Stories from Ancient China–The Bracelet Test

May 7, 2008 Updated: May 7, 2008

In ancient China, scholars placed great emphasis on the imperial examination. After 10 years of study, a person first had to pass county and provincial civil service exams to even qualify. It was not only a tremendous honor but had a great impact on one's future career.

A scholar named Peng Jiao lived in Jiangxi Province during the Ming dynasty. He planned to take the imperial exam during the reign of Emperor Yingzong.

On the way, he and his servant stopped at the wayside tavern. As someone threw a washbasin of water from the floor above, his servant noticed something glittering on the ground outside. On closer inspection he saw it was a gold bracelet. The servant picked it up and put it in his pocket.

Two weeks later, as they continued their journey, Peng Jiao realized he was low on money and mentioned it to his servant. The servant showed the gold bracelet to Peng Jiao and suggested they sell it.

After hearing how his servant found the bracelet, Peng Jiao decided to return to the tavern and see who lost it.

“If we go back we will miss the imperial examination,” his servant said.

Peng Jiao responded, “This bracelet must belong to a woman. If she lost it, her parents will think she has given it to someone. This is very serious.”

So Peng Jiao and his servant hurried back to the tavern. Just as he had expected, Peng Jiao found the woman who lost the gold bracelet. She was about to commit suicide. Getting back the bracelet had saved her life.

With all speed, Peng Jiao once more headed for the capital. Even though they pressed forward day and night to reach the capital, Peng Jiao missed the examination.

When he arrived, he discovered there had been a great fire in the examination hall the day of the exam. Many people died.

The imperial court decided to hold an examination on a later date. Peng Jiao took the exam and won the top score.

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