In the Warring States Period, Zou Ji who was the prime minister of the Qi State was possesed of a great heightand a pleasant appearance. In order to persuade the King Qiwei to provide wide opportunities for the airing of views and to encourage the officials to criticize faults frankly, he told this story:
One morning, after he wore his court dress and hat, he looked himself in the mirror over for a while then asked his wife: “compared to Mr. Xu in the northern city, who is better-looking, him or I?” “Of course you are, how can Mr. Xu compare with you?” his wife asked.
Mr. Xu was a famous handsome man in the Qi State. Having heard what his wife said, Zou Ji didn’t dare to believe that he was really more handsome than Mr. Xu, so he went to ask his beloved concubine, who answered: “how can Mr. Xu compare with you?”
On the second day, a guest came to Zou Ji’s house, so he asked the guest for the same question and the guest answered: “how could Mr. Xu be better-looking than you?” A few days later, Mr. Xu came to visit Zou Ji; Zou Ji seized the opportunity to look Mr. Xu up and down and compared with himself, reaching the conclusion that honestly he was not the better-looking of the two.
So, he said to the King Qiwei: “I am originally not better-looking than Mr. Xu, but my wife, my concubine, and my guest all told me that I was better-looking than him. The reason why they told lies is because my wife protects me, my concubine fears me, and my guest needs my help so they all flattered me by saying no truths. In Qi States, everybody in the court protects you, all the officials fear you, people all over the state want to get your help, so your flatterers must have be more numerous than mine and you must have been more seriously fooled!” Zou Ji also gave the advice; “nowadays the Qi State has a vast territory and numerous cities, the people you met with are more than me, so you must have been more fooled. If you can be perfectly honest and ask for advice, it must be good for our state.” The King agreed to this advice, and immediately issued a pronouncement stating that anyone who points out his faults to his face will get the first prize; anyone who criticizes him in memorial will get the second prize; anyone who criticizes him in public will get the third prize. As expected, people flocked to the king’s palace to present their opinions. The area in front of the palace gate was as busy as a market.
“A courtyard as crowded as a marketplace” is used to indicate at a gate or a courtyard that is as crowded as a marketplace. It indicates that there are a lot of people.
Chinese Culture -A Courtyard as Crowded as a Marketplace- Study Chinese
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