Just be there to make up the number — Lan Yu Chong Shu

(image is from Internet 滥竽充数)

During the warring states period (475 – 221B.C.) in ancient China, the King of the state of Qi was very fond of listening to music played on Yu, a wind instrument made of bamboo and wood.   The King convened musicians from all the states and formed a large royal band with 300 musicians.  When he wanted to listen to
the music, he would call in the whole band to play Yu together.  The ensemble was spectacular and the sound was thunderous to ears, but the King seemed to quite enjoy the effect, so he kept this habit all the time.

One day, the King announced to his kingdom people that he would like to expand his Yu band, and anyone who was good at playing Yu would be admitted with handsome pay.  A man called Mr. Nan Guo heard this news.  He knew nothing about playing Yu, but he knew well about the King’s habit.  So he passed him off as a Yu player and was enrolled in the royal band as expected.

Every time when the band played Yu, Mr. Nan Guo sat in the ensemble and pretended to play very hard. In fact, he made no sound at all.  His tricks went very well, and he had never been exposed.  In this way, he made a lot of money.

Later, the King died, and his prince succeeded to the throne.  The new king was a Yu lover too.  But he had a different habit from his father:  He preferred solo to ensemble.  He would order his musicians to play Yu in front of him one by one.  Realizing that there was no place for him to play the trick, Mr. Nan Guo ran out of Qi in panic.

 

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