Mercy to Sparrows is Repaid 慈仁雀報

[121] County Constable He of Jingxing was by nature kind and merciful. Whenever he went out, if he saw someone catching sparrows, he would destroy their equipment and chase the people away. When he saw sparrows alive he would always buy and release them; seeing dead ones, he would warn those responsible to change their trade. He carried on like this for three years. When the time for his transfer drew near, the local populace suffered robbery and murder at the hands of bandits, and his superior urged urgent action, but he was unable to catch them. Then a flock of several hundred sparrows flew up to meet around his horse’s head; He marveled at this. The sparrow flock then flew towards and over a straw hut several hundred paces from the road. He sent troops to search the building, and it turned out that there were seven people lying quite unaware in a drunken stupor, each with booty and weapons by their side. Capturing them, they were indeed the thieves, and were turned over to the authorities. Constable He successfully fulfilled his task, and ultimately took up orders as a thief-taker. In ancient times there was faith in such payment of moral debts.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.120-21 (Tale 210):


[121] 井陘何縣尉,天資仁慈。每出,見捕雀者,必毀其具、逐其人。見活雀,必買而放之;見死者,必戒使易業。如是者三年。代期將近,鄉民有被盗劫殺者,上司督促急迫,不能捕獲。卻有羣雀數百飛迎馬首,何深異之。既而羣雀飛往路旁百步外草舍上,何遣卒搜屋下,果有七人醉卧未醒,及有贓仗在傍,禽之,乃真盗也,遂解於官。何尉美解,竟授捕盗賞秩。古有銜環之報,信矣。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).