History Lessons

Chen Shu Gu

For whom the bell tolls…

Chen Shu
Gu was posted to Pucheng County as its governor in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), during an outbreak of thievery.

It was almost impossible to pinpoint the thief responsible. But Chen lined up the usual suspects and told them: “There is a bell in a certain temple, which can identify thieves very effectively. If you did not steal and touch the bell, it will remain silent. However it will ring if touched by a thief.”

Then Chen had the bell surrounded with curtains, and had someone paint it with ink. The suspects were asked to go behind the curtain and touch it.

On examination, only one person did not have an ink mark, as he had not dared touch the bell for fear of being exposed.

Indeed, as the old Chinese saying goes: “One does not fear the ghost knocking on the door if one has not committed any bad deeds.”

The lesson? Regulators need to be cunning if they want to catch criminals.


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