Win Popularity by False Pretences
Have you known someone who gains fame by deceiving the public? Just find out how someone who professes to be above worldly considerations shows his real color in this story.
Now let's learn a phrase meaning “to gain fame by deceiving the public.” In Chinese, the idiom reads, “Qi Shi Dao Ming.” As usual, the idiom comes from a story.
During the Western Jin Dynasty in ancient China, Wang Yan was famous for being intelligent, good looking and having a pleasant manner. A high official wanted Wang Yan to marry his daughter, but Wang Yan pretended he had a mental problem by talking nonsense. The official had to give up. This gave people the impression that he did not want to ingratiate himself with powerful people.
Wang Yan professed to be above worldly considerations, and wouldn't even mention the word “money.” One day his wife put some coins in front of his bed after he fell asleep. The next morning, he got up and stepped on the coins. He frowned and told the maids to take them away. But still he didn't use the word “money” for the coins, referring to them as “those things.” The story was circulated as an example of his fine character.
Wang Yan's behavior brought him one promotion after another in the government, and his daughter became a wife of the crown prince.
The emperor at that time was not capable of running the government, and the empress held the reins of power. She falsely accused the crown prince of plotting a rebellion, and the crown prince was then demoted to a common civilian. Rather than standing up for the prince, Wang Yan was so afraid he might be implicated in this supposed plot that he begged the empress to permit his daughter to divorce the prince.
By his doing so, other officials realized Wang Yang didn't have so much integrity as he pretended to have.
From this story, people drew the idiom “to gain fame by deceiving the public.” We use it to describe those who win popularity by cheap means.