Long ago in China, there lived a powerful emperor. Every year on his birthday, the important people in the royal court attempted to outdo one another by giving the Emperor the most outrageous present. Every year the Emperor received sparkling jewelry, glistering gold, colorful cloth, and exotic animals from faraway lands. One birthday, a courtier presented the largest and most extraordinary creature anyone in the land had ever seen. An elephant all the way from India. The emperor was delighted to see the elephant, and was so amazed at its size he demanded that the elephant be weighed. This request caused a great deal of commotion among the courtiers, as there was no scale big enough to weigh the fine creature. Everyone was embarrassed and worried because no one could think of how to weigh such an enormous beast.Finally, after much polite coughing and staring at one’s slippers the emperor’s youngest son, Chao Chong, came up with an idea. Everyone at the royal court turned in amazement. How could such a young person figure out a solution?
THIS WAS THE CLEVER BOY’S IDEA: He sent a boat onto the lake with the elephant on board. He told the sailors to mark the waterline on the boat, that is, the place where the edge of the boat hit the water. Then the boat was brought ashore and the elephant taken off. Next, he had the sailors put smaller stones into the boat until the water level reaches the same mark. Then, each of the stones was weighed separately with a small scale. Then when all the weights were added together you would know how heavy the elephant is. Everyone was surprised and impressed by the boy’s solution.