Warnings Against Eating Beef 戒食牛肉

During the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), a Director-General Sun was assigned to Shaozhou. On reaching the river he climbed into a boat, but was blown around by a great gale, finally arriving at a place with a huge mountain. He did not recognise the place, but a navigable path led across the peak. Sun strolled off up the mountain, and saw that there was a large gate. Examining this in the distance, behind the gate were corridors, wings and chambers like those of a government office. The gate guards stopped him, saying: “This is where the sin and merit of the human world is investigated and compared; what business brings you here?” Sun reported to them how he been appointed to Shaozhou and how his boat had encountered the gale, and wished to enter the hall and have a look; the guards led him inside. Stepping in the door he saw a large hall, with superiors sitting in large numbers and extremely strict guards in the lower hall. To the side of the hall was a door, with different guards, all of whom had the fanged faces of spirits, and they would not let him enter. The guards said: “That is the jail. All those who kill cattle and eat their flesh are imprisoned there.” Sun’s uncle had, in life, enjoyed eating beef, so he gave them his family and personal name and asked about him. The guards said: “He’s there. It was once said that your uncle had eaten seven hundred jin (one jin is about 500g) of beef, an unpardonable crime.” Sun earnestly begged the guard to lead him to the chief clerk so he could plead for his uncle. The clerk said: “Your uncle ate seven hundred jin of cow flesh, so his karmic sins are extremely heavy. Moreover, you too have taken pleasure in eating beef; the authorities of the nether world are limiting your lifespan, too; you will only accrue one term of office at Shaozhou.” Sun pleaded once again, now in order to save himself, and after a long time the clerk said: “If, when you take up your post at Shaozhou, you can command a halt to the slaughter of cattle, leading five hundred households to stop eating beef, your uncle will be allowed life in human heaven, and your lifespan will be extended.” Gentleman Sun accepted this command and left, descending the mountain and, on launching his boat, looked back, but the mountain could not be seen. On arriving at his post, his first action was to prohibit the slaughter of cattle; he also travelled widely urging people not to eat beef. More than half a year later, one night his uncle reported to him in a dream: “The governor says that you have prevented the slaughter of cattle, extending many lives, and have also urged seven hundred households to stop eating beef. Your merit is extremely great and the deities praise you. I have achieved life in human heaven, and your lifespan will also be extended.”

 

Sheng Zhao of Qinglongzhen had held a hundred banquets in all, having always to kill and butcher a cow; cooking with skill he ate without restraint. One day, someone knocked on his door; when Sheng Zhao opened it himself and went out to look, he saw a servant bringing him a bamboo slip. He opened it to look, finding writing in large characters: “The Six Domestic Animals are all the work of previous lives (in the reincarnatory process); the ox alone faces bitter toil. If one looks at those meeting a violent end, [98] they are all eaters of beef.” He read it three times, by which time the person who gave it to him had vanished. Sheng Zhao was shocked and alarmed, and from then on abstained from eating beef.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.97-98 (tale 166):

戒食牛肉

至元年間,有孫總管韶州任,江次登舟,為大風飄揚至一所,有巨山,莫知何地,有山徑可行。孫信步登山,見有大門,望之,門內廊廡廳舍如官府狀。守門者止之,曰:「考較人間罪福去處,爾何事至此?」孫以赴韶州任舟行遇風告之,並欲入廳舍遊觀,守者引進。入門見一大殿,有主者廣坐,殿下侍衛甚嚴。殿旁有一門,另有守者,皆狼牙鬼面,不許進。守者曰:「此獄也。陽世殺牛食肉者,皆囚於此。」孫之舅在世亦好食牛肉,並以姓名問之。守者曰:「有之。曾聞汝舅食牛肉七百斤,罪不可宥。」孫力禱守者,託之引見主吏禱之,吏曰:「爾舅食牛肉七百斤,罪業至重,況爾亦喜食牛肉,陰司亦減爾壽算,隻滿韶州一任矣。」孫再禱以求救之由,吏良久曰:「汝到任若能禁殺牛命,善誘五百家不食牛肉,爾舅得生人天,亦延爾壽。」孫公領命而離,下山即登舟,回視亦失山矣。及到任,首以宰牛為禁,並廣行勸人不食牛肉。踰半年,夜夢舅報曰:「主者云爾禁殺牛,延命亦多,曾勸到七百家不食牛肉,功德浩大,神明交讚。我得生天,汝亦延壽矣。」

秀州青龍鎮盛肇,凡百筵會,必殺牛取肉,巧作庖饌,恣啖為樂。一日,有扣門者,盛肇自啟門出視,見一蒼頭授以青簡,展而視之,乃大字書云:「六畜皆前業,惟牛最苦辛。但看橫死者, [98] 盡是食牛人。」讀之三過,人與簡俱亡。盛肇驚駭,自是戒食牛肉。

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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