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The Wise Judge
A Traditional Tale From China
Long ago in China, there was a judge who was famous throughout the land. When two people had a dispute, the judge was always able to find a solution that was fair to both people, whether they were rich or poor.
One day, the judge went to a busy market. Merchants were selling live chickens, fruits, vegetables, and just about anything else you could think of. As he walked through the market, the judge saw that a large crowd had gathered outside a shop that sold live chickens. The judge approached the crowd and asked a woman what was going on.
“A poor farmer was carrying a heavy sack,” said the woman. “He accidentally tripped and dropped the sack on a chicken, killing it. The chicken belonged to the rich and greedy merchant who owns this shop,” she said, pointing to the shop.
The judge could hear two men shouting at each other. “It was lucky I was passing by,” thought the judge. “There is clearly a dispute going on, and I am going to solve it.”
“Excuse me!” said the judge in a loud voice to the crowd. “Please let me through.” When people turned and saw the judge, they quickly moved aside to let him pass through.
The two men who were arguing saw the judge approaching. They stopped yelling and bowed to the judge. “Please help us settle our dispute,” they said.
“Tell me what happened,” the judge said to the merchant who owned the shop that sold chickens.
“This farmer killed one of my chickens,” said the merchant. “Now he must pay for it!”
The judge asked to see the dead chicken. “It is quite a small young chicken,” said the judge.
“That is true,” said the merchant. “But in another two years that chicken would have grown large and plump. I can get 100 coins for a large, plump chicken. This farmer owes me 100 coins!”
The farmer was too terrified to speak. A hundred coins was a huge amount of money for him. Everyone in the town, including the judge, knew the farmer barely made enough money to buy clothes for his many children.
“I order you to pay this merchant 100 coins,” the judge said to the farmer. The crowd gasped in shock. How could the farmer ever pay? The greedy merchant was overjoyed.
The judge turned to the merchant. “How much grain does a chicken eat in two years?” asked the judge.
“One large sack of grain,” said the merchant. He exaggerated to justify the high prices he charged for his chickens.
“By killing this chicken, the farmer has saved you a large sack of grain,” said the judge. “I order you to give the sack of grain you have saved to the farmer.”
The merchant turned pale and hung his head. A large sack of grain was worth much more than 100 coins.
“I forgive this man for killing my chicken,” said the merchant. “I will take no money from him, as long as I do not have to give him a sack of grain.”
“As you wish,” said the judge, who was seen to smile as he walked away.
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1. What is a dispute?CorrectIncorrect
2. Identify two events in the story that show people had great respect for the judge.
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3. Why did the merchant think that the small chicken was worth 100 coins?CorrectIncorrect
4. The judge lived up to his reputation for being fair.CorrectIncorrect
5. Why did the judge smile when he walked away at the end of the story?CorrectIncorrect