Historical Story: Cheng Lin Had the Pattern of Fire Painted

Yi Dou

PureInsight | February 26, 2006

[PureInsight.org] During the
Reign of Ren Emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty (1023 to 1063), Cheng
Lin was a high ranking law enforcement in Kaifeng, the capital city.
One day a fire broke out in the royal palace. Two halls in the palace
were damaged in the fire. The eunuchs in the palace went to investigate
the fire. They found a tailor's flatiron at the fire scene. The royal
tailor admitted that he was responsible for the fire. He was arrested
and sent to the law enforcement agency of Kaifeng for punishment. It
was considered a major crime, and he was likely going to be executed
for it.

Cheng Lin was not convinced that the tailor was responsible for the
fire. He wasn't allowed to enter the royal palace. So he had someone
paint a drawing of how the fire had spread throughout the palace. It
turned out that there were many people living in the palace but many of
the rooms were very narrow. A lot of the stoves were placed next to the
walls, which were made up of wooden boards. As time went on, the wooden
boards became very dry. Cheng Lin said, "The cause of the fire isn't
something that could happen over just one or two days." So he reported
to the emperor, "The fire is probably a disaster from the heaven. We
shouldn't blame the tailor for it." Ren Emperor agreed to it and let
the tailor get off easy. Nobody was given the death penalty.

If all the law enforcement officials would investigate criminal cases
with the kind heart that Cheng Lin had, how could anyone be found
guilty for crimes that he or she hadn't committed?

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