Five, Six, Seven…

During the Guangxu Emperor’s reign (1875-1908), the actor Liu Gansan 劉趕三 (1817-94), was acting the part of a bawd when he managed to crack a joke at the expense of three imperial princes who were in the audience. 

At the time prostitutes were called by their number in the `family’ hierarchy, and the three princes were fifth, sixth and seventh in their own families.  When ‘guests’ arrived, Liu bellowed to summon three harlots:

`Old Five, Old Six, Old Seven, come out and take care of your guests!’…  Prince Gong, who was easygoing, burst out laughing; Prince Chun, who was more restrained, was not pleased but did not dare say anything since the Empress Dowager was present; while Prince Dun, who was fierce and foul-tempered, flew into a rage, `Who is this crazy slave?  How dare he be so discourteous!’ and he stood up cursing and got his servants to catch him and gave him forty blows before the matter was laid to rest.

 

客至,則引吭高叫曰:『老五,老六,老七, 出來見客呀!』蓋都下妓,率以排行相呼,而是時惇,恭,醇三邸皆入座聽戲,惇行五,恭行六, 醇行七, 故以是戲之。恭邸故脫落,喜詼諧,問之大噱;醇邸故恭謹,雖不悅,然以太后在座, 未敢言;惇邸夙性嚴厲,則大怒曰:『何物狂奴?乃敢無禮!』立叱侍者擒之下,重杖四十,事始寢。

See also a comment on Liu Gansan in his outspoken jesterly capacity.

Source: Chai E 柴萼 (1893-1936), Fantianlu congchao 梵天廬叢鈔, fol. 14, Guoxue mingzhu zhenben huikan: biji huikan 國學名著珍本彙刊:筆記彙刊 (Taibei: Dingwen Shuju, 1976), p. 214b.

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