Dr. Xiao Rao, Assistant Professor of Chinese in Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, has received the Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowship in China Studies, a joint program of the Henry Luce Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). The fellowship will support Dr. Rao’s work on his latest book project during the 2022 – 2023 academic year; it is valued at $45,000. The project, titled “Tales of Wit and Enlightenment: Buddhism and Literati Humor in Song Dynasty China,” builds on Rao’s previous scholarship of miscellany writing in pre-modern China, including playful poems, jokes, and anecdotes.
According to the project abstract, the book “offers a new approach to the study of humor in premodern China by producing a synthesis of religious and literary perspectives that to date have been conceived as two separate bodies of inquiry.”
The abstract continues:
Viewing these two perspectives as coexisting and inseparable features of the anecdotal literature, my book finds a rich vein of connections between Chan/Zen Buddhist literature and various forms of entertainment in the Song dynasty (960-1279) literary and vernacular cultures, including remarks on poetry, vernacular storytelling, and theatrical performances. I argue that during the Song, anecdotal literature became a mode of expression shared by both Buddhist monks and literati, who resorted to humor to negotiate the dual functions of Buddhist tales as teachings of enlightenment and sources of entertainment. Receiving a year of research support from the ACLS Early Career Fellowships in China Studies would help me realize the ambition of this project as an extensive dialogue between research in Chinese literary studies, Buddhist studies, and global cultural studies on humor.
Learn more about Dr. Rao’s research.