Fifteen Strings of Coppers
Fifteen Strings of Coppers is a traditional Chinese folk story found in the book Xingshi Hengyan (Stories to Awaken the World). This book is a collection of short novels and stories from the Tang, Song and Ming Dynasties and earlier historical periods.
Fifteen Strings of Coppers was adapted into a Kunqu play, which enhanced the popularity of Kunqu after its first show in 1956.
The story of Fifteen Strings of Coppers
There was once a butcher named You Hulu who lived in Wuxi, Jiangsu. One day he borrowed fifteen strings of coppers in order to start a business. When he came home, he joked with his step-daughter Su Xujuan by telling her the money came from selling her to others. Su Xujuan believed him and was so frightened that she secretly ran away later that night.
On that night, a troublemaker named Lou A'shu sneaked into You Hulu's house. He stole the fifteen strings of copper in order to pay his gambling debt and then escaped after killing You Hulu. The next day, Lou A'shu reported the homicide to the county government and claimed that the guilt lay with Su Xujuan, who had disappeared.
Meanwhile, Su Xujuan met a travelling businessman named Xiong Youlan and earned fifteen strings of copper. Su and Xiong travelled together and neighbours suspected them to be the murder due to the fact that they were carrying fifteen strings of copper.
Su Xujuan and Xiong Youlan were reported, seized and sent to the county government. The county magistrate believed Lou A'shu's false accusation and sentenced Su Xujuan and Xiong Youlan to the death penalty.
However, the official Kuang Zhong who was in charge of the execution suspected otherwise and worked hard to persuade the county magistrate to approve a reprieve. Through Kuang Zhong's investigation, he suspected that Lou A'shu might be the murderer. To try and prove his theory, Kuang Zhong approaches Lou A'shu disguised as a fortune-teller and induced Lou A'shu to tell the truth of his guilt of stealing the fifteen strings of copper and killing You Hulu. Kuang Zhong arrested Lou A'shu and sent him to the county government. Eventually, the case was entirely clear, the murder was executed and the reprieve was redressed.