Yi Jia 1

Li, Shang-yin (812? A.D.-858 A.D.)

In order to search for talented people,
Emperor Wen summoned the exiled official 2 to Xuan-Shi Chamber 3.
Jia's talent was peerless.
The emperor was so absorbed in Jia's conversation during the dead of night
That he moved a little closer to him.
It was deplorable that Emperor Wen only asked about ghosts and gods instead of his people.

1 Yi Jia (200 B.C.E.-168 B.C.E.) was a famous publicist during the Western Han dynasty. He suggested to Emperor Wen that the government reduce the power of dukes, defend against the invasion of Hungary, increase agricultural production, strengthen border forces, etc.

    In this poem, Li ridicules Emperor Wen for pretending to look for talented people, even though he was only interested in finding the elixir of life. It alludes to similar problems in the Tang dynasty. Many emperors in that period were also interested only in finding the elixir of life.

    The important point is that Li judges an emperor by his ability to accept his officials' wise advice rather than by the favors he gives to his fawning officials.

2 The exiled official refers to Yi Jia. Emperor Wen appointed Yi Jia to be a high-ranking official. Some powerful officials opposed the emperor's appointment due to Jia's youth. Therefore, Jia was demoted to be the tutor of the King of Chang-sa. Several years later, Jia was summoned back to the capital city, Chang-an.

3 Xuan-Shi means "announcing chamber". Xuan-Shi Chamber was the main council chamber in the palace during Emperor Wen's reign.