The 10th century Chinese jester Li Jiaming 李家明 (Adding Clarity Li) needed some money to pay his mother’s funeral expenses. When the emperor had some time off from affairs of state, he sat in his Leisure Hall practising calligraphy.  Adding Clarity ambled in and innocently began with:

`I’m always trying to imitate people’s signatures so that others can’t tell the difference’…  The emperor asked him, `Can you imitate mine?’ and Adding Clarity said, `Although I’m a dull-witted fool, I’m willing to have a go at imitating your divine traces’. The emperor took out some hemp paper and signed in big characters and asked him to try to copy it.  The jester took it and wrote above the signature: `I order the Xuanzhou Imperial Treasury to pay Adding Clarity Li 200 strings of cash so his mother may rest in peace’.  The emperor saw it, laughed out loud and agreed to it.

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家明因詐曰:「臣每竊學人署字,與之不疑」。嗣主曰:「卿能學孤為乎」家明曰:「臣雖愚鹵,願效神蹤」。嗣主乃於麻紙上大書押字,命試學焉,家明得之輒於草字上書雲:「宣州於上供庫錢支二百千付家明安厝母親」。嗣主見之大笑,因而賜焉。

There are plenty of other examples of the Chinese emperor happily granting a favour to a jester who has made him laugh. We’ll be sharing them over time.

See also this Scottish example of a king appending his signature too readily and this Japanese jester wangling a favour out of Hideyoshi.

 

Source: Jiangnan yeshi 江南野史, by Long Gun 龍袞 (Song), fol. 7, Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 464, p. 104a-b.

Photo credit: SpencerWing at pixabay

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