How do I feel now?

The Chinese jester Huang Fanchuo (黃幡綽 In Full Streamer Huang) is mentioned in a musicological work, the Tang dynasty Jie Drum Record (羯鼓錄), for having stunned the emperor, Tang Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 713-56), with his ability to guess the emperor’s mood from his musical playing.  This account gives us a rare insight into the intimacy that could be found in the relationship between a jester and the ruler.  

One day Huang Fanchuo was summoned but failed to turn up when expected, making the emperor angry.  When he did arrive, he waited outside where he could hear the emperor playing a tune, only entering when the tune was finished and a new one begun. When Xuanzong discovered that In Full Streamer had loitered outside he asked for an explanation.  The jester had been using his musical ear to assess when the Emperor had been in a rage, and when it had subsided:

Xuanzong was amazed at his accuracy and said sternly `How can such a slave of a court attendant know my deepest feelings from my playing?  Tell me, how do I feel now?’  In Full Streamer rushed down some steps, faced north in deference and bowing low shouted `I respectfully accept Your Majesty’s royal pardon.’  The emperor laughed and dropped the matter.

 

黃幡綽亦知音,上嘗使人召之不時至,上怒,絡繹遣使尋捕。綽旣至,及殿側,聞上理鼓,固止謁者不令報。俄頃上又問侍官:「奴來未?」綽又止之。曲罷後,改奏一曲,才三數十聲,綽卽走入。上問:「何處去來?」曰:「有親故遠適,送至郊外。」上頷之。鼓畢,上謂曰:「賴稍遲,我向來怒時,至必撻焉。適方思之,長入供奉,已五十餘日,暫一日出外,不可不放他東西過往。」綽拜謝訖。內官有相偶語笑者。上詰之。具言綽尋至,聽鼓聲,候時以入。上問綽。綽語其方怒及解怒之際,皆無少差。上奇之,復厲聲謂曰:我心脾肉骨下事,安有侍官奴聞小鼓能料之耶!今且謂我何如?」綽走下階,面北鞠躬大聲曰:「奉敕豎金雞!」上大笑而止。

 

Source: Jiegu Lu 羯鼓錄 (Jie Drum Record), Nan Zhuo 南卓 (Tang), Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 839, pp. 982b-83a.  A jie gu was a drum with an ivory inlay on the base, beaten with two drumsticks.

Photo credit: Wan San Yip at unsplash

Source: Jiegu Lu 羯鼓錄 (Jie Drum Record), Nan Zhuo 南卓 (Tang), Siku Quanshu 四庫全書
0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This