This has been a very brief survey of some of the influence of humor on Zen Buddhism. In no way is this role meant to demean the Zen religion at all; it is simply a grand vehicle that Zen harnesses to bring one to an understanding of various concepts. Through this brief analysis of some Zen art, literature, and people, we see how humor plays a large role in Zen practices. However, we must remember that Zen is not all about comedy and fun, but also maintains a serious side; we find a unity between the serious and the comical. Although much of this analysis has been through the lens of Western theories of comedy and humor (as I was unable to find any research on an Eastern perspective on this topic), this would be a fascinating topic for future research.


1. Blyth, R. H.. Zen Humour. Holy Laughter. Ed. M. Conrad Hyers. New York: The Seabury Press, 1969. 198-207.

2. Gilhus, Ingvild Sœlid. Laughing Gods, Weeping Virgins: Laughter in the History of Religion. London: Routledge, 1997.

3. Hyers, Conrad. Zen and the Comic Spirit. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1973.

4. Wells, Marguerite. Japanese Humour. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1997.

Humor in Literature


Jason Anderson
Japanese 92 Final Project
Professor Hare