Of the thousands of Chinese movies and TV series that have flooded the airwaves of Cambodia for many years, one still remains a local favourite. This series is called either Iron-Face Court or Judge Pao Chin, and follows the life of a traditional court judge in ancient China.
The story centres around the Iron-Face Court and its proceedings and has captured the attention of thousands of Cambodians, who love the main character Judge Pao Chin for his bravery and the way he overcomes all sorts of obstacles in his bid to find justice for victims from all walks of life.
Each show is full of mystery and also features the pleasant, sad and aggressive aspects of life along with a liberal sprinkling of a bitter, sweet love story. This show also illustrates how to make compromises in the daily life of ordinary people, ranging from a more traditional era until the present day.
Most people who watch this TV series think that the ancient court and its central character are just fiction, the creation of a writer and television producer, but they are wrong. In fact, this series is based on the real life of an official named Pao Chin, who was a leading figure in Chinese society during the 10th century.
The story of Pao Chin is recorded at a shrine near his grave in Her Pey city in An Huy province in Central China, about 300 kilometres west of Shanghai.
Now the place where Pao Chin is buried has become a shrine and historical resort which has become very popular with tourists visiting Her Pey city.
The real Pao Chin was born into a Chinese farming family in An Huy province in central China. Being a clever young man with a lot of patience, he was soon noticed by authorities and asked to sit for an exam to join the public service, which he passed.
At first he was given tasks relating to social affairs, and some of these tasks involved making judgments according to Chinese law at the time, and he proved to be very good at that.
He was later promoted to a higher position, moving from being a local official (commune) to a district official, then a regional position, until he was finally moved to the Royal Palace. There he became a top judge, hearing cases involving complaints and rights violations from ordinary people to relatives of the king.
He had four wives but his family lived modestly and with harmony, the history books show.
In his lifetime, Pao Chin fulfilled his task as a senior Chinese official until he was old. He did not leave a lot of property like other officials of the time, and instead only owned a plot of land of about two hectares where he built a guesthouse for his old age.
That guesthouse was near a natural lake and is now in the centre of Her Pey city. Pao Chin’s land is where he and his family members are buried, but his grave is the biggest because before he died, he left a note asking his relatives and the authorities to take the soil from his home village and to pile it up on his last resting place.
Today, the coffin of Pao Chin has been repaired by the government and the people of An Huy province. It is kept in sealed glass for tourists to pay their respects to this famous judge.
Behind the area where his coffin is kept are some old buildings where Pao Chin worked for the Royal Palace, and these buildings are nicely decorated and have become tourist attractions. In one room in one of the buildings there is a very big golden statue of Judge Pao Chin sitting in a chair with four bodyguards, two at each side.
Every day tens of thousands of Chinese people visit the shrine of Pao Chin and they also light incense sticks and pray for happiness. Some ask Judge Pao Chin to provide them with justice as most Chinese people consider the judge to be one of the fairest men who ever lived.