During the Baoqing reign period (1225-55) of Emperor Song Lizong 宋理宗 (r. 1224-64), Prime Minister Shi Miyuan 史彌遠 (1164-1233) gave a banquet at his residence at which variety skits were performed. Such skits were a regular vehicle for jesters to draw attention to corruption or other issues which they felt the Emperor or others should be aware of, or being aware, should act upon.
In this case, the jesters alluded to the nepotism of the prime minister by referring to his place of origin, Siming. One jester dressed as a scholar chanting a poem:
`All the nobles of the court in their robes of scarlet and vermilion are men of learning.’ Another `scholar’ next to him said, `No they aren’t! “All the nobles of the court in their robes of scarlet and vermilion are men of Siming”‘.
After this there were no more variety skits performed during banquets at the prime minister’s residence for the next twenty years.
They made their point about one family dominating the court, but it caused enough offence to result in such skits being banned from the Prime Minister’s residence for the next two decades. This is an unusual instance of jester jibes being effectively silenced.
Source: Guier ji 貴耳集, by Zhang Duanyi 張端義 (fl. c. 1235), fol. 3, Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 (Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 1987), vol. 865, p. 467b.
Photo credit: James Lee at Unsplash