​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Stories Magazine 145 (Page 02)
Stories from Stories Magazine Compilation #145 《故事会合订本145》上海文化出版社
Text at page noted after story; translated from the webpages cited below.

1. A One-Word Resolution                                3. Three Hour Director
2. A Deadly Performance                                  4. Overbearing Doctor

1. A One-Phrase Resolution (一句话破案)
Ye Jingzhi (叶敬之)

      A man named Worldly Voice Xie lived in Xing'an County, Guangxi, during the Qing Dynasty’s Qianlong period (1736–1795). He’d gone there to do business when he was in his twenties and had been there for over ten years at the time of these events.
      Another man, River Xiao, also lived there. His ancestors had been officials, but they’d fallen into decline by the time of his grandfather's generation. The family was left with only a few dozen acres of poor land, which was barely enough to make ends meet.
      Worldly and River became close, as close as brothers with different surnames. Worldly was the elder brother and River the younger brother.
      Worldly was kind and charitable. If anyone in straits asked him for help, he never let them leave empty-handed. As for River, Worldly would give him whatever he requested. His wife didn’t like River and one day couldn't help but remonstrate, "I’ve heard that that fellow River isn’t honorable. He never uses the money you give him to help pay his family’s expenses. Instead, he blows it all living high on the hog. He even goes to gambling dens!"
      Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Worldly fell into deep thought when he heard his wife's remonstrances. He asked a young guy to go to the gambling houses and inns in the city to find out the facts. He warned the boy, "Don't ask directly -- just say you’re paying off gambling debts and food bills for River." Then he hired another guy, an old man this time, to go to River’s home and have a look.
      The young guy was gone for more than an hour. When he came back, he whispered to Worldly, "There are several gambling houses and inns worthy of the name in the city, and I went to all of them. River often goes to an inn called the Garden of Clear Harmoney, and to a gambling house named the Precious Good Bureau."
      The old guy was gone for most of the day. When he returned he told Worldly, "River's wife says he’s never helped support the family…."
      Worldly waved his hand and asked the guys to leave. A nameless emotion ignited in his heart.
      A few days later, River came to Worldly to borrow money again. Worldly remained calm, but frowned and said, "Unfortunately, I'm a little short at the moment. I went to Guangdong a few days ago to buy a batch of merchandise and I haven't sold them yet. When I have cash on hand, I’ll bring it to you personally."
      River had never before been rejected when he went to Worldly for help. He thought things over on his way home and felt Worldly had some hidden agenda. His suspicions aroused, he went to the inn and gambling house where he was accustomed to visit and asked some questions. He found out that someone had come by a few days earlier claiming to pay off his debt, but in the end not paying. River immediately understood and felt anger welling up inside him.
      A man named Respect Talent Tian, whose ancestor had been the Keeper of Historical Records during the reign of the Emperor Yongzheng (1722–35), was part of River's family’s retinue. The local officials, both high and low, were all polite to Respect. River went to see him and offered to buy him a meal. After three rounds of drinks, River took advantage of the alcohol to vent his resentment towards Worldly. He lied that Worldly had taken a fancy to the Feng Shui of River’s hometown and colluded with government officials in an attempt to seize his house there. He said he couldn’t control his anger.
      "It wouldn’t be difficult to stop him,” River continued. “I have an idea, but I need your cooperation." Then he laid out his plan in detail.
      Respect couldn't help but hesitate when he heard River’s story. “This is clearly a false accusation!”
      River seemed to have guessed what Respect would think. He took a knife from his pocket, put it on the table, and said with a fierce look in his eyes, "If you don't agree today, I’ll kill you and your entire family."
      Respect was silent for a while, then agreed reluctantly.
      Three months later, the Xing'an County government received a complaint from River. The complaint alleged that Worldly Xie came from Qingquan County, Hunan Province, and his grandfather was Arise Xie. Thirty years previously, Arise had been a personal servant of Respect’s great-grandfather, High Minister Tian. One day after the High Minister’s death, Arise suddenly disappeared, leaving no trace. Over ten thousand taels of gold, silver and jewelry were also missing. Since they didn’t know where Arise was, the case went cold.
      Recently, though, Respect happened to learn that Arise had secretly returned to his hometown and was enjoying his old age there. He asked the government to bring Arise back to Xing'an for interrogation, recover the gold, silver and jewelry he’d stolen, and investigate Worldly for the crime of knowing what had happened but not reporting it.
      The magistrate received the complaint and summoned River to the court for questioning. "Why are you redressing an injustice to the Tian family?” he asked. “Your words alone are not enough. What evidence do you have to prove your allegations?"
      River presented a thick stack of notebooks. "Respect is part of my family’s retinue. I was indignant when I heard what he said about his ancestors, so I’m willing to stand up for his family. These notebooks contain the evidence."
      They were books of Respect's family and they included the names of High Minister Tian's family, his servants, tenants, their monthly wages…. Arise's name was written in one of the books. Impressively, the names of Xie family members -- Worldly, his father and uncle -- were there as well. In addition, there were several pages of evidence and fingerprints* from the servants and tenants of the Tian family.
      "The matter of Arise's crime is beyond all doubt,” the magistrate said after reviewing these materials. “Go on home and I’ll draft an official document to forward it to my superiors. I’ll send it to the governor of Hunan and have the criminal detained."
      Arise was the complainant and the government did not summon Worldly, so he had no idea what had happened. But, as mentioned earlier, Worldly helped people in financial difficulty and thus had a wide network of contacts. Soon, a kind-hearted person told him about the complaint against his grandfather.
      Worldly was quite worried. He handed over his business in Xing'an County to others right away and hurried off to his hometown in Hunan with two assistants.
      A copy of the case file had been received at his home by that time. Worldly took the copy to several well-known local lawyers. They all shook their heads after looking at the file and advised him, "The complaint is as solid as a mountain. It can’t be refuted no matter what. The most important thing now is to find a way to prepare for the fine. Once the fine is paid, your grandfather can avoid jail if the Tian family pardons him."
      Worldly got no results for all his running around, so he returned home. His and his family’s faces were awash with tears.
      The family’s sorrow was interrupted by a sudden knock on the door. They opened it and saw a stranger, an old man.
      "Please come in, sir,” Worldly said politely. “Do you have some advice for us?"
      The old man came in. After he sat down, he smiled and explained, "I’m from Xixiang County. My name is Vegan Studio Wu. The news about your grandfather being wronged has spread throughout the county. Can you let me see a copy of the case file?"
      Worldly glanced at the old man, then got the case file from his bedroom and placed it on the table in front of him. The old man looked at it, flipping through the pages. Suddenly he slapped the table and said, "This case file looks to include solid evidence, but in fact there’s a flaw. If you point it out, you’ll surely turn defeat into victory."
      Worldly was overjoyed. "Please explain, sir."
      "It's just one phrase,” the old man said. Once you point it out, the complaint is worthless. Please bring me a hundred taels of silver first."
      Worldly was stunned. “Have I run into a con man?” he thought. The other family members also looked at each other, not knowing what to do.
      The old man continued, "If what I say isn’t true and you don’t win the case, I’ll return the money to you."
      Worldly immediately took out a hundred taels of silver and placed it in front of the old man. Worldly saw the flaw right away when it was pointed out to him. He knelt down and kowtowed to the old man.
      The next day, Worldly revised his answer to the complaint and submitted it to the Qingquan County government office. "River said my grandfather indentured himself to the High Minister as a personal servant during the Yongzheng period,” he announced, “and that my grandfather’s birthplace as written in the contract of indenture was Qingquan County, Hengzhou Prefecture. But there was no Qingquan County during the reign of Yongzheng. It was not until the 22nd year of Qianlong that the name Qingquan County was used. How could that name have been used more than thirty years earlier? This was also the case with other county names recorded in the books. From this we know the truth!”
      The magistrate was shocked and looked through all the case files. He found that it was true.
      Later, River was sentenced to be caned as punishment for the frame-up and was exiled to a place hundreds of miles away.
      It turned out that Respect hadn’t wanted to participate in the frame-up. He dared not refuse, though, for fear of retaliation by River. Therefore, when he fabricated the materials, he deliberately used the name "Qingquan County" thirty years too early. He hoped that the government would notice the mistake and reject the complaint.
      When the government unfortunately accepted the complaint, Respect visited Vegan Studio Wu in Qingquan County, more than 100 miles away. Vegan was a long-time friend of Respect’s family. Respect asked him to go personally to Worldly's home to point out the flaw.
      As for the one hundred taels of silver that Vegan had asked for, it was a warning to Worldly about making the mistake of choosing bad friends. He returned the money to Worldly in full.
*Fingerprinting was used as a means of identification in China as early as 200 B.C.E.

Text at p. 1-29. Translated from 校园文学 at
2. A Deadly Performance (致命的表演)

Asparagus Fern (文竹)

Legendary Horror

        The annual Grape Festival was approaching, and the border town of Salkan was getting busy. Mayor Joseph was even busier because he’d received good news: the famous opera singer Szer would be returning home in triumph and would put on a spectacular holiday show for the people of his hometown.
        Joseph had made a point of converting the town meeting hall into a temporary theater for this performance, including having it repainted from top to bottom. But to his surprise, when Szer led his troupe into town and visited the temporary theater, he frowned and said that it was not suitable for a large-scale opera performance. Joseph said helplessly that it was the only place in town.
        Szer shook his head in disagreement. "If memory serves, isn’t there is a place called Queen's Theatre in the suburbs? That would be a most ideal place for the performance."
        Joseph shuddered at the mention of Queen's Theater. "That’s an evil place,” he said anxiously. “It’s been abandoned for more than twenty years. We absolutely cannot schedule it as the venue for your performance!"
        What Joseph said caught Szer’s interest. "What bad things happened there?” he asked curiously. “Can you tell me about it?"
        Joseph calmed himself, lit a cigarette, and slowly began to recount past events.
        He said that the incidents had happened more than twenty years ago. He was an actor in the town's burlesque troupe back then and had gone to Queen's Theatre to watch an opera on the day of the Grape Festival.
        “It was a tragedy of love between a vampire and a human girl. They fell in love, but the town’s patriarch thought that the girl was corrupting public morals and decided to burn her at the stake. When the fire started to blaze, the girl, who was wrapped in iron chains, turned her face to the sky and cried out, begging the vampire to use his razor-sharp teeth to pierce two bloody holes in her neck and take her blood and soul to hell....
        “The troupe used real fire to achieve a more realistic artistic effect during that day’s performance. The flames accidentally ignited flammable materials that someone had piled in both wings of the theater and the entire stage rapidly turned into an inferno. The audience stampeded and many people were trampled....”
        Joseph paused momentarily, then continued, "Firefighters eventually arrived and put out the blaze, saving the theater. I remember that the actor who played the vampire was a local fellow named Paul. He and the actress who played the girl both died in that catastrophe…."
        He seemed to choke up at this point. He told Szer that people hadn’t learned their lesson despite this tragedy.
        “Queen's Theater staged this classic play again during the Grape Festival the following year. Two young actors from the opera troupe volunteered to play the male and female protagonists. This time the troupe was very cautious and used red lights and smoke instead of real fire, but an astonishing thing happened despite their precautions!
        “In the opera’s last scene, the girl asked the vampire to stab two holes in her neck to take her blood before she died. The vampire, who was wearing fake fangs, agreed to do so. However, when the smoke on the stage dissipated, the audience saw that the girl was still lying motionless, with her head drooping. Some sharp-eyed people saw blood gushing out from two bloody holes on the actress' neck and couldn't hold back their screams. The actress had already died by the time the doctor arrived. The police suspected that the actor who played the vampire had killed her intentionally, but in the end, the case went unsolved due to a lack of evidence.
        “After that, rumors spread in the town that the soul of the original actor, Paul, had turned into a vampire. He couldn’t tolerate other actors playing the role and had therefore taken control of the stage. People were afraid to enter the theater, so town’s officials simply closed it up out of regard for public safety.”

Tragic Night

        Szer didn’t back down even after he heard Joseph's story. He still insisted on Queen's Theatre as the venue for his performance. He was convinced that neither ghosts nor vampires exist in this world.
        Joseph saw there was no hope of changing Szer’s mind. "Well,” he asked, “what play does your troupe want to put on this time? I hope it is a relaxing comedy."
        Szer smiled. "No,” he said, “your story has given me an idea. We have to stage the vampire drama from twenty years ago. That’s the only way we can whet the audience's appetite."
        Joseph almost jumped out of his chair. "My God, are you crazy?"
        Szer patted Joseph on the shoulder and said resolutely, "Please, Mr. Mayor, you can be sure that we’ll design every detail so that there absolutely won’t be any problems!"
        At Szer's insistence, the opera was indeed scheduled for Queen's Theater on the night before the Grape Festival. The media hyped up the public’s excitement to a boil. Not only did a large number of tourists from outside the area pour into town -- even local young people ignored the repeated advice of their elders and bought tickets to attend.
        The performance began in due form. As the red velvet curtain was slowly raised, Szer appeared on stage in the role of the vampire, wearing a black suit and a blood-red cloak. His powerful tenor voice subdued everyone in the audience. The opera progressed to the last scene, where the girl was tied to a pillar in preparation for her death by fire. The audience's hearts were in their throats, but they dared not express their emotions because the bloody disasters had happened at this juncture more than twenty years previously.
        A terrifying thing happened the moment the atmosphere in the theater reached the peak of tension. A horde of monsters flew down from the ceiling, accompanied by the sound of flapping wings, and surged towards the stage and the audience!
        Someone in the audience screamed, "Oh God, they’re black bats, the avatar of vampires!". In local folklore, vampires can change form to become bats.
        Chaos immediately erupted in the theater. People could think of nothing but escape. Many old and infirm people fell to the ground. The nightmares of over twenty years before were being repeated!
        Joseph shouted in horror at the sight as he directed people’s evacuation. "Oh God, is this really Paul's soul taking revenge on us?"
        A detective from the town’s police station rushed to the theater with several deputies. They succeeded in capturing a few black bats that had not yet flown away, but otherwise found no useful clues. Joseph angrily accused Szer, "I warned you that evil permeates Queen's Theater and that Paul's ghost haunts the place. You’re to blame for the injured people in the audience because of your refusal to listen to reason!"
        "The reason why I chose to perform here was to prove that my father Paul is innocent,” Szer replied guiltily. “His soul didn’t turn into a vampire or return to cause trouble…."
        "Paul was your father?" Joseph and the inspector responded in unison.
        Szer nodded. "Yes. My mother loved Paul deeply back then. They met secretly several times and she became pregnant with me, but Paul was burned to death during that performance before they could get married. Since my mother had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, she had to marry another man immediately. She didn’t confess the secret to me until she was sick and dying. I’m Paul's posthumous child. I didn't believe my father's soul could have become a vampire, so I decided to take this opportunity to return to my hometown to clear his name. Ironically, this has resulted in a new tragedy...."
        Szer was so upset that he couldn't continue. The inspector tried to comfort him with kind words.

Shocking Truth

        Joseph returned home after everyone had left the theater. He was about to go to bed when he received an unexpected phone call. The caller claimed to be a reporter and said that he’d taken a number of photos while watching the play at Queen's Theatre. He developed them that very night and wanted to give them to Joseph to turn over to the police because they might provide clues to solve the case. Joseph was instantly wide awake and urged the caller to get the photos to him as soon as possible. The two agreed to meet at Queen's Theatre so that they could compare the photos to the scene.
        When Joseph arrived at the theatre, a young man who he didn’t know was already waiting at the theater with a stack of photos in hand. Joseph approached him eagerly, accepted the photos and shined his flashlight on them. The photos had all been taken at the moment the black bats appeared.
        The young man said, "Look, this photo shows that the black bats flew out from a trap room, a concealed room in the ceiling. Some plays require props or actors to be lowered from the air, so they needed a trap room in the ceiling, but tonight's play didn’t require its use. I guess someone must have locked the bats in the trap room beforehand, then chose the right time to open the door remotely and release the bats. This means that a human did it all. It wasn’t a haunting by some ghost...."
        Joseph had been looking down at the photos, but abruptly looked up at the young man. With a fierce look in his eyes, he said, "You know too much for your own good, Mr. Reporter. The consequences would be quite unfortunate if these photos fell into the hands of the police." As Joseph spoke, he took out a lethal weapon from under his arm. Two extremely sharp, thick steel needles on top were connected to the body of the weapon by a long, transparent fishing line.
        The young man stepped back in shock at Joseph’s threats. Joseph aimed the tip of the needle at the young man's neck and, just as he was about to let it fly, several people suddenly rushed out of the darkness and shined bright flashlights on him. Joseph stared at them in astonishment. "You…. What are you doing here?"
        "We’ve been waiting here for some time, Mr. Mayor!" The detective smiled coldly as he hastened to handcuff Joseph. Joseph knew he’d lost and, with everyone looking at him angrily, made a full confession.
        It turned out that Joseph and the leading actress of the opera troupe twenty years previously had been lovers but hadn’t made their relationship public. After the heroine died in the fire, the grief-stricken Joseph suspected that it was not an accident and quietly investigated her death. He learned that the arsonist was a young actress in the troupe who had deliberately caused the fire because she wanted to replace the lead actress.
        The young actress got her wish and won the starring role as the heroine at the next year’s Grape Festival. Using knife-throwing skills he had learned through assiduous practice in the burlesque troupe, Joseph made a murder weapon that would leave a wound similar to a vampire’s teeth. He killed the young actress under the cover of the smoke on the stage to avenge his lover.
        Joseph spread rumors that Paul had turned into a vampire because he was afraid that his crime would be exposed. Later he left the burlesque troupe and entered politics. After being elected mayor, he took advantage of the tragedies to close the theater.
        Now, when Szer insisted on performing at Queen's Theatre, Joseph worried that the legend of Paul's ghost wouldn’t hold up if the performance went on without incident. People might then re-examine the case from years ago, so he caught a lot of black bats in the forest and hid them in the trap room above the stage. What he didn't expect was that Szer would ask a reporter friend to take photos of the scene on the day of the performance. Even more unexpected, by chance he got a picture of the trap room door opening right at the moment the bats flew out.
        The friend immediately showed Szer the photos. Szer remembered that only he and the mayor had access to the remote control for the trap room’s door, so he arranged with the detective to put on a good show to lure the snake out of its hole.
        The cold case was finally solved and the murderer was punished. People had to sigh when they learned the truth: The human heart really is more terrifying than vampires!

Text on p. 1-33. Translated from名人轶事网 at
3. Director for Three Hours (三小时局长)

Liu Guigeng (刘贵賡)

      I worked as a patrolman at Eight Road Bay Railway Station in Inner Mongolia forty-plus years ago,
      There was a rare heavy snowfall in the Eight Road Bay area one year back then. Passenger and freight trains crowded the nearby stations and mountains of goods were piled on the platforms. Because the weather was so cold, only a sprinkling of migrant workers from nearby areas was available to clear the snow. Director Wu of the Railway Bureau called and gave a fatal order: "The trains must get going before six o'clock this evening, no matter the cost!"
      This had the Chief of the Public Works Section rubbing his hands nervously. Time was tight and the task formidable. What could be done?
      Several office workers went to nearby villages to ask for help from the people. When they came back, the Section Chief read their expressions and knew at once there was nothing for it. The wind was still blowing and the snow falling. The Section Chief frowned, looking this way and then that. Suddenly his eyes stopped on me. "You go give it a try, Little Liu! You’re a good talker, aren't you? Anything goes. Remember what Director Wu said. Cost doesn’t matter!"
      Hey, the Section Chief was doctoring a dead horse to try to revive it, just trying his best to save the situation! When I got this command from man in charge, I put on my coat, wrapped my wool scarf around my neck and ran off toward the nearby Eight Road Bay Brigade. Little Yang, a worker at our jobsite, went with me.
      Only an accountant out of all the brigade’s cadres remained standing watch at home. As we entered his place, Little Yang glanced at me and said, "You do the talking, Director Liu."
      "Director Liu" was my nickname. I was only in my twenties at the time, but rather hefty. Everyone said I had style and was as impressive as a leader. I was quite proud of myself, too, for having such a good physique.
      The accountant was leaning on a bench. He stood up quickly when he heard what Little Yang said. "Are you the director?" he asked me.
      I was going to deny it, but Little Yang winked at me. "This is Director Liu from the Railway Bureau," he said earnestly.
      With that introduction, the accountant immediately shook my hand. "Some of the new leaders on the railway will say anything,” he said with a smile on his face, ‘but they only pay one yuan seventy-seven per person. Who’d work for that in such cold weather! But you came out in it, Director! We can trust you.”
      I cursed Little Yang eighteen times to myself, but now I had no choice but to go with the flow and put on airs like a director. "Transportation agencies and communes work together to defend one another. That’s been the rule for ages. You must know that this railway is the second major trunk line for access into our country. Stopping traffic for one hour will cause millions or tens of millions in damages to the country." Do you dare say you have no responsibility?" I stared at the accountant sternly and spoke expansively.
      The accountant avoided my gaze. "Okay, okay,” he kept saying, “but you have to explain it to everyone. One seventy-seven just won't do it. It's such a cold day, and my people don't even have cotton shoes." His tone was full of pity.
      I thought about it and said, "Two yuan." Two yuan was really a lot of money in those days.
      The accountant didn't say anything, but I could see from his demeanor that he still thought it wasn’t enough, I remembered the instructions the director gave me before I set out on this job -- "cost doesn’t matter” --, so I bit the bullet and said, "How about this: two fifty! It's important to get the show out of the way, and now isn’t the time to bargain."
      "Really?" The accountant was excited and gave a thumbs up. "You speak without hesitation, just like a director should. OK, I'll call the people together for you!" He picked up the microphone and began an announcement: "Every household, listen up. All young, strong laborers, bring shovels and gather at the brigade headquarters. The Director of the Railway Bureau has something to say to you all."
      In less time than it would take to have a meal, the courtyard was crowded with three or four hundred people. Men, women, young and old, they all held shovels.
      I stood on high ground and coughed quietly a few times. Feeling embarrassed, I said loudly, "Folks, the railway is experiencing a once-in-a-century snowstorm. I hope you can help us in this critical time. Everyone imagine how we’d feel if our children or our parents were trapped in one place like those passengers are, unable to get home. Of course, we won't let you all work in vain. Your accountant and I have settled the issue of remuneration.”
      The accountant spoke up right away. "Yes, folks, Director Liu has already agreed. All of you who go to shovel snow, each one will get two and a half yuan, each and every one. He absolutely won’t think there’s too many of you!"
      The crowd was excited by the announcement "Dang! A real director after all. He speaks so forcibly!"
      "Yeah, he comes up with the goods as soon as he opens his mouth. Let's go, let's go, two hundred and fifty cents for a few hours’ work. If you don’t go for this, you’ll just be throwing money away!"
      So, a line of three or four hundred people, led by Little Yang and me, rushed to the scene with the strength and vigor of a dragon and met up with the other snow shovelers. They worked for three hours with sweat raining from their brows and finally cleared the blockage. The railway was restored to normal after a thirteen-hour interruption.
      I was reporting the snow removal to the leaders in the work area office that evening when the door slammed open with a bang. It was the brigade accountant. He came in and saw me, smiled at me, and handed me a piece of paper: "This is the list of all the people from our brigade who worked on snow removal. The total is 397 people, not counting children. At two yuan fifty per person, the total you should pay us is 992.5 yuan."
      The Section Chief came over, took the list from the accountant, fiddled with an abacus, and said, "It should be 702.69, one yuan seventy-seven per person."
      The accountant was furious when he heard this: "Your director said with a straight face that each person would get two and a half yuan. How come you’re saying one seventy-seven per person? Are you corrupt or something?"
      The Chief was confused: "When did our director say that?"
      With a feeling of imminent disaster, I made to slip out the door quietly. The accountant caught sight of me and shouted, "Director Liu, please say something! Since you’re a director, you can't hoodwink the people."
      "You said... he’s the director?" the Chief asked in a tone of disbelief.
      "Isn't he?" The accountant's voice sounded like he was about to cry.
      One of the office workers smiled. "He’s Little Liu, a patrolman in our work area."
      The Chief whispered to the accountant, "Write down what happened in detail and give it to us. We’ll definitely deal with it seriously."
      “Little Liu is such a loser,” one of the cadres chimed in. “He had the nerve to con the people."
      Another technician was also quite indignant. "Just so. He’s ruined the Railway Administration’s reputation, pure and simple."
      A pain shot through my heart like it’d been pricked by a needle. It hurt so much that my eyes filled with tears. The old saying really is true: You can fry beans for everyone, but if the pan breaks, you’re the only one who’ll pay! I couldn't hold back any longer and yelled: "Our superior’s order was, ‘No matter what it costs.’ That’s what you told me. The villagers and I publicly agreed on two-fifty. We have to keep our word! If the Railway Bureau doesn't pay that amount, I’ll come up with the difference myself. The worst that can happen is that I won’t be able to get married by the end of the year!”
      The Chief criticized me angrily, "Yes, ‘at any cost’, but I didn't tell you explicitly to pay two-fifty per person. Are you being reasonable? One-seventy-seven is a hard and fast rule. You broke precedent, and what are we supposed to do the next time something like this happens? How much will it cost the country if we raise the amount we’ll pay whenever we feel like it?”
      That’s when a burst of hearty laughter rang out. "He said two-fifty, and two-fifty it is. The trains wouldn’t be able to get through now without the strong support of the villagers, and the country's losses would be even greater. Thank you all, you’re true heroes!”
      It was Director Wu. He was there! He shook the accountant's hand firmly and thanked him repeatedly. The accountant blushed, lowered his head and kept repeating, "It was something we ought to do. Something we ought to do."
      All of a sudden a warm feeling came over my heart. I quietly walked out of the office….
      I’ve told the story of my three hours as a director to many people over the decades. The most memorable time was when I told it to my workmates during a trip to celebrate my retirement.
      The train was speeding along on the Beijing-to-Tongliao Line. I got emotional as we neared Eight Road Bay Station. I told my fellow travelers that I’d worked there more than 40 years before, and that I’d been a director for three hours.
      The entire group got a laugh out of my story, except one guy named Qiu. He seemed to be thinking about something and remained silent. I thought he didn't believe me, so I told him that what I said was true. "If you don't believe me, let's get off at Eight Road Bay and ask my old co-workers."
      Old Qiu said, "It's not that I don't believe you. I'm just ashamed!"
      I asked him what he had to be ashamed of and he said, "You were a director for only three hours and did a great thing. I’ve been a director for more than thirty years, but I did nothing to be proud of or worth remembering."
      I couldn’t think of anything to say for a moment. Then, to comfort him, I said he had no reason to be ashamed because everyone’s working situation is different!
      He shook his head and said no, it was his way of being an official that hurt him: Not seeking to do good, just trying to avoid mistakes. That caused him eternal pain after he retired.

Text at p. 1-38. Translated from 七果小故事 at
4. A Famous Overbearing Doctor (咄咄逼人的名医)

Shen Gan (沈淦)

      Two famous doctors lived Southern China during the Qing Dynasty. One was named Maintain Redwoods Xu, and the other Bookfield He.
      The only son a wealthy man named Mr. Liu took seriously ill. Mr. Liu spent a lot of money to ask the two doctors to come to his home to treat the boy.
      Redwoods arrived first. He felt the boy’s pulse, sighed and said, "Your son's life or death will hang in the balance for the next few days."
      Bookfield arrived at just that moment. "This disease can be cured!" he announced after taking the patient's pulse, and issued a prescription.
      Redwoods disagreed. "I'm afraid this prescription won't help."
      This angered Bookfield. He proposed to the rich man, “When your son is cured, Redwoods will need to take down his sign, bow down to you and admit his mistake.
      The patient took Bookfield's medicine and soon showed improvement.
      Bookfield pressured Redwoods to take down his sign. Redwoods apologized profusely but Bookfield continued to insist forcefully that he take down his sign. Redwoods eventually knelt down and begged, and Bookfield dropped the subject.
      Before long, Bookfield's nephew also became seriously ill. Bookfield checked his pulse and found that the boy suffered from the same illness as the rich man's son. He therefore pronounced confidently, "It’s not a big deal. I can cure it." He prescribed the same medicine, but his nephew died despite having taken it.
      Bookfield sighed. "It turns out that the Liu boy’s cure was just fortuitous!" He wrote to Redwoods right away and apologized.
      In life, you need to leave yourself some leeway in case you’re wrong. Otherwise you may be the one who ends up looking foolish.

Text on p. 1-48. Translated from 刊APP下载 at