Jiě líng hái xū jì líng rén
Translation: He who ties the bell has to untie it himself.
Meaning: Whoever creates a difficult situation must resolve it himself.
The proverb derives from a story in Zhiyue lu (Record of Alluding to the Moon) by Qu Ruji (1548–1610), an official of the Ming dynasty.
There once was a famous Buddhist monk named Fadeng in a temple on Mt. Qingliang, in the vicinity of today’s Nanjing. When he was young, he didn’t seem to study as hard as his fellow monks, and for that reason they all looked down on him. The abbot Fayan, however, liked him very much because he realized that Fadeng possesed an extraordinary capacity of comprehension that had great potential. He was convinced that this young man would become a great monk in due course. One day Abbot Fayan was giving a sermon to the monks. As usual, the young Fadeng was absent. During the discourse, Fayan raised a strange question, “A tiger has a bell tied to its neck. Who do you think would be able to untie it?” This query caught the monks by surprise. As they were looking at one another bewildered, Fadeng stepped in. Abbot Fayan then asked him the same question. Without hesitation, the young monk replied, “It must be the one who tied the bell to the neck of the tiger.” Turning to the other monks, the abbot commented, “I told you not to despise him. Trust me: He will be more successful than all of you in the days to come.” Sure enough, Fadeng later became not only an accomplished abbot but also a great writer.