Long long time ago, there was a king who loved fiery steeds very much. He once offered a thousand Jin (a unit of weight in ancient China, 1 Jin is nearly 250 grams) of gold for a "Qian Li" steed ( a horse which can run 500 kilometers a day). After three years, however, he got nothing.
One of his ministers, hearing about this, volunteered for this duty. So the king sent him to search through the kingdom. Half a year later, the minister only brought back a skeleton of a dead steed at a cost of 500 Jin of gold.
The angry king yelled at him, "What I want is an alive steed. Why did you spend 500 Jin on a pile of bones of a dead horse?".
"Your Majesty, when people learn that you have paid so much for a dead horse, no one will doubt your sincerity for steeds. If they has fine horses, they will certainly dedicate to you" the minister calmly replied.
As he had expected, the king got three steeds in less than a year.
Background and Writer Comment:This story was from Zhan Guo Ce, a famous Chinese historical book. The idiom "An Horse Skeleton Worth a Million--Qian Jin Mai Gu" can be used to describe someone or some group is seeking for talents at any cost, but now this idiom is not often used.
In 314 AD (During the Warring States Period ), there was a serious internal strife in state Yan, and state Qi, taking advantage of this occasion, attacked Yan and occupied a lot of lands. When king Zhao was crowned as the king of Yan, he was determined to make his state strong to remove the humiliation. Yet the problem bothering him was that he did not have capable ministers to assist him, although he had made efforts to recruit talents.
One day, a civilian named Guo Wei went to him and told him the above story. At the end of the story, Guo Wei said: " Your Majesty, if you really want talents to assist you, you have to learn from the king in the story and let all people know your sincerity. I am not a man of aptitude, but I can be used as the skeleton of the dead steed. If talents know even man like me can be given an important position, they will throng to serve you."
King Zhao thought Guo Wei's words very sensible, thus he build a high platform on which he formally appointed Guo Wei as the royal teacher and gave him very good emolument. Soon his sincerity was spread to every corner of the land. In a couple of years, great talents such as Ju Xin, Su Dai, Zou Yan, Le Yi all came from different states to gather around King Zhao. With the assistance of them, King Zhao accomplished his dream of revenge, that was, Yan became a powerful state and defeated Qi.
This is an idiom story for sure, but due to the wisdom that this story conveys, We prefer to put it into smart story category.