In ancient China, the Emperor learned of a nightingale in his empire whose song was considered the most beautiful sound in the world. However, he had never heard it. So, he ordered his courtiers to bring the nightingale to him.
The courtiers discovered the nightingale, a plain-looking bird, singing in a forest, and brought it to the Emperor. The nightingale sang so beautifully that the Emperor was moved to tears. He kept the bird in a golden cage so he could listen to its song whenever he wished.
News of the nightingale’s magnificent voice spread, reaching the ears of an emperor from Japan. He sent a mechanical nightingale, encrusted with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, as a gift. The mechanical bird could sing one of the nightingale’s songs.
Charmed by the gift, the Emperor neglected the real nightingale, who eventually flew back to the forest. When the mechanical bird eventually broke down and stopped singing, the Emperor felt the loss of the beautiful songs and fell ill.
When the real nightingale learned of the Emperor’s illness, it returned to the palace and sang for him. The Emperor was healed by its beautiful song. He asked the nightingale to return to the golden cage, but the nightingale refused. It promised instead to visit the Emperor and sing for him from his window.
The Emperor agreed, realizing that freedom is essential and that natural beauty could not be replaced by artificial substitutes.