Skip to main content

A Chinese Solomon.

IN our district there lived two men, named Hu Ch‘êng and Fêng Ngan, between whom there existed an old feud. The former, however, was the stronger of the two; and accordingly Fêng disguised his feelings under a specious appearance of friendship, though Hu never placed much faith in his professions. One day they were drinking together, and being both of them rather the worse for liquor, they began to brag of the various exploits they had achieved. “What care I for poverty,” cried Hu, “when I can lay a hundred ounces of silver on the table at a moment’s notice?” Now Fêng was well aware of the state of Hu’s affairs, and did not hesitate to scout such pretensions, until Hu further informed him in perfect seriousness that the day before he had met a merchant travelling with a large sum of money and had tumbled him down a dry well by the wayside; in confirmation of which he produced several hundred ounces of silver, which really belonged to a brother-in-law on whose behalf he was managing some negotiation for the purchase of land. When they separated, Fêng went off and gave information to the magistrate of the place, who summoned Hu to answer to the charge. Hu then told the actual facts of the case, and his brother-in-law and the owner of the land in question corroborated his statement. However, on examining the dry well by letting a man down with a rope round him, lo! there was a headless corpse lying at the bottom. Hu was horrified at this, and called Heaven to witness that he was innocent; whereupon the magistrate ordered him twenty or thirty blows on the mouth for lying in the presence of such irrefragable proof, and cast him into the condemned cell, where he lay loaded with chains. Orders were issued that the corpse was not to be removed, and a notification was made to the people, calling upon the relatives of the deceased to come forward and claim the body. Next day a woman appeared, and said deceased was her husband; that his name was Ho, and that he was proceeding on business with a large sum of money about him when he was killed by Hu. The magistrate observed that possibly the body in the well might not be that of her husband, to which the woman replied that she felt sure it was; and accordingly the corpse was brought up and examined, when the woman’s story was found to be correct. She herself did not go near the body, but stood at a little distance making the most doleful lamentations; until at length the magistrate said, “We have got the murderer, but the body is not complete; you go home and wait until the head has been discovered, when life shall be given for life.” He then summoned Hu before him, and told him to produce the head by the next day under penalty of severe torture; but Hu only wandered about with the guard sent in charge of him, crying and lamenting his fate, but finding nothing. The instruments of torture were then produced, and preparations were made as if for torturing Hu; however, they were not applied, and finally the magistrate sent him back to prison, saying, “I suppose that in your hurry you didn’t notice where you dropped the head.” The woman was then brought before him again; and on learning that her relatives consisted only of one uncle, the magistrate remarked, “A young woman like you, left alone in the world, will hardly be able to earn a livelihood. [Here she burst into tears and implored the magistrate’s pity.] The punishment of the guilty man has been already decided upon, but until we get the head, the case cannot be closed. As soon as it is closed, the best thing you can do is to marry again. A young woman like yourself should not be in and out of a police court.” The woman thanked the magistrate and retired; and the latter issued a notice to the people, calling upon them to make a search for the head. On the following day, a man named Wang, a fellow villager of the deceased, reported that he had found the missing head; and his report proving to be true, he was rewarded with 1,000 cash. The magistrate now summoned the woman’s uncle abovementioned, and told him that the case was complete, but that as it involved such an important matter as the life of a human being, there would necessarily be some delay in closing it for good and all. “Meanwhile,” added the magistrate, “your niece is a young woman and has no children; persuade her to marry again and so keep herself out of these troubles, and never mind what people may say.” The uncle at first refused to do this; upon which the magistrate was obliged to threaten him until he was ultimately forced to consent. At this, the woman appeared before the magistrate to thank him for what he had done; whereupon the latter gave out that any person who was willing to take the woman to wife was to present himself at his yamên. Immediately afterwards an application was made—by the very man who had found the head. The magistrate then sent for the woman and asked her if she could say who was the real murderer; to which she replied that Hu Chêng had done the deed. “No!” cried the magistrate; “it was not he. It was you and this man here. [Here both began loudly to protest their innocence.] I have long known this; but, fearing to leave the smallest loophole for escape, I have tarried thus long in elucidating the circumstances. How [to the woman], before the corpse was removed from the well, were you so certain that it was your husband’s body? Because you already knew he was dead. And does a trader who has several hundred ounces of silver about him dress as shabbily as your husband was dressed? And you, [to the man], how did you manage to find the head so readily? Because you were in a hurry to marry the woman.” The two culprits stood there as pale as death, unable to utter a word in their defence; and on the application of torture both confessed the crime. For this man, the woman’s paramour, had killed her husband, curiously enough, about the time of Hu Chêng’s braggart joke. Hu was accordingly released, but Fêng suffered the penalty of a false accuser; he was severely bambooed, and banished for three years. The case was thus brought to a close without the wrongful punishment of a single person.


  邑人胡成,與馮安同里,世有卻。胡父子強,馮屈意交懽,胡終猜之。一日,共飲薄醉,頗傾肝膽。胡大言:「勿憂貧,百金之產不難致也。」馮以其家不豐,故嗤之。胡正色曰:「實相告:昨途遇大商,載厚裝來,我顛越於南山眢井 中矣。馮又笑之。時胡有妹夫鄭倫,託為說合田產,寄數百金於胡家,遂盡出以炫馮。馮信之。既散,陰以狀報邑。公拘胡對勘,胡言其實,問鄭及產主皆不訛。乃共驗諸眢井。一役縋下,則果有無首之尸在焉。胡大駭,莫可置辨,但稱冤苦。公怒,擊喙數十,曰:「確有證據,尚叫屈耶!」以死囚具禁制之。尸戒勿出,惟曉示諸村,使尸主投狀。逾日,有婦人抱狀,自言為亡者妻,言:「夫何甲,揭數百金出作貿易,被胡殺死。」公曰:「井有死人,恐未必即是汝夫。」婦執言甚堅。公乃命出尸於井,視之,果不妄。婦不敢近,卻立而號。公曰:「真犯已得,但骸軀未全。汝暫歸,待得死者首,即招報令其抵償。」遂自獄中喚胡出,呵曰:「明日不將頭至,當械折股!」押去終日而返,詰之,但有號泣。乃以梏具置前作刑勢,卻又不刑,曰:「想汝當夜扛尸忙迫,不知墜落何處,奈何不細尋之?」胡哀祈容急覓。公乃問婦:「子女幾何?」答曰:「無。」問:「甲有何戚屬?」「但有堂叔一人。」慨然曰:「少年喪夫,伶仃如此,其何以為生矣!」婦乃哭,叩求憐憫。公曰:「殺人之罪已定,但得全尸,此案即結;結案後,速醮可也。汝少婦,勿復出入公門。」婦感泣,叩頭而下。公即票示里人,代覓其首。經宿,即有同村王五,報稱已獲。問驗既明,賞以千錢。喚甲叔至,曰:「大案已成;然人命重大,非積歲不能成結。姪既無出,少婦亦難存活,早令適人。此後亦無他務,但有上臺檢駁,止須汝應身耳。」甲叔不肯,飛兩籤下;再辯,又一籤下。甲叔懼,應之而出。婦聞,詣謝公恩。公極意慰諭之。又諭:「有買婦者,當堂關白。」既下,即有投婚狀者,蓋即報人頭之王五也。公喚婦上,曰:「殺人之真犯,汝知之乎?」答曰:「胡成。」公曰:「非也。汝與王五乃真犯耳。」二人大駭,力辨冤枉。公曰:「我久知其情,所以遲遲而發者,恐有萬一之屈耳。尸未出井,何以確信為汝夫?蓋先知其死矣。且甲死猶衣敗絮,數百金何所自來?」又謂王五曰:「頭之所在,汝何知之熟也!所以如此其急者,意在速合耳。」兩人驚顏如土,不能強置一詞。並械之,果吐其實。蓋王五與婦私已久,謀殺其夫,而適值胡成之戲也。乃釋胡。馮以誣告,重笞,徒三年。事結,並未妄刑一人。


Popular posts from this blog

The wonderful pear-tree

Once upon a time a countryman came into the town on market-day, and brought a load of very special pears with him to sell. He set up his barrow in a good corner, and soon had a great crowd round him ; for everyone knew he always sold extra fine pears, though he did also ask an extra high price. Now, while he was crying up his fruit, a poor, old, ragged, hungry-looking priest stopped just in front of the barrow, and very humbly begged him to give him one of the pears. But the countryman, who was very mean and very nasty-tempered, wouldn't hear of giving him any, and as the priest didn't seem inclined to move on, he began calling him all the bad names he could think of. " Good sir," said the priest, " you have got hundreds of pears on your barrow. I only ask you for one. You would never even know you had lost one. Really, you needn't get angry." "Give him a pear that is going bad ; that will make him happy," said one of the crowd. "The o

The Legend of The Three-Life Stone

The Buddhist believe metempsychosis, or the migration of the souls of animated beings, people's relationships are predestined through three states of life: the past, present, and future life. Legend has it that there's a road called Yellow Spring Road, which leads to Fogotten River. Over the river there's a bridge called Helpless Bridge (Naihe Bridge), at one end of the bridge sits a crimson stone called Three-life Stone. When two people die, they take this route to reincarnation. if they carve their name on the Three-life Stone together while they pass the stone, they are to be predestined to be together in their future life. Although before their rebirth they will be given a MengPo Soup to drink and thereby their memory of past life are obliterated. In reality, San-Sheng Shi (三生石), or Three-Life Stone is located beside Flying Mountain near the West Lake, Hangzhou. On the stone, there is seal with three Chinese characters that say "The Three-life Stone," and a de

The Fox and The Tiger

ONE day a fox encountered a tiger. The tiger showed his fangs and waved his claws and wanted to eat him up. But the fox said: 'Good sir, you must not think that you alone are the king of beasts. Your courage is no match for mine. Let us go together and you keep behind me. If the humans are not afraid of me when they see me, then you may eat me up.' The tiger agreed and so the fox led him to a big high-way. As soon as the travellers saw the tiger in the distance they were seized with fear and ran away. Then the said: 'You see? I was walking in front; they saw me before they could See you.' Then the tiger put his tail between his legs and ran away. The tiger had seen that the humans were afraid of the fox but he had not realized that the fox had merely borrowed his own terrible appearance. [This story was translated by Ewald Osers from German, published by George Bell & Sons, in the book 'Chinese Folktales'.  Osers noted that this story was