Publisher: New Albion Press.
Author: Robert van Gulik, trans.
About: The first mystery ever written, this account of the Tang Dynasty magistrate Dee Goong An dates from the 18th century and was first translated into English by Dutch scholar and diplomat Robert van Gulik. Gulik, himself fluent in Chinese and noted for visiting the Chinese countryside in the traditional dress of a Mandarin, first attempted to interest other publishers and writers in the work. Failing that, he translated these four stories by himself, and later went on to write several original mysteries using Judge Dee and his compadres as characters.
Additional: This work is also known as The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee.
"Then, unexpectedly this morning the village warden Pang
Deh at nine o'clock, came to see me, saying that two dead men had been found
lying by the roadside, before the gate of the marketplace nearby. 'these two
men', he said, 'stayed as guests in your hostel, and you murdered them to rob
them of their money. Then you dragged their dead bodies to the market gate'.
Having thus addressed me, before I could say one word in my defense, he had the
two corpses dragged to my hostel, and threw them down right in front of my door.
Thereupon he started to shout, and threaten me, demanding five hundred pieces of
silver for hushing up this crime. 'these two men came from your hostel', he
roared, 'it is therefore evident that you murdered them there, and then dragged
their bodies to the market, to cover up the traces of your crime'. I immediately
rushed here in great anguish, praying Your Honour to redress this wrong."
Having heard this statement, Judge Dee looked at the man
kneeling in front of the bench, and thought that he certainly did not look like
a dangerous criminal. On the other hand this was apparently an important murder
case, and of course he could not decide its merits on the statement of this man
alone. Hence he said:
"You claim to be a law-abiding citizen of this locality.
Why then did Warden Pang immediately pounce on you as the criminal? I find it
hard to believe that you are really the innocent citizen you profess to be. I
will have to hear Warden Pang, in order to check your statement."
Thereupon he ordered a constable to fetch the warden,
and soon a man of about thirty years was brought in. His face was covered with
wrinkles, and he wore a blue robe. Kneeling down before the bench, he said:
"I, Pang Deh, warden of Six Mile Village, respectfully
greet Your Honour. This murder falls under my jurisdiction. This morning I saw
the bodies of two men lying by the roadside, in front of the market gate. At
first I did not know where these two men had come from, but on questioning the
people living in the neighbourhood, I found that they all said that these men
had stayed as guests in the hostel of this man Koong last night. Therefore I
questioned Koong, pointing out that it was evidently he who had dragged these
two corpses to the market, having murdered them in his hostel for the purpose of
robbing them. For according to Koong these two men left his hostel before
daybreak. Now at that time there were already a number of people on that road,
and none of them reported having seen any suspicious characters about.
Furthermore, on questioning the people living near the market, it appeared that
none of them had heard any cries for help. These facts prove to my satisfaction
that the victims were killed during the night in Koong's hostel, and that
afterwards Koong dragged their bodies to the market gate, in order thus to
divert suspicion from him. Since the culprit is already here, I beg Your Honour
to proceed against him."
Judge Dee thought to himself that Warden Pang's argument
seemed not without reason. On the other hand, giving Koong another good look, he
still felt that that man could hardly be a brutal criminal, murdering people in
cold blood in order to rob them. After some reflection, he said: