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An Iron Nail Case
Han Huang was not only good at painting but also a detective.
By Sam Chen Posted in Strange Stories on 04/23/2019 4 Comments 3 min read
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An Iron Nail Case

Han Huang was a quite well-known artist in the Tang Dynasty. His painting, “Five Oxen,” is one of top ten paintings which was handed down from ancient times in China. The painting is now in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Han Huang was not only good at painting but also a detective. One summer evening, when he was the governor in Runzhou, he and his men were drinking and enjoying the cool air on a gate tower. Everyone was having a good time, when Han suddenly put down his glass with a sour expression on his face. A woman’s cry was heard in the distance. Han asked his men, “Do you hear a woman’s cry? Do you know where it is from?” One of his men said, “According to the direction of the sound, it should be from West Street.” Another person said, “With all that crying, someone in her family must have died. ”

The next day, Han sent someone to take the woman to his office to ask her what happened. The woman was in her thirties. She wore rough clothes with tears on her face. Although the woman was exhausted from grief, she had a beautiful face with a good figure and was still very attractive. The woman said her husband had died the night before. Han ordered the arrest of the woman for interrogation and requested that her husband’s body be examined. The coroner examined the body but found no evidence that he was murdered. After a long interrogation, the woman still insisted that her husband was sick and dead. Han disagreed with the woman’s statement and asked his men to continue interrogating her and examining the body.

Han’s men thought he was just worrying too much. However, it was the governor’s order, so they had to follow it. The coroner was afraid that he might be blamed, so he examined the body day and night.

Another day went by, and the coroner found the corpse attracted flies easily, especially in his head area. So he parted his hair and found an iron nail driven deep into his head. The woman was interrogated again. This time she had to tell the truth. She admitted that she had an affair with her neighbor. On that same night, she got her husband drunk, and inserted an iron nail into the top of her husband’s head, murdering him.

After the case closed, everyone thought Han Huang was an extraordinary detective. Someone asked Han how he knew the woman was lying. Han said, “On that night, the woman’s crying was urgent, but she was not sad. It sounded like she was afraid of something.”

China Ha Huang Iron Nail Strange Chinese Stories Tang dynasty


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  1. I did not know this much about Han Huang but I have seen the painting that he is well known for. It is very interesting that he was also known for being a detective and it is surprising when you hear of famous people that are good at multiple things. Was he well known for other things or can you think of someone else that was famous for several things?

    1. Hi, Jon! Thank you for your comment. As far as know, Han Huang was also a good government employee. You asked other people, I think Judge Dee is one of them.

  2. This is an interesting story. I wonder how Han able to insist checking both the woman and corpse’s body. Is it because of his detective hunch? Or maybe he has already know what was happening but can’t make any statement due to lack of evidence? There are many strange Chinese stories and I’m glad to found one here 🙂 Thanks

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