The hoax is universally condemned as an underhanded method—a transaction that, while sometimes clever in design or execution, is injurious. Hoaxers act in bad faith, exploiting, and thus diminishing, the social trust society needs to function. Hoaxes harm individuals and undermine institutions, all the more reason to reconsider such deceptions from a functional, rather than purely moral, perspective. The hoax can be a method to do what? What are the outcomes of hoaxes, whether intended or unintended? This essay offers eight answers to these questions, drawing evidence from an array of Chinese writings and films. It argues that the hoax is a useful concept to explain certain practices, styles, and trends in Chinese literary history. Further it proposes that the hoax offers a theoretical paradigm for rethinking more venerated categories, such as creativity, art, and value, as well as method itself.

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