An emperor in the Far East was old and knew it was time to choose his successor. He decided on something different. He called young people in the kingdom together and said, ‘It’s time for me to choose the next emperor. I’ve decided to choose one of you. I’m going to give each of you a special seed. Plant it, water it and come back after one year with what you’ve grown from this one seed. I will judge the plants you bring, and choose the next emperor!’

A boy named Ling was there and he also got a seed. His mother helped him get a pot, plant the seed and water it carefully. Every day he would watch to see if it had grown. After 3 weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about the shoots that were growing. Ling kept checking, but nothing ever grew. Weeks went by. Still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants but Ling didn't have any. A year went by and all the youths brought their plants to the emperor. Ling felt sick but took his empty pot to the palace. When he arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the others. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the kids laughed. When the emperor came, Ling tried to hide in the back. ‘What great plants,’ said the emperor. ‘Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!’
He spotted Ling with his empty pot and ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. All the kids were making fun of him. The emperor announced to the crowd, ‘Behold your new emperor, Ling!’ Ling couldn’t believe it. How could he be the new emperor? The emperor said, ‘One year ago, I gave everyone a seed. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which could never grow. All of you, except Ling, brought me trees and flowers. When you found the seed would not grow, you substituted another for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. He is the one who will be the new emperor!’ Honesty pays in the end.

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