How dare a jester criticize?

They do dare, it’s one of their quiddities.  Even when it’s a serving or former Prime Minister or similar. 

Again, a jester criticizes a powerful minister, in this case drawing attention to the suffering his oligarchic-scale building plans caused ordinary people whose homes were bulldozed to make way for some no doubt spectacular landscape gardening.  The jester, whose name was the uncompromising Scorching Virtue (Jiao De 焦德), was punished for his insolence. 

Quotation: Qingbo zazhi 清波雜誌 by Zhou Hui 周煇

In the Xuanhe period (1119-25) of Emperor Song Huizong 宋徽宗 (r. 1100-26), Prime Minister Cai Jing 蔡京 was retired from government and given some nearby land where he built the Western Park for which several hundred ordinary dwellings were flattened to make room.  One day Cai asked the jester what he thought of the layout of the Eastern and Western Parks.  Virtue said:

`The Eastern Park of the Grand Receptor has a beautiful wood with luxuriant shade, and seeing it is like looking at a bank of clouds; in the Western Park people were scattered and their tears fell like the rain: so we could say, “The Eastern Park is like clouds, the Western Park like rain!”‘  This got around and he was punished.  Someone said, `How dare a jester criticize a Counsellor Duke’s injustices to his face?’

 

蔡京罷政,賜鄰地以為西園,毀民屋數百間。一日,京在園中,顧焦德曰:「西園與東園景致如何?」德曰:「太師公相,東園嘉木繁陰,望之如雲。西園人民起離,淚下如雨。可謂『東園如雲,西園如雨』也。」語聞,抵罪。或云:一伶人何敢面詆公相之非,特同輩以飛語嫁其禍云。

Scorching Virtue clearly drew attention to the suffering caused by Cai Jing’s park, but in this case, his intervention didn’t prevent further abuses. 

Source: Qingbo zazhi 清波雜誌, by Zhou Hui 周煇 (1128-after 1198), fol. 6, Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol.1039, p. 47b.

Photo credit: Free Photos at Pixabay

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