The King and Beacon Fire

A bored shepherd boy  entertained himself by tricking nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock of sheep. When they came to his rescue, they found that the alarms were false and that they had wasted their time. When the boy was actually confronted by a wolf, the villagers did not believe his cries for help and the wolf ate the flock, and in some versions the boy. (The Chinese Equivalent for “Never Cry Wolf”)

Similarly, in Ancient China, a king tried to entertain his melancholy queen by lighting  beacon fire to trick his soldiers. Below is another version of this story by Du Halde:

This prince [Yeou vang] had none of the good qualities which were admired in his father, but had very great faults, which made him contemptible to his people.

He was desperately in love with a concubine called pao ssee, for whose sake he put away the empress and her son, who was the lawful heir to the crown, in order to put in his place the son which he had by his concubine . The Empress, with the prince retired to his uncle, who had the government of the province of Chensi.

Notwithstanding this Yeou vang had so great pleasure in the enjoyment of his beloved Pao Ssee, because she was naturally of a very splenetic and melancholy temper, although he had recourse to all sorts of amusements that might inspire her with gaiety and mirth.

He was then at war with the eastern tartars, and had given orders that when the soldiers saw beacon fires lighted they should immediately take to their arms, and attend his person. this signal, which was never used but in case of necessity, he looked on as a proper diversion for the object of his love, who was highly delighted to see the hurry that the soldiers were in to run to the emperor when the fires were lighted, in order, as they thought, to defend him against the enemy, and then to fee how surprised and astonished they looked at their disappointment, after all their needless flutter and fatigue.

Nevertheless the emperor was displeased that his son had abandoned him, and sent an order to his brother to bring him to him immediately : His brother answered, that he would obey his orders as soon as the young prince should be declared lawful heir of the empire ; which so provoked Yeou vang, that he immediately declared war against him.

This prince, not being in a condition to stand out against the forces of the emperor, joined the Tartars, and in the nighttime attacked the imperial camp : The fires were immediately lighted, but as this signal had deceived the soldiers so often before, they disregarded it, and looked on it as the ordinary diversion of Pao Ssee : In the mean time the camp was forced, and the Emperor slain. This happened the seventh year of the cycle, and Ping vang his son succeeded him in the Empire.

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