The Seven Pairs of Earrings
Once upon a time in China there was a stringent and powerful king that ruled the state of Qi with an iron hand.
The beautiful queen, in contrast, was compassionate and generous. As the king loved her very dearly her influence often softened his stance on state and military affairs and spared many from certain calamity.
Unfortunately as her influence grew, so did her enemies who stood to gain from war and the, now suppressed, oppressive measures.
Mysteriously, the beautiful queen one day fell ill and died soon after. The king, reverting back to his warring ways, caused many innocent folk to suffer once again.
A few upright ministers got together at long last and managed to persuade the king to remarry. Their hope was that he would be more reasonable if he had love in his heart once more.
But who should it be? The king had left the decision up in the air, to be discussed later.
A wise minister, a close friend visiting the Prime Minister Xue at this time put forth the suggestion that he would be rendering a useful service to the state if he could recommend a suitable mate to the monarch.
The prime minister, after a prolonged silence, nodded and exclaimed. “Of course you are right sir. To tell you the truth, I had long held the same view. Only one difficulty made me hesitant in approaching his Highness with a suggestion. As you well know, our Sovereign has seven concubines who are all very close to his Highness.”
The difficulty is in determining which of them the king’s favorite is. If my recommendation differs from his Highness’s choice I would certainly offend the new queen, with dire consequences for me later on.”
The wise minister nodded his understanding. “There is a way out of this dilemma,” he finally added. “The Spring Festival will be upon us in a couple of days.”
If you wish to discover the king’s favorite present his Highness with seven pairs of earrings depicting a spring flower. Six pairs should be identical in quality and style, but the seventh pair should be of discernibly higher quality.
When you learn which of the seven concubines receive the best earrings, you will understand the king’s thinking on the subject.”
Xue was pleased and took his friend’s advice. When the king chose his new queen, she was the same woman recommended by the Prime Minister and peace reigned ever afterwards in the state of Qi