Stories from Ancient China: A Gold Hairpin Saves Li Shimian's Life

Li Shimian was an imperial academician in the Ming dynasty of ancient China. One year, he went to see lantern show on the night of the Lantern Festival (January 15th) and found a gold hairpin while on his way. So he put up a note on his front door the following day to find the owner of the lost property.

Soon after, a woman came in, terrified, and said: "My husband is a Thousand Households at the imperial guard and is on duty abroad right now. I went to see the lanterns last night and lost the gold hairpin. I have another pin same as the lost one as the proof."

After examining it, Li Shimian returned the gold hairpin to her. When the husband returned from abroad, he brought many gifts to thank Li Shimian. But Li refused to accept them.

The husband said: "I will not force you to accept my gifts. But here is a slice of medicine, called Resina Draconis. I brought it back from overseas. It is rarely seen in this world. I hope you will keep it." Li shimian kept the Resina Draconis.

A few years later, Li Shimian became an imperial censor. Because of his criticising the emperor frankly in the palace, emperor Renzong was infuriated and ordered the palace guard to beat him with a gold apparatus that weighed nine kilogrammes. He was beaten to near death and his ribs were also broken. He was then thrown into the imperial jail. At the time, the Thousand Households was the warden of the imperial prison. He was shocked to see him: "Isn't this the imperial academician Li? His Imperial Edict didn't give the order for him to die here." He therefore called a doctor in secret.

After examining him, the doctor said: "He can be cured; but we will need Resina Draconis as medicine, which is very difficult to get. The Thousand Households said: "Mr. Li's home has it." He then dispatched a person to see Mrs. Li and got the Resina Draconis. Because of timely treatment, Li Shimian survived.

Later, when Xuanzong became the Emperor, he gave an order returning Li Shimian to his official post.

(From Xing Shi Yan, a novel written by Lu Renlong at the end of the Ming dynasty)

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