Favours for the family

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. 

Quotation: `Huixie zhuan' 詼諧傳, in Nan Tang shu 南唐書, by Ma Ling 馬令

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.


李家明談諧敏給善為諷辭 …皇弟加爵而恩未及臣下因置酒殿中家明俳戲為翁媪列坐諸婦進飲食拜禮頗繁翁媪怒曰自家官自家家何用多拜耶江浙謂舅為官謂姑為家元宗笑曰吾為國主恩不外覃于是百官進秩。

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.

Photo credit: naidokdin at pixabay


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