A certain privilege

A rare explicit acknowledgement of the Chinese jester’s licence to criticize or correct, echoing similar statements in Europe, and underlining the de facto acceptance of their right to use humour to offer indirect advice, or fengjian 諷諫.

The jester was also allowed a certain privilege, that is, his ‘words were without offence’ … but the jester could not offer his remonstrances in earnest, he had to make use of jokes, songs and dance.

Quote - Zhang Geng on Chinese jesters

“優”也被允許有了一種特權,就是“言無邮”,即說錯了話也沒有罪過。但“優”不能一本正經地進行諫戒,必須託之於調戲歌舞。

Source: Zhang Geng 張庚, ‘Shilun xiqu de qiyuan he xingcheng’ 試論戲曲的起源和形成, Xinjian she, 1 (1963), p. 59.

Image credit: Earthenware figure of an entertainer (3rd century), China; Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, The Dr. Paul Singer Collection of Chinese Art of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; a joint gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, Paul Singer, the AMS Foundation for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, and the Children of Arthur M. Sackler

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