A long time ago, in China, there lived a very just and fair court judge known as Judge Bao. He had solved many crimes and disputes, but one day he was confronted with a theft which could be his first unsolved case....
A little boy was running an errand for his uncle, who owned an antique shop. The boy was carrying an ancient vase toward his uncle's shop, when he was knocked over. The vase rolled out of his hands. A man wearing a mask picked it up.
"I guess I'll be taking this!" laughed the thief as he sprinted off toward the village with the boy's vase.
The boy quickly ran toward Judge Bao's house, desperate to get his uncle's vase back. He hastily rapped on the door, and Judge Bao opened the door.
"What's all this racket?" asked Judge Bao. "Hey, little boy, what happened?"
The boy replied quickly, "A thief stole my uncle's antique vase!"
Judge Bao nodded, then hurried toward the courthouse. A few hours later, he had assembled five suspects.
"Which one of you stole this boy's vase." shouted Judge Bao, pointing to the boy. "If you confess now, I may show you some mercy."
Everyone was silent. Judge Bao thought to himself, "I've got to think of a plan!" Then an idea struck him. He led the suspects into a totally dark room.
"In the center of this room stands a magic bell -- it will reveal the thief!" informed Judge Bao. "Now, everyone. Place your hands on the bell!"
Judge Bao led the five suspects out of the room and picked out the criminal.
The next day, the boy ran up to Judge Bao and asked him how he had found the thief.
"There was actually no magic bell. I just asked my guards to paint the bell with ink! When the suspects were in the dark room, they could not see the ink. They all thought the bell was just magic. When I asked everyone to place their hands on it, the real thief was scared to touch it, so everyone's hands would be covered in ink except for those of the thief!"
(Based on a Chinese legend.)