Eight minus two equals six

During the reign of Emperor Ming Xianzong 明宪宗 (r. 1468-87), Zhu Yong (朱永), Duke of Baoguo, ran twelve military camps and used conscripted soldiers to repair his vast residence.  The jester Brother Clown (A Chou 阿丑) used an historical allusion to expose his corruption.  Pretending to be a scholar reciting poems, he referred to Liu Bang (r. 206-195 BC) who when fighting Xiang Yu of Chu, ordered his men to sing songs of Chu thereby lowering the morale of the Chu army enough to make them disperse.  The jester intoned:

Quotation: Langya manchao 琅琊漫鈔, by Wen Lin文林 (1445-99), Lidai xiaoshi 歷代小史 - Chinese text

`Six thousand soldiers scattered by the songs of Chu.’  Another jester said, `But it was eight thousand who were scattered’, and they had an endless argument about it.  Then Brother Clown said slowly, `Didn’t you know?  Two thousand were at Duke Baoguo’s house building a roof’.  Thereupon the Emperor secretly sent the eunuch Shang Ming to investigate.  Baoguo quickly dispersed the workers and bribed the eunuch, so the matter was dropped.

 

保國公朱永掌十二營。役兵治宏第。丑作儒生,詠詩,因高吟曰:『六千兵散楚歌聲。』一入曰:『八千兵散』,爭之不已。徐曰『爾不知耶二千在保國公家蓋房。』於是憲廟密遣太監尚明察之。保國即撒工,賂尚明,得止。

Source: Langya manchao 琅琊漫鈔, by Wen Lin 文林 (1445-99), Lidai xiaoshi 歷代小史, ed. by Wang Yunwu, 12 vols (Taibei: Taiwan Commercial Press, 1969), vol X, fol. 82, p. 2a.

Photo credit: LVXUN at pixabay

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