A Choking Patient Spits a Snake 病噎吐蛇

When Hua Tuo (d. 208 CE) was on the road, he saw a patient who, suffering a choking illness, although keen on eating and drinking was quite unable. His family carried him on a cart, wishing to consult the physician. Tuo heard his moans and groans, stopped the cart to inspect him, and addressed him, saying: “Just there by the road there is a pastry house; take three sheng (c. 3 litres) of their strong vinegar made from garlic and leek and drink this down; the illness should then clear itself up.” Having done as Tuo said, he stood and spat out a snake, suspending it from the side of the cart, and wishing to go to Tuo. Tuo having gone out and not yet returned, a small child playing before his gate greeted him, saying: “The guest’s carriage having that thing hung on the side, he must have encountered our gentleman.” The guest coming forward and entering Tuo’s walls, he saw such snakes hung up in their dozens.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.229 (Tale 411):



Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

Compare to the shorter, much earlier version in the Soushenji:

Gan Bao, Kenneth J. DeWoskin and J.L. Crump, Jr. (trans), In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), p.41:

“Hua T’o Treats a Sufferer with Vinegar (3,70)

Once, while Hua T’o was traveling he saw a man who suffered difficulty with swallowing. He could not get down what he ate, so his family had put him in their cart to take him to a physician. Hua T’o heard his strangled groans, dismounted from his carriage, and went to inspect the man. Then he addressed the family: “You passed a cake shop on the side of the road back there, and they make strong vinegar from the fermentation of garlic and leeks,” said T’o. “Go you now, purchase three measures of that fluid, and force the patient to drink it. This should cure the disorder.”

They did as he instructed, and the man immediately spat up a serpent.”


Gan Bao 干寶, Soushenji 搜神記 (In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 3.41-42:

佗嘗行道,見一人病咽,嗜食不得下。家人車載,欲往就醫。佗聞其呻吟聲,駐車往 [42] 視,語之曰:「向來道邊,有賣餅家蒜虀大酢,從取三升飲之,病自當去。」即如佗言,立吐蛇一枚。




Author: Geoff Humble

Hobby translator of mosty 14th century Chinese texts. Enjoys strange tales. Image is my doodle based on an element within this work: http://archive.asia.si.edu/collections/edan/object.php?q=fsg_F1938.4

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