A common target of the jester’s biting humour is royal and ministerial nepotism. The younger brothers of Emperor Yuanzong of the Southern Tang 南唐元宗 (r. 943-61) all had titles and favours bestowed on them while his ministers didn’t.
The jester Li Jiaming (李家明 Adding Clarity Li), of whom his chronicler Ma Ling explicitly mentions his sharp humour and skill in satirical comments, put on a skit with an old man and woman sitting side by side and their daughters-in-law performing a lot of ceremonies before them.
They said, `Your own father- and mother-in-law, why d’you stand on ceremony so much?’, an indirect way of asking why so many titles were being given to relatives of the emperor. `The emperor laughed and said “I am the sovereign, I don’t spread my favours beyond my family!”‘ Nevertheless the officials were promoted so he did heed the advice.
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.
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