15 Chinese Jokes to Impress Your Mandarin-speaking Friends
We all know that a good conversation is more than just your average introductions and Q&As.
While this can be a challenge even in your native language, you probably don’t want your conversational Chinese to come across as formulaic or forced, either.
To really sound like you’ve immersed yourself in Chinese language and culture, you’ve got to go beyond your usual small talk.
And one fantastic way to keep everyone immersed in a conversation is by telling jokes—in Chinese!
- 1. The Hidden Costs of Marriage
- 2. The Mistaken Identities of Spider-Man
- 3. The Perks of Being Married
- 4. The Class Orangutan
- 5. How Well Do You Know Your Steak?
- 6. For the Love of Pork
- 7. Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full
- 8. The Name of the Bee
- 9. Talking Dogs
- 10. How to Lose at Weightlifting
- 11. Food and Drink
- 12. No More Noodles
- 13. The Pencil’s Family Name
- 14. The Unassured Patient
- 15. The Honest Thief
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.
(yí gè xiǎo háir wèn tā de bà bà: “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?”
(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!)
Answer: I know, the pig-man!
Spider-Man in Chinese is 蜘蛛人 (zhī zhū rén), but if you don’t know that, you’re more likely to think of the characters “知豬人,” which translates to, “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 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:
(yí duì fū qī chū qù chī fàn. qī zi tū 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 fu 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.
Our next example is “xīng xīng,” the pinyin spelling of both 星星 and 猩猩, respectively 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 yì 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 a, xīng xīng hǎo nán huà ò…”)
Xiao Zhi replied, “Teacher, may I use a checkmark? 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 of Chinese jokes. In this example, the word 熟 (shú) means both “familiar” and “cooked well.”
(wèn: yí gè qī fēn shú de niú pái hé yí gè wǔ fēn shú de niú pái xiāng yù le. kě tā men què méi yǒu dǎ zhāo hu, 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?
(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 into English.
6. For the Love of Pork
In Chinese culture, pork is extremely common and popular. In fact, pork appears in many traditional Chinese dishes. If you’re unsure what meat is in your meal in China, pork is a safe guess.
This (slightly morbid) joke plays off of this widespread love of consuming pork:
(wèn: wèi shén me zhū guò mǎ lù de shí hòu huì bèi zhuàng?)
Question: Why do pigs get hit when they cross the road?
(dá: yīn wèi tā men xiǎng biàn chéng “zhū ròu chuàn”!)
Answer: Because they want to become “pork skewers”!
7. Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full
Here’s another joke that translates well to English:
(wèn: wèi shén me wén zi bú huì shuō huà?)
Question: Why can’t mosquitoes speak?
(dá: yīn wèi tā men zuǐ bā lǐ dōu shì xiě!)
Answer: Because their mouths are full of blood!
8. The Name of the Bee
If you know your Chinese animal sounds or onomatopoeias, this joke will make sense. What other name could a bee possibly have, after all?
(wèn: rú guǒ nǐ jué dé zì jǐ shì yì zhī mì fēng, nǐ huì jiào shén me míng zì?)
Question: If you thought you were a bee, what would your name be?
(dá: “wēng wēng wēng xiān shēng”.)
Answer: “Mr. Buzz.”
9. Talking Dogs
Piggy-backing off of the last few jokes (pun intended), here’s one in much the same vein.
(wèn: wèi shén me xiǎo gǒu bú huì jiǎng huà?)
Question: Why can’t puppies speak?
(dá: yīn wèi tā men dōu “wāng wāng wāng”.)
Answer: Because they all go “woof woof woof.”
10. How to Lose at Weightlifting
For this joke, you need to know the phrase 珍重再见 (zhēn zhòng zài jiàn), which means “so long and farewell.” It’s a more formal way to say goodbye, like one might use at a graduation ceremony or before moving away.
The first two characters sound exactly like 真重 (zhēn zhòng) — really heavy.
(wèn: jǔ chóng xuǎn shǒu bǐ sài shū le, lí kāi qián huì shuō shén me?)
Question: What would a weightlifter say before he leaves after losing a competition?
(dá: zhēn zhòng, zài jiàn…)
Answer: Really heavy, bye…
11. Food and Drink
This one is a play on some Chinese words with English sounds. See if you can figure it out first! It helps to imagine the person pointing at the soda.
(wǒ diǎn le yī gè hàn bǎo, qǔ cān shí tuō pán shàng què duō fàng le yì bēi kě lè, wǒ jiù wèn: zhè shì fù de ma?)
I ordered a hamburger, but there was an extra glass of Coke on the tray when I picked it up, so I asked: Does this come with the burger?
(diàn yuán: zhè shì drink…)
Server: This is a drink…
Get it? In the question, 附的 means “attached” or “included,” but it also sounds like the English word “food” (maybe with a bit of an accent, like “fooduh”).
12. No More Noodles
This one could be considered a classic type of Chinese joke called 冷笑话 (lěng xiào huà) — cold joke, which means the punchline is typically awkward (and therefore, funny).
(yǒu yī tiān, wǒ zǒu jìn le yì jiā miàn guǎn, diǎn le yì wǎn miàn. jié guǒ, miàn guǎn de rén shuō: “Bào qiàn, wǒ men de miàn gāng hǎo yòng wán le.”)
One day, I walked into a noodle restaurant and ordered a bowl of noodles. The staff there said, “Sorry, we just ran out of noodles.”
(wǒ shuō: “nà wǒ yào yì wǎn méi yòng wán de miàn.”)
I replied, “Then give me a bowl of noodles that hasn’t run out yet.”
13. The Pencil’s Family Name
Like a few of the previous jokes, this one plays off of two words that have the same sound in Chinese:
(wèn: qiān bǐ xìng shén me?)
Question: What is a pencil’s last name?
萧 is a common family name in Chinese pronounced “Xiao,” while 削 (xiāo) often appears with 铅笔 to mean “to sharpen a pencil.”
14. The Unassured Patient
This is a joke that needs no further explanation:
(yī shēng shuō: Tony, bú yào jǐn zhāng, zhè zhǐ shì yí gè xiǎo shǒu shù.)
The doctor says: Tony, don’t be nervous. It’s just a minor operation.
(bìng rén: wǒ bú shì Tony…)
Patient: I’m not Tony…
(yī shēng: wǒ zhī dào, Tony shì wǒ.)
Doctor: I know, Tony is me.
15. The Honest Thief
Want to really practice your Chinese joke-telling skills? Here’s a lengthier one that also works quite well in both Chinese and English:
(yī gè jǐng chá zài lù shàng lán zhù le yí gè xiǎo tōu, wèn dào: “nǐ wèi shén me yào tōu dōng xi?”)
A police officer stopped a thief on the road and asked, “Why do you steal things?”
(xiǎo tōu huí dá: “yīn wèi wǒ méi yǒu qián.”)
The thief replied, “Because I have no money.”
(jǐng chá yòu wèn: “nà nǐ wèi shén me bú qù dǎgōng?”)
The police officer then asked, “Why don’t you go find a job?”
(xiǎo tōu shuō: “kě shì zhè yàng wǒ jiù méi shí jiān tōu dōng xī le.”)
The thief said, “But then I wouldn’t have time to go steal things.”
There are tons of other jokes out there, with many that require a 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. And before you know it, you’ll be fluent enough to translate your own jokes into Chinese.