Memo against mockery

Chinese jesters didn’t hesitate to mock the great names of Chinese thinking and religion, including Confucius.   And just as jesters everywhere could be upbraided for such irreverence, here we see an official presenting a memo to the emperor to complain of the affront to the great sage.  Interestingly, he cites precedent as his argument, referring to an earlier account of a jester skit making fun of Confucius, and the then emperor’s robust rebuke.  

Quotation - Shengshui yantan lu 澠水燕談錄 - Wang Pizhi 王闢之

When the Song dynasty Emperor Zhezong 宋哲宗 (r. 1085-1100) visited Welcoming Good Luck Pond, he gave a banquet for his ministers.  Members of the Court Entertainments Bureau – which oversaw jesters and other performers – put on a skit with Confucius as the theme.

The Secretary of the Board of Punishments, Kong Zonghan, presented a memorial to the emperor complaining of this:

`In the time of Emperor Wenzong of the Tang this [theme] was once used for a skit, and [the emperor] had them bellowed out of court.  Today Your Sage Majesty has provided a banquet to reward your ministers, how can it be right to countenance this?’

 

元祐中上元,駕幸迎祥池宴從臣,教坊伶人以先聖為戲,刑部侍郎孔宗翰奏:「唐文宗時嘗有為此戲者,詔斥去之。今聖君宴犒群臣,豈宜尚容有此?」詔付伶官置於理。或曰:「此細事,何足言?」孔曰:「非爾所知。天子春秋鼎盛,方且尊德樂道,而賤伎乃爾褻慢,縱而不治,豈不累聖德乎!」聞者慚羞歎服。

Source: Shengshui yantan lu 澠水燕談錄, by Wang Pizhi 王闢之 (fl.c. 1082), fol. 9, in Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 1036, pp. 516b-23b.

Note: The Chinese Text Project version of this, featured here, gives the source as folio 8, rather than my original bibliographic reference of folio 9.

Image credit: Portrait of Confucius by Qiu Ying (1494-1552)

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