The King's Jade

Based on a traditional folktale
Story by Simon Nguyen


There once was a king who loved to collect rare gems. He made a proclamation that offered big rewards for people who turned in rare and exotic gems. A man found a rare jade stone in the mountain and decided to turn it in for a reward. The official in charge of collecting the gemstones was a greedy man who took bribes for his work. When the righteous man did not offer a bribe, he reported to the king that the man submitted a fake gemstone. The furious king ordered his guards to give the poor man a severe beating. It took him a whole month to recover from the brutal beating. 

The king died a few years later and his son inherited the throne. Like his father, he was a lover of gemstones. When the honest man learned the official who wronged him had retired from his position, he decided to again submit his rare stone. Unfortunately, the new official in charge was the previous official's son. Although he was a decent man who did not take bribes, he was concerned that acknowledging the gemstone would put his father in trouble. To save his father as well as his family's reputation, the official falsely reported to the king that the jade stone was a worthless piece of rock. The king was so furious of the treachery that he ordered the man's legs removed.

The innocent man was distraught by the injustice. He camped out in the middle of the city square for days, tearfully appealing for a personal audience with the king to show him the jade stone. 

"After a severe beating and a loss of two limbs, why do you still insist in turning in this ill-starred stone?" An acquaintance asked him.

"Is it because of the big reward or is it for revenge?"

"Neither," the man answered, "I just couldn't stand this great gem being called a worthless rock and an honest man being called a liar."

When the king heard of his story, he gave him an audience. The king stared at the man and said: "I am giving you a choice. If you choose to submit your jade stone and it turns out to be unremarkable, I will put you to death. If you choose not to submit and leave, I will give you a compensation."

Without hesitation, the man chose the former. The king sent for the foremost expert on gemstones. The expert examined the jade stone and was immediately taken by it. He had never seen a gem like this before. He gently pierced a small crack on the stone and a beautiful light emitted from the crack. The raw stone was given to the kingdom's top craftsman who transformed it into a magnificent jade disc that glowed in the dark. In winter, it emitted warmth. In summer, it relieved heat. The king was so pleased with the gemstone that he rewarded the man handsomely. 

As for the official and his father, they were put in prison. Their wealth was confiscated and given to the poor.