A crown for a cap

Let it not be imagined that only the ruler was subjected to the mocking correctives of the jester; other members of the court were just as readily upbraided.  The Southern Tang jester Li Jiaming (李家明 Adding Clarity Li) once mocked Wang Yanzheng (王延政), the prefect of Jianzhou who had tried to found his own dynasty only to surrender three years later to Yuanzong, ruler of the Southern Tang 南唐元宗 (r. 943-61).  Wang was known to be miserly and so Yuanzong’s jester asked him for a gift, addressing him with apparent humility: 

Quotation: `Huixie zhuan' 詼諧傳, in Nan Tang shu 南唐書, by Ma Ling 馬令

`This lowly craftsman of no skill begs you to bestow a rich reward upon him.  I beg you great prince to give me just one thing.’  `What is it?’ asked Yanzheng.  Adding Clarity said, `Well, since you won’t be needing it, I was wondering whether I could have the imperial crown so I could use it for my jester’s outfit?’  Yanzheng was silent and was greatly ashamed, and because of this he died of depression.

 

『賤工無伎,優賜叵富。然告大王,乞取一物。』 延政曰:『汝何求?』 家明曰:『大殷平天冠,今已無用,家明敢取為優服。』延政黙然,慙恨而罷。自是怏怏病卒。

See an account of Adding Clarity using verse to shame the emperor, a note on the emperor’s liking to have the jester travel with him, and lastly, Adding Clarity’s trickery to get the emperor to pay for his mother’s funeral.  

 

Source: `Huixie zhuan’ 詼諧傳, in Nan Tang shu 南唐書, by Ma Ling 馬令 (fl. c. 1105), fol. 25, Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 464, p. 362a-b. 

Photo credit: restyledliving at pixabay

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