Beating and banishment

An example of Chinese jesters being silenced for offering to present a skit mocking a minister, in this case their punishment being more than a simple cancel-culture denial of performance, as they were beaten and banished.  Noteworthy is the fact that they were so punished merely for offering to put on a skit.  This is a rare denial of their right to make fun of high level individuals, though jesters could be at least temporarily banished from court if a particular joke cut too close to the bone.

Quotation: Tang yulin 唐語林, by Wang Dang 王讜

Early in the reign of Emperor Tang Xianzong 唐憲宗 (r. 805-20) some Chinese jesters were beaten and banished to a frontier garrison for offering to put on a skit mocking the disgraced minister Liu Pi 劉闢 (d. 806).  They were told that although the minister had rebelled, he was not a lowly thief and since the law had its own punishments there was no need for jesters’ mockery.

俳優請為『劉闢責買』戲 。崇文曰:『闢是大臣,謀反,非鼠窮狗盜, 國家自有刑法 。安得下人,輒為戲弄?』杖優者,皆命戍邊 。

See also a Song dynasty account of jester skits being banned after they had put one on mocking the Prime Minister’s nepotism.  

Source: Tang yulin 唐語林, by Wang Dang 王讜 (fl.c. 1110) fol. 5, Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 1038, pp. 19a-b.

Photo credit: LoboStudioHamburg at Pixabay


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