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A Legend about Beacon Tower

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  • A Beacon Tower in Jinshanling
    A Beacon Tower in Jinshanling
  • A Beacon Tower, Badaling
    A Beacon Tower, Badaling
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In 781 BC, King You, the last king of the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC), ascended to the throne. He was very foolish and voluptuous. He brought in the greedy and devious Guo Shifu to lead the state affairs, and removed several loyal court officials, because they felt he should spend more time administrating the state affairs. Minister Bao Xiang was even put in prison for three years because of faithful admonition until his son presented the beauty Bao Si to King You.

As soon as King You saw Bao Si, he immediately fell in love. Bao Si was very beautiful, but also as cold as ice. Even though she was given magnificent houses, sumptuous food and luxurious clothing, she never smiled once. In order to win Bo Si's smile, King You ordered his officials to try countless ways, but they all failed. He announced a contest and offered a reward that anyone who could make Bao Si smile would win one thousand pieces of gold. Hence emerged the Chinese idiom: 'A single smile costs one thousand pieces of gold'.

The sycophantic official Guo Shifu advised the king try the beacon tower. The beacon tower was used to send signals (smoke during the daytime and fire or lantern at night) to alert the sovereign rulers to the need to defend the capital from an invasion by the northern tribe of Quanrong. The foolish King You adopted the plan. He and Baosi climbed up to the tower on the Lishan Mountain, accompanied by Guo Shifu. Then he ordered the fire of the tower to be lit and waited hopefully. The flames illuminated the sky and upon seeing this, the sovereign rulers rapidly led their troops to the Lishan Mountain. However, the sovereign rulers didn't see any soldier from Quanrong. King You sent a bodyguard to inform them that this was only a joke. Bao Si burst out laughing when she saw the tropps assembled and then just as quickly withdrawn. King You was very pleased, and rewarded Guo Shifu one thousand pieces of gold immediately. This is the source of another Chinese idiom: 'the sovereign rulers are fooled by the beacon fire'.

In the future, King You played this trick several more times. To further amuse Bao Si, he even replaced his queen and the queen's son, the crown prince, with Bao Si and her son. Duke Shen, father of the original queen, was so angery about this that he united two vassal states as well as the Quanrong tribe and marched against the Western Zhou. When the army arrived at the city gate of the capital, King You urgently ordered the beacon fire to be lit, but not a single sovereign ruler came to rescue him this time. Finally, King You was killed, Bao Si was captured, and the Western Zhou came to an end.

 More Great Wall Legend: Meng Jiangnü's Bitter Weeping 

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