Sima Qian (c. 145-86 BC), the Herodotus of China, testifies as to the potential for a joke or a clever turn of phrase to unravel knotty problems. This is from his biographies of jesters, the first and perhaps foremost source of classical Chinese references to jesters and their role.

談言微中,亦可以解紛。

 

‘Even a joke or a witty turn of phrase can do a good job in solving some of the world’s knotty problems and tricky situations.’

 

Source: Sima Qian司馬遷 (c. 145-86 BC), `Guji liezhuan’ 滑稽列傳, in Shiji 史記, annot. Pei Yin (Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju, 1963); trans. `Jesters’, in War Lords, William Dolby and John Scott (Edinburgh: Southside, 1974), p. 159

Image credit: Cornelia Baker, The Court Jester (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1906)

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