One day, a local farmer went to the city and brought along his goose. The farmer checked into an inn and left the goose with the innkeeper while he went out to conduct his business. Upon his return, the farmer asked the innkeeper for his goose back, to which as he pointed to four geese behind the inn the innkeeper replied:
“You left your goose with me? I know nothing about it. Those geese are all mine.
“Only if you can prove that one of them is yours can you have it; otherwise, you cannot take any of my geese with you.”
The farmer, lost for words, reported his predicament to the governor, Qian. After listening to the farmer’s story, the governor instructed his men to retrieve the four geese, and to secure them at four different locations behind his office. He further instructed his men to leave a brush, an ink stand, and a piece of paper by each goose saying:
“Let the geese confess as to their rightful owner.”
People flocked to the governor’s office as news of his instructions quickly spread throughout the city. As the people waited, Qian worked patiently in his office. He finally came out after several hours, and went to visit each goose.
After visiting each, the governor proclaimed to the people amassed outside his office: “The geese have confessed.” He pointed to one of the geese and told the farmer who was standing in front of the crowd:
“That one is yours; you can take it with you.”
The crowd was stunned, and they asked the governor how he knew which goose belonged to the farmer. Qian explained: “The excrement of geese raised in the city is different from those raised on a farm. The excrement of geese raised in city is yellowish, as they are fed wheat and millet, while the excrement of farm geese is greenish, as they normally feed upon weeds.
Upon hearing these words, the innkeeper suddenly turned pale and kowtowed before Governor Qian, asking for forgiveness.
Note: Qian was the governor of the county-level city of Linjiang during the Ming Dynasty. He was a diligent and honest leader who took great care of the people under his charge
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