The Empress Wears No Clothes; My Retelling

The Empress Shi Wu was extraordinarily beautiful.

Her bosom was supple,

Her face like a well sculpted diamond,

Her stomach like a sack of wheat

With four precious stones,

Her legs were thighs of strength

And her feet were like sparrows.

Her hair was that of a frame

Which framed beauty incarnate.


At the beginning of her reign

She saw the people were poor.

So, she began by making the people richer

By adding tin to their silver coin.

This, by reason,

Made the coin much more plenteous.


The people became poor.


Then, she began to build the merchant guilds.

These guilds she would cause to make merchandise for the poor.

The merchants built and made much merchandise,

So Shi Wu put more coin into the land to buy merchandise.

But, the merchants ended up with all the coin,

And would melt them to make pure silver,

Buying the poor’s merchandise with the dross.


Shi Wu then began to become rich by the merchants

Who supplied her treasury with great merchandise,

Even from greater Persia all the way from the other china.

Shi Wu became exceedingly rich.


The people became poor.


The people had traditions,

The people had great science.

Their science said the world was round

That God created the world through nature

And that men were made up of smaller parts.

Shi Wu then saw this.

She said, “Tell the people there is no God

“And that their traditions are worthless.

“That their God says the earth is flat

“And that God did not use nature to make the earth.

“This way, they must buy more.

“Make enriching me their religion.”

So, she did.


The people had tin

And not silver,

And a shekel of tin was worth a grain of wheat.


The people became poor.


But Shi Wu, they heard,

Said that their traditions were stupid.

So, the people began to believe that the earth was flat

Rather than believe Shi Wu.

Obviously, if the earth were flat,

It would explain the lie of Shi Wu.

The people also believed that people

Were not made of smaller parts…

Rather, the people were just one whole

Flesh of writhing sinew.


Their traditions, they thought,

Were correct, so when Shi Wu said

The traditions of the ancestors were that men were sinew

And that the world were flat,

The people began to believe their traditions

Instead of Shi Wu.

This angered Shi Wu,

So she began to tax the people.

For, their traditions held that the earth was flat

And now the people believed the Earth was flat

Because of their traditions

Which Shi Wu said were not good.


Thus, Shi Wu in one last act of defiance

Disrobed, and called in every male within the borders of her country

To come and view her.

Lusty she was,

She did obscene things before their very eyes

Just to humiliate the traditions of their ancestors.

She said, “See! Is not my beauty sufficient?

“You all can have Shi Wu who wants her!”

But, there began a rumor saying,

“The Emperor wears no clothes.”

This angered Shi Wu,

So she said, “Anyone who says, ‘The Emperor wears no clothes,’

“This man, woman or child shall be put to death.”

But, the people, all having seen her shame

Did not believe her, though many were put to death.

For the traditions of the ancestors were stronger

Than the tradition of Shi Wu.

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