Wise Man Say: Trump is a Racist. Not So Funny Chinese Stereotypes

Vintage Chinese Illustration

Confucius Say: Trump is a Moron.

“Don’t ask me, ask China!”- Trump snapped derisively at an Asian American reporter before storming out of the presser like a tantrum-throwing toddler. His dismissal of a Chinese American reporter is a shameful attack on us all.

Trump’s penchant for scapegoating Asian Americans is not new. For him or for American History.

Vintage editorial cartoon anti Chinese

A new documentary on PBS “Asian Americans lays bare a long history of violent scapegoating for larger societal issues. It explores how Asians have been portrayed in popular culture. Pop culture is littered with Chinese stereotypes and been the fodder of too many jokes.

Harking back to a time went America was great, is one such joke book entitled Confucius Say. One can only imagine Trump guffawing at the stereotypic jokes that manage to offend both Asian Americans and women equally.

A politically incorrect post from the vault:

Vintage Stereotype racist Chinese book

In this collection of bawdy, jokes offending women or race is no concern. Whether sexual harassment at work, date rape or body shaming all is fair game. Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940


In the joke books we are never going to see again department, an honorary mention goes to this well-worn 1940 book Confucius Say which for a mere 25 cents manages to offend both women and Asian Americans in one fell swoop.

Today when comics and comedians are afraid to crack controversial jokes for fear of offending politically correct sensibilities, the PC police would have tripped over themselves in the rush to confiscate this cartoon book which in its 40 pages is unabashedly sexist and racist.


Vintage Cartoon Chinese Man in rickshaw being pulled by woman

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Confucius Say: He Who Can’t Take  Joke, Never Laugh.

vintage cartoon confuscius goes to laundry

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Sure, sexist, misogynist humor was a staple among comics in the good old days before the PC Police came and put the kibosh on good American fun; what gives this book its double bang for your buck in sheer tastelessness is its portrayal of Confucius as a dirty old man, dispensing his wisdom in the ways of the ladies.


Vintage cartoon confuscious with sexy girl on his arm

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

The wise Chinese philosopher beloved by some Americans as the father of fortune cookie wisdom, took a decidedly more bawdy tone in this collection of “adult” cartoons where he expresses his racy remarks in mangled English.


Vintage cartoon Confucius reading

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Filled with sage advice about gold diggers and dumb blondes, objectification is fair game when it comes to the fairer sex

Crazy for Confucius

vintage cartoon Confucius War and Peace

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

In 1940 when this paper back book appeared, Confucius, China’s most important teacher who lived and taught 500 years before Christ, was suddenly making a comeback.

For a year in which the world seemed on the precipice of destruction as Hitler goosestepped all over Europe and daily bombardments of England stunned Americans, a search for some meaning in such perilous times would be understandable.

But, no there was not a renewed interest in the great philosopher’s moral teachings .

Because Americans like their morality lite, it was Confucius Say jokes that were all the rage.

vintage cartoon confuscious in river floating

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Suddenly on city street corners and at newsstands, hundreds of pitchmen hawked pamphlets containing 200 “Witty” Daring, Confucius” remarks.

In night clubs and over the radio, singers chanted a new hit called “Confucians Say” performed by Mr. Auld Lang Syn himself Guy Lombardo. Many major American newspapers began carrying a “Confucius Say” column with content solicited by readers.

chinese lettering

In February of that year Life magazine commented on the craze in an article:

In every city and village from coast to coast last week, Americans were stopping other Americans and chortling: ‘You know what Confucius say? “Girl with future should beware of man with past.’…or any one of the hundreds of similar stylized apothegms published and un published good and bad, clean and dirty.

Wise Man Say: The Jokes on You

Walter Winchel Newspaper

The man responsible for this sudden surge of Confucius wisdom was none other than that snap-brim fedora-wearing Broadway columnist Walter Winchell. A year earlier the godfather of gossip began using Confucius parodies in his widely read columns.

Syndicated in 2,000 newspapers, one can’t underestimate the influence that Winchell held. Through it, in a world not yet transformed by television, he amassed extraordinary power, often wielded ruthlessly, as a purveyor of gossip, innuendo, and decidedly politically incorrect jokes (If a married couple broke up, Winchell found them “sharing separate tepees.”)

It wasn’t long before comedians Jack Benny and Fred Allen picked up the trick of Confucius Say on their radio programs.

The rage spread.

Sage Advice

Cartoon from Vintage Book "Confucius Say" 1940

In this collection of bawdy, jokes offending women or race is no concern. Whether sexual harassment at work, date rape or body shaming all is fair game. Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Lets take a peek at some of those pearls of wisdom offered in this book  that promised to help make dinner table wits of even the dullest of dudes.

vintage cartoon confucious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

chinese lettering SWScan05199

                                                           Old maid is woman who has been good- for nothing.


vintage cartoon confuscious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

She who laugh last probably had it explained to her.

vintage cartoon Confucius painting nude model

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Man will forgive woman for being 2 faced but not for being double chinned.

Vintage cartoon confusious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Old maid book-keeper count on fingers but young girl count on legs.


Vintage cartoon confuscious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940


Confuscious sexist SWScan05206


Vintage cartoon confuscius and sexy woman

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Funny what girl do for drink but lot funnier what she do after drink.

vintage cartoon confuscious with dragon

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

                                             Some girls like cigarettes not very satisfying until lit.

The Sages Advice is especially instructive to the working girl:

Confuscious say cartoon

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Secretary not office fixture until she’s on desk.

text stenorapher SWScan05208                                      

In business secretary who work for rich boss find self in lap of luxury.

                                         To get ahead, girl pretty as a picture must also show action in close-ups.

                                         Man offering girl movie contract often like to pull a few strings first.

vintage cartoon Confucius

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Girl who go out with Tom Dick and Harry also have eye peeled for Jack.

sexist type SWScan05207

Women without principle draw considerable interest.

text SWScan05227

Vintage cartoon confucius

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Diamonds don’t grow on trees but right kind of limbs get them.

And the final pearl of wisdom says it all:

Confucious Say SWScan05217


But stereotypes are not always funny. Sometimes they are downright dangerous.

Violence against Asian Americans is on the rise. In NY an Asian American woman had acid thrown in her face, In CA a High school was beaten up and sent to the hospital In texas a family of 3 was stabbed by a man who thought they were Chinese and “infecting people with the coronavirus”


© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with ap


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