǔ fēn shú de niú pái xiāng yù le. kě tā men què méi yǒu dǎ zhāo hū, wèi shén me?)
Question: A seven-minute (medium-well) steak and a (medium) five-minute steak meet on the street, but they didn’t say hello to each other. Why?
答：因 为 都 不 熟！
(dá: yīn wèi dōu bù shú!)
Answer: Because they both aren’t familiar with each other!
Similar to a couple of the jokes mentioned earlier, this one loses its meaning when translated in English.
There are tons of other jokes out there, with many that require deeper understanding of characters, specifically how they’re written, what radicals are used, etc. Chinese character riddles can get pretty complex, so it’s best to start with these jokes before you progress to more advanced wordplay.
With more reading and writing practice, you’ll be wowing your peers with all kinds of puzzles and puns in Chinese. And before you know it, you’ll be fluent enough to translate your own jokes into Chinese.
And One More Thing...
If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.