King Dim of Chou had a most favourite concubine, Paucy. The king could not survive a day without her. Paucy was, however, unhappy. Tears poured down like streams from her eyes. She missed her parents and her village life. Paucy’s unhappiness soon earned her the nickname of No-Smile Beauty. The King issued a formal announcement to the nation: whoever could make Paucy smile or laugh would receive one thousand ounces of gold. Hundreds swamped to the palace to try their luck to no avail. Then a minister had a suggestion. According to the defence plan, the beacon-fire would be lit up if the capital was under attack by barbarians, and the nearby states would send troops immediately to the capital and light their own beacon-fires to inform the states farther away.
But today there was not a single enemy when thousands of troops came from all directions to the capital, crashing into each other in front of the palace in pursuit of their enemy. They first mistook each other as the enemy but soon found out and blamed each other for the mistake. It was in the evening, torch fires lit the capital like the sky dappled with stars.
Paucy was now watching them in such confusion from the palace balcony that she smiled and laughed, laughed and smiled. The king was so happy that he left those nearby states all to stew in their anger.
Once Paucy gave birth to a boy the crown prince was deposed. For his own safety, the deposed prince ran away to his maternal grandfather who invited barbarian troops to overrun the capital. The beacon fire was lit up but none of the nearby states, still angry, came to the rescue. The king was beheaded.
China then entered a five hundred year period of political instability (770-221 BC), the Axial Era: Hundreds of independent states competed and fought with each other, giving birth to some hundred schools of thought. Taoism was one of them.
(Adapted from Historical Records)Click here to read previous fable