Song Dingbo 宋定伯

In his youth, Song Dingbo, from Nanyang, was walking one night when he encountered a spirit. When asked, it told him: “I’m a ghost.” When the spirit asked who he was, Dingbo lied to it, saying: “I’m a ghost too.” The spirit asked him where he wanted to go, to which he replied: “I’m going to the market at Wan.” The spirit told him: “I’m also heading for the Wan market.” They travelled together for several li, then the spirit said: “Walking is too slow. Wouldn’t it be better if  we carried one another?” Ding- [2549] -bo said: “Great!” The spirit took the first turn and carried Dingbo for several li. The spirit said: “The gentleman is extremely heavy. Are you not a ghost?” Dingbo told it: “I’m a new ghost, so my body is just a bit heavier.” Dingbo therefore carried the spirit, which was entirely weightless, and this exchange was repeated several times. Dingbo spoke up again: “I’m a new ghost, and don’t know which things to detest and avoid.” The spirit replied: “The only thing we dislike is people’s saliva.” They carried on together. When the road reached a river, Dingbo ordered the spirit to cross., and it waded through without making any splashing sounds. When Dingbo himself crossed, he made an audible splashing and sploshing. The spirit asked: “Why do you make such a noise?” Dingbo told it: “Being newly dead, I am just not yet used to crossing rivers. Don’t worry about me.” Approaching the Wan market, Dingbo again picked up the spirit and carried it on his shoulder, then grabbed it tightly. The spirit let out a shout, and started yelling, but he tied it with rope and stopped listening. Passing through the market, he placed it on the ground. The spirit immediately changed into a sheep, so Dingbo sold it. Fearing it would turn back, he spat upon it. He earned 1,500 cash, and departed. For a time it was widely repeated that Dingbo had sold a ghost and earned fifteen hundred cash.

From Lieyichuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2548-49:


南陽宋定伯。年少時。夜行逢鬼。問之。鬼言我是鬼。鬼問汝復誰。定伯誑之。言我亦鬼。鬼問欲至何所。答曰。欲至宛市。鬼言。我亦欲至宛市。遂行數里。鬼言。步行太遲。可共遞相擔。何如。定 [2549] 伯曰。大善。鬼便先擔定伯數里。鬼言。卿太重。不是鬼也。定伯言。我新鬼。故身重耳。定伯因復擔鬼。鬼略無重。如是再三。定伯復言。我新鬼。不知有何所惡忌。鬼答言。唯不喜人唾。于是共行。道遇水。定伯令鬼渡。聽之了然無水音。定伯自渡。漕漼作聲。鬼復言。何以有聲。定伯曰。新死。不習渡水故爾。勿怪吾也。行欲至宛市。定伯便擔鬼著肩上。急執之。鬼大呼。聲咋咋然。索下。不復聽之。徑至宛市中。下著地。化為一羊。便賣之。恐其變化。唾之。得錢千五百。乃去。當時有言。定伯賣鬼。得錢千五。出列異傳

Jia Yong 賈雍

The prefectural chief of Yuzhang, Jia Yong, possessed magical arts. On a cross-border expedition to punish bandits, he was killed by the enemy. Headless, he mounted his horse and returned to the camp. A voice emerged from his chest to report: “The battle was lost, and I have been injured by the bandits. All you gentlemen, look! Am I more handsome with a head, or headless?” His clerk, told him, tearfully: “With a head is better.” Yong said: “Not true. Headless is handsome too.” Having spoken, he died.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2548:

賈雍 豫章太守賈雍。有神術。出界討賊。為賊所殺。失頭。上馬回營。胸中語曰。戰不利。為賊所傷。諸君視有頭佳乎。無頭佳乎。吏涕泣曰。有頭佳。雍曰。不然。無頭亦佳。言畢遂死。

Hu Fuzhi 胡馥之

Hu Fuzhi, from Shangjun, married a woman from the Li clan. After more than ten childless years his wife died. He wept and mourned: “You have not left anything behind! How deep is this bitterness!” His wife suddenly arose, sitting up and telling him: “I am grateful for the gentleman’s mourning, but if I am not placed in my coffin, I can manifest after midnight. Being like I was in life, I can bear the gentleman a son.” When she had finished speaking she lay back down. Fuzhi did as she’d told him, not bringing any lamps, and, when all was dark, she then returned. She spoke to him again: “The dead have no generative process; I should be placed in a side room and you should wait a full ten months and then place me in a coffin.” After this he felt his wife’s body slowly begin to warm, as if she had not died at all. After ten months had passed, she bore a son. The boy was named Lingchan (i.e., ‘born of the Spirit’).

From Youminglu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2548:



Yu Shaozhi 庾紹之

Yu Shaozhi, known in his childhood as Daofu, who lived in Xinye under the Jin, served as Prefectural Chief of Xiangdong and had a strong sentimental attachment to his maternal cousin, Zong Xie of Nanyang. Shao[zhi] fell ill and died at the end of the Yuanxing era (402-5 CE), but during Yixi (405-19) he suddenly manifested and visited Xie. In appearance and clothing he seemed just as he had in life, except that both of his feet were in shackles. On his arrival, he removed the shackles, placed them on the ground and sat down. Xie asked him how he had managed to return and visit, to which he replied: “I received a temporary pass to return, and because of my fondness for the gentleman, came to call.” Xie enquired about the affairs of spirits and deities, but the replies were always vague and sketchy, not particularly coherent. He would only say: “One should be diligent in advancement, and must never take life. If you are unable fully to break off, you must not slaughter cattle, and, when eating meat, avoid swallowing the heart.” Xie asked: “Do the five organs[1] therefore differ from meat?” He replied: “The heart is the secret residence of the spirit, so the crime is especially severe.” He then asked after his relatives, so they discussed worldly affairs. Towards the end, he again requested wine. Xie was then in possession of prickly ash wine,[2] so laid this out for Shaozhi. The latter reached for his cup but did not drink, remarking that there was a dogwood spirit. Xie asked: “Is it evil?” He replied: “The lower ranks all fear it; I am not alone in this.” Shaozhi’s voice and character was loud and strong, and as he said this there was little difference from his character in life. After a short while, Xie’s son Siuzhi approached. When Shao heard the sound of clogs, he took on a look of great fear. He told Xie: “I have overstepped the limits of my vitality and can afford to stay no longer. I will only be parted from the gentleman for three years.” He then bowed to Xie and rose, vanishing as soon as he had crossed the threshold. Xie later served as Permanent Gentleman-Attendant, and indeed died after three years.

From Mingxiangji.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2547:



[1] I.e., the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys.

[2] On this plant, see:

Zhang Kai 張闓

In the second year Jianwu,[1] Zhang Kai of [lacuna] City, was returning from the fields to his residence when he saw someone lying by the roadside. When asked about this, he replied: “I’ve injured my foot, and cannot go any further. My family is in Nanchu and I have no way of letting them know. Kai felt sorry for him. Having a cart following carrying some things, he discarded these to allow him to ride. When they arrived at the house, however, the man didn’t make the slightest show of gratitude, but rather told Kai: “In truth there was no injury, it was just a kind of test.” Kai was furious, and said: “What kind of person are you, who dares to toy with me?” He replied: “I’m just a spirit. I have been tasked with recruiting an envoy to Beitai (i.e., Wutai Shan?), and, seeing that the gentleman is senior to me, could not bear to simply take you. I thus feigned illness and lay down by the roadside. Abandoning your luggage so that I could be carried is an act that has truly moved me by its sincerity. Nonetheless, you should accept your fate and come with me. I have no discretion in the matter, so what can be done?” Kai was shocked, and begged the spirit to allow him to stay, making offerings of wine and a suckling pig. The spirit feasted with him, and both wept as he begged the spirit again to save him. The spirit then asked: “Is there anyone who shares the gentleman’s given and courtesy names?” Kai told it: “There’s a man from Qiao called Huang Kai.” “The gentleman should call on him,” The spirit told him: “I will follow.” When Kai reached the house, the owner came out to see him. The spirit waved a red cloth above his head, and as the man turned pierced his heart with a needle, disappearing before the owner could detect it. It told Kai: “The gentleman will be a senior official, and, your servant cherishing that, therefore broke laws to help you. The ways of the nether world are secret and mysterious, and this matter should not be divulged.” After Kai had left, the owner of the other house suffered terrible heart pain, and by midnight he had [2547] passed away. Kai lived to be sixty, and attained the office of Glorious Grand Master.

From Zhenyilu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2546-47:


□城張闓。以建武二年。從野還宅。見一人臥道側。問之。云。足病。不能復去。家在南楚。無所告訴。闓憫之。有後車載物。棄以載之。既達家。此人了無感色。且語闓曰。向實不病。聊相試耳。闓大怒曰。君是何人。而敢弄我也。答曰。我是鬼耳。承北臺使來相收錄。見君長者。不忍相取。故佯為病臥道側。向乃捐物見載。誠銜此意。然被命而來。不自由。奈何。闓驚。請留鬼。以豚酒祀之。鬼相為酹享。於是流涕。固請求救。鬼曰。有與君同名字者否。闓曰。有僑人黃闓。鬼曰。君可詣之。我當自往。闓到家。主人出見。鬼以赤摽摽其頭。因回手。以小鈹刺其心。主人覺。鬼便出。謂闓曰。君有貴相。某為惜之。故虧法以相濟。然神道幽密。不可宣泄。闓去後。主人暴心痛。夜半便 [2547] 死。闓年六十。位至光祿大夫。出甄異錄

[1] This could potentially refer to 26 CE, during the reign of Guangwudi 光武帝 Guang (r. 25-57), of the Eastern Han; 318 CE, under Yuandi 元帝 Yuan Di (r. 317-322), of the Eastern Jin 東晉; or 495, under Mingdi 明帝 Ming Di (r. 494-498) of the Southern Qi 南齊.

Sima Yi 司馬義

The Palace Guard official Sima Yi had a concubine named Biyu, who was skilled at playing and singing. During the Taiyuan era (376-96 CE), Yi developed a fatal illness, and told Biyu: “When I die, you must not marry another, or it would be your death.” She replied: “I sincerely uphold your order.” After his funeral, a neighbouring household wished to take her in marriage. Biyu was about to depart, when she saw Yi entering the gate on horseback. He drew his bow and shot her, catching her straight in the throat. Her throat then became extremely painful, her posture became very strange, and all of a sudden she died. After more than ten days, however, she revived, although remained unable to speak. All four of her limbs seemed as though they had been beaten. After a full year she was again able to speak, but still could not make herself clear. Biyu was no longer beautiful, and her voice had been taken away. She had already suffered catastrophe, and was indeed unable to marry.

From Zhenyilu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2545:



Li Yuanming 李元明

Li Yuanming of Qiantang was once lying on his bed at midnight when he suddenly heard a person call out: “Yuanming! Yuanming! You should have gone a long time ago.” Two people then led him away, taking him to an underground room and leaving him there. He didn’t know where he was, but once a little time had passed he could finally begin to see something. Stroking the couch on which he was seated, it turned out to be a coffin, and there were graves to all sides. Terrified, he couldn’t settle, and wanted to get out, but this would be as difficult as ascending into the heavens, and he was unable to escape. His family were searching the surroundings, unable to tell where he had gone. They instructed the servants to call out his name in unison. Yuanming heard this from inside the tomb and answered faintly. They then chiseled away the door and rescued him.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2546:



Yu Liang 庾亮

Yu Liang[1] was garrison commander for Jingzhou. Liang suddenly saw something in the toilet, which looked somewhat like the exorcist Fang Xiang.[2] It had two entirely red eyes and a bright radiance emerged from its body as it emerged slowly from the dirt. Liang rolled up his sleeves and beat it with his fist. When his hand connected it emitted a sound and sank slowly back into the ground. As a result he was confined to his bed by illness, and subsequently died.

From Zhenyilu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2545:



[1] This is Yu Liang 庾亮 (289-340 CE, courtesy name Yuangui 元規, from Yanling 鄢陵, an official and general who served the Jin 晉 court.

[2] Fang Xiang 方相 is a figure from the Shang era (c. 1576-1046 BCE) invoked at funerals and during epidemics to drive away nefarious influences.

Liu Qingsong 劉青松

Liu Qingsong, of Guangling, rose one morning and saw a person wearing court robes and bearing a placard. It summoned him to serve as prefectural chief for Lu. Having finished speaking it immediately departed. Following it out he found that it had entirely vanished. The next day it came again, and told him: “The gentleman should reply promptly and go to his post.” Qingsong realized that he was due to die, so went inside, informed his wife and children, straightened up the family’s affairs and bathed. At the bu period (3-5pm), he saw a carriage and horses waiting with clerks to right and left. Qingsong then suddenly passed away. His family witnessed him climb onto the carriage, which travelled south for a hundred paces or more then gradually ascended and vanished.

From Youminglu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2545:



A New Ghost 新鬼

There was a newly deceased ghost, manifesting in weak, emaciated and fatigued state, that suddenly saw a friend from its living days, who had died some twenty years before, and was plump and strong. They asked after one another: “My friend, we’ve come to this?” and then he said: “I’m starving! My friend must know how everything works, so should favour me with some advice.” His friend the spirit said: “This is extremely simple, but requires the scaring of mortal folk. They must be very scared. Then they will grant my friend sustenance.” The new ghost set off and entered at the east end of a large village. There a family was making vīrya zeal offerings to the Buddha. In the western wing was a millstone, so the ghost shoved at the stone like a human grinding. The head of the household told his juniors: “The Buddha pities our family in its poverty, so ordered a spirit to turn the grindstone.” They thus brought a cartload of grain to give to him. That evening, he ground several hu, wore himself out and left.

He then scolded his ghost friend: “How could a friend be so deceitful? Nonetheless, I’ll go back; it must work now.” He followed a family into the western end of the hall. The family was venerating the Dao. Beside the door was a rice-hulling pestle. The ghost climbed onto it and started operating it like a person would. The people said: “Yesterday a spirit helped some people. Today it has returned to assist us. We should bring some unhusked rice to give to it, and send a servant girl with a winnowing fan.” By the evening, the spirit was exhausted, and hadn’t gained any sustenance. The spirit returned at sunset, and said, indignant: “We’re related by marriage; can anything be more important? How could you be so deceitful? I’ve helped two people, and haven’t got even a bowlful to eat!” His friend the spirit replied: “You’ve suffered bad luck, that’s all. These two households were worshiping the Buddha and serving the Dao; their emotions would be hard to stir. You should now seek a family of commoners and do some mischief. That can’t fail.”

The spirit set off again, finding a house with a bamboo pole in the doorway. He entered and found a group of women eating together before the window. In the courtyard was a white dog, so he picked it up and made it travel through thin air. The family were greatly shocked at seeing this, saying that such strangeness had never happened there before. A diviner told them: “A visiting spirit is seeking sustenance. You should kill the dog and lay out fruit and wine with food. Make offerings to it in the courtyard and you will be rid of it.” The family followed this advice, and the spirit thus received a lot of food. The ghost then continued to make mischief, just as his friend had taught.

From Youminglu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 321.2544: