Bing Ji inquiring about a panting buffalo

丙吉问牛喘

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When Bing Ji (丙吉 d. 55 BCE) was a chancellor in the Han court, once he encountered the aftermath of a gang fight in the street. Bing Ji passed them without batting an eyelid. Further ahead, a buffalo passed and it looked out of breath. Bing Ji had its owner stopped and inquired about the buffalo’s heavy panting. Bing Ji’s aide thought Bing Ji paid no attention to the severe casualties but showed unwarranted interest in a panting buffalo. Bing Ji explained, ‘Curtailing gang fights are the police commissioner’s responsibility, not a chancellor’s. It is only spring now and the sun is quite mild but the buffalo was heavily panting. I wondered if there was something wrong with the climate that harmed the animal.’

Read more of Dr Yibin Ni’s research work regarding this story scene here

Other governors’ stories:

Chen Ping Dividing Meat 陈平分肉

Seasoning a Stew with Sour Prunes 调梅和羹

Night Revel of the Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty 隋炀帝夜游西苑

Acknowledgement:

Fig 1-2: rolwagen vase with underglaze blue decoration, c.1620 – c.1650, courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland

Fig 3: porcelain cup with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Shanghai Museum, China

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