Two heads are better than one

There are several anecdotes relating to the renowned Chinese poet Su Dongpo 苏東坡 (1036-1101), and jesters.  Su wore a kind of hat which was named after him.  During the Xining reign period (1068–1077) of Song Shenzong 宋神宗, some jesters acted out a skit in which they were boasting about how well they wrote.

Quotation - Jinan xiansheng shiyou tanji 濟南先生師友談記 - Li Zhi 李廌

The jester Ding Xianxian 丁仙現 (Immortal Revelation), wearing a Su Dongpo style hat, dismissed their efforts, ‘You lot can’t even begin to write as well as I do!’  The other jesters all asked why not.  ‘Two heads are better than one, can’t you see I’ve got a Su Dongpo on mine!’  The emperor was amused.


Ding Xianxian was known for being a boldly outspoken jester, part of the truth-teller tradition among court fools.   On one occasion he even bested a top minister. 

Source: Jinan xiansheng shiyou tanji 濟南先生師友談記, by Li Zhi 李廌 (1059-1109), Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 863, pp. 172b-73a.  The hat was called `Zizhan style’ 子瞻樣, using Su’s given name.

Image credit: Portrait of Su Shi 蘇軾, in Album of Both Odes on the Red Cliff 赤壁二賦冊, Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), baimiao (a fine-line method in monochrome ink); courtesy National Palace Museum.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This