One day, Ling Gong, King of the State of Qi, had a sudden whim.
He liked to see women wearing men's clothes and let all the women in his harem do so.
Soon afterwards, all the women in the whole country followed the fashion and dressed like men.
Seeing the whole country follow this example, Ling Gong became angry, and gave orders to the officials in all parts of the ountry:
"Whenever you see women dressed like men, you are to tear up their clothes and rip their waistbands."
But this trend among women to dress like men couldn't be discouraged.
One day, when the prime minister Yan Zi came to court for an audience with him, Ling Gong asked him:
"I ordered all the officials to forbid women to wear men's clothes.
Whenever they see them doing so, they are to tear up their clothes and rip their waistbands without exception.
But this trend couldn't be stopped. What exactly is the reason?"
Yan Zi answered:
"Your Majesty, you allow the women in your harem to dress like men, but you forbid the common people to do so.
This is like hanging up the head of an ox outside the door, but selling horsemeat inside.
How can that be done?
If women in your harem are rorbidden to wear men's clothes, then how would the people outside the palace dare to do so any longer?"
Ling Gong nodded his head again and again, and said: "What you have said is right! What you have said is right!"
Ling Gong ordered his officials to do according to what Yan Zi had said.
Sure enough, in less than one month, the trend of dressing like men among women in the whole country was stopped.