Caroline Young, artwork and text
Bao Si was a beautiful slave girl from southern China. She was given as a concubine to the Western Zhou emperor.
From the start, the monarch was intrigued by her exquisite look of cold indifference. He became obsessed with her and even deposed his empress wife, making Bao Si his new empress.
Through the years, she never smiled even once at him. He had heard the ladies-in-waiting speak of her alluring smile, which conveyed a wide range of emotions, and he was determined that he would see it for himself.
In the capital city there was a warning beacon that was to be lit only in the event of an enemy attack. One night, the emperor gave the command to light the beacon. From far and wide the generals and army came flooding into the capital to defend the kingdom. The people living in the city were fine, but those living outside the city walls were thrown into a huge commotion.
When Bao Si saw this chaotic scene, she smiled in amusement. The emperor then told everyone,
“Go home, go home. There was no enemy attack tonight. I just wanted to make Bao Si smile.”
Miffed, the people returned home grumbling. Over the next months, the emperor repeated his ruse and delighted each time he saw Bao Si smile.
Finally, the people got tired of being made fools of, and stopped responding when the beacon was lit.
That was when the father of the deposed empress raised an army and attacked the capital. The beacon was lit, but no one came.
The emperor was overthrown, and that was the end of the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE).