A Spirit Steals Mantou 鬼偷饅頭

The Xiang household of Yongjia was occupied by a spirit; sometimes this thing, shaped like a person with disheveled hair, appeared and disappeared across their home, and called itself ‘Grand Duke’. The Xiangs thought this normal, and did not recognise its anomalous nature. Whatever they wanted, they had only to call to the Grand Duke in the kitchen, and that thing would then appear. When Xiang’s wife became pregnant, she wished to eat a plain meal of mantou steamed buns, and so called to the Grand Duke, and he appeared after the second watch (9-12pm) bearing a steamer layer of piping hot mantou, spreading warm vapour. Several days later, news spread that people at the Qichi ferry crossing were missing a steamer layer of mantou from a festival of offerings to earth and water. Later, Xiang’s wife gave birth to a child; it lacked eyebrows and eyes, but had a mouth and could suckle; first she wanted to drown it, but suddenly heard the Grand Duke speak out of thin air: “The child must not be drowned; feed it for the time being, and soon there will be reason for gratitude.” After more than two months had passed, Mrs Xiang was cuddling the baby on her bed, when the Grand Duke suddenly placed two silver tablets on the bed, seized the child and left; afterwards this strangeness stopped.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.236 (Tale 425):

鬼偷饅頭

永嘉項家為邪神所據,時有一物,人形而蓬首,出沒其家,自呼曰「大公」。項以為常,不為怪異。凡有所求,只於廚間呼大公,物則隨至。項妻有孕,想齋饅頭食,遂叫大公一聲,至二更餘,捧一層蒸饅頭而來,蒸氣尚暖。越數日,人傳七尺渡頭人家設水陸齋,失了饅頭一層。後項婦生一子如冬瓜狀,無眉目,但有口能乳,方欲溺之,忽聞大公空中作聲曰:「子不可溺,權以乳哺,當有以謝。」踰兩月,項婦方抱子在牀,忽大公置白金二笏於牀,奪抱此子而去,後其怪亦息。

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).

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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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