An Interesting Chinese Story
Duan Guangqinj was a Chinese magistrate who lived about a hundred years ago. He was famed for the fairness of his judgments.
One day while the magistrate was walking through a market he saw a crowd outside a poultry shop. On enquiring what the matter was he learnt that a peasant had accidentally dropped a heavy sack on a chicken, crushing it to death. The chicken was small, worth only about five coins, but the owner of the shop had caught the peasant by his throat and was demanding a hundred. His argument was that the chicken would have grown into a plump bird in another two years and then it would have fetched him the amount he was asking for.
Somebody recognized the magistrate, and everybody made way for him.
“Judge our case, My Lord!" said the owner of the chicken, letting go of the peasant and bowing obsequiously to the magistrate. “This man, through his carelessness has caused the death of a chicken that would have fetched me a hundred coins in another two years!"
Fear had made the peasant’s speech incoherent. Nobody could understand what he was saying.
“The price put on the chicken is hundred coins," said the magistrate, to the peasant. “I advise you to pay."
There was a gasp from the crowd. Everybody had expected the magistrate to rule in the peasant’s favor.
The owner of the chicken was overjoyed.
“They said you were fair in your judgments, My Lord," he said, rubbing his hands in glee, “now I can say there is no one fairer than you!"
“The Law is always fair," smiled the magistrate. “Tell me, how much grain does a chicken eat in a year?"
“About half a sack," said the poultry shop owner.
“So in two years the chicken that died would have eaten a whole sack of grain," said Duan Guangqinj. “Please give the sack of grain you’ve saved to this man."
The chicken owner turned pale. A sack of grain would cost more than hundred coins.Cowed by the jeers of the crowd, he declared he would not take any money from the peasant, and retreated into the safety of his shop.