The Kaifeng Water Monster 開封水怪

Under the Song, during the Xuanhe era (1119-25), when someone arose from their bed in front of a tea shop and wiped down the couch, they noticed something crouching beside them like a dog; looking again in the bright light of dawn, it turned out to be a dragon. The person cried out loudly and fell to the ground. A short distance from the tea shop stood a workshop for military equipment. A group of soldiers from the workshop took away the dragon and ate it, but didn’t dare to report the matter. People in the capital all drew pictures to transmit and appreciate the sight; its body was only six or seven chi in length (about 2m), as [74] they have been painted for generations: the dragon’s scales being grey-black, its head like that of a donkey, its cheeks like those of a fish, the colour of its head a true green, with a horned brow, a very long back, splitting into two segments at the end; its voice was like that of a cow. A night later, at the fifth watch (about 4am), a red cloud came from the northwest and covered dozens of circuits, reaching towards heaven, crossing into the Purple Palace and the Great Bear; looking up, the stars all seemed to be separated by red gauze. When the sun rose it split with a tearing noise, which later became very great. This happened over several following evenings, the noise growing, its shaking lasting a long time and becoming extremely strong, with red clouds spreading from the northwest for tens of thousands of circuits, two clouds of black and white passing from the northwest to the northeast, the noise continuing without end, finally stopping at dawn. Several days later, water flooded into the capital, rising to more than ten zhang (33m). Diviners said that in bingwu the omens matched those of the fall of the Northern Qi (550-77), and later the nature of this matter became extremely clear.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 129):

開封水怪

宋宣和間,開封縣前茶肆人晨起拭牀榻,睹若有大犬蹲其旁,質明視之,龍也。其人驚呼仆地。茶肆適與軍器作坊近,為作坊兵衆取而食之,不敢以聞。都人皆圖畫傳玩,身僅六七尺,若 [74] 世所繪,龍鱗蒼黑,驢首而兩頰如魚,頭色正綠,頂有角,坐極長,其際始分兩䏢,有聲如牛。越一夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道近天,犯紫宮北斗,仰視星皆若隔絳紗。方起時折裂一聲,然後大發。後數夕又作,聲益大,震且久,其發尤甚,而赤氣自西北數十萬道,中有黑白二氣自西北而由東北,其聲不絕,迨曉乃止。後數日,水犯都城,高十餘丈。占者謂丙午及北齊末占同,後事驗亦甚明也。

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).

An account of the same events is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. Dating it to the second year Xuanhe (1120), this places the incident within a series of disastrous portents, their meaning relating to the palace. The Xuanhe yishi version also, disappointingly, omits the discussion of painting traditions.

William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 41-42:

That summer, in the fifth month, a creature somewhat like a dragon appeared in front of a teashop in Kaifeng County. It was about six or seven feet long with blue black scales. It had a head like a donkey, but with fish-cheeks and a horn on top of its skull. It bellowed like an ox. As it happened, the shopkeeper was making up the beds that morning when he noticed something the size of a large dog beside him. When he looked closely, it was this dragon. He was so surprised he keeled over in fright. The teashop was situated very close to an arms manufactory, and when the wor­kers in the mill found out about the dragon they killed and ate it.

That night in the fifth watch, several score columns of crimson vapor rose to the sky in the northwest. When one looked up at the North Star, it was as if it were veiled in scarlet gauze. In the midst of it all were alternate streams of black and white vapor, from which emanated crackling sounds like thunder from time to time. Soon rain began to fall in torrents. The level of the river rose more than ten yards, seeping through the city walls and breaking down the dike on the Bian River. Although all the laborers available within the city were marshalled to help in the crisis, carrying straw and sandbags to stem the tide, they were unable to hold it back. Finally, Huizong called upon the executive of the Ministry of Revenue, Tang Lu, to take charge of the operations. In the morning, Lu went out on the river in a small dinghy to see what the flood was like so that it might be controlled. The emperor watched him from atop, a tower. When he [42] discovered it was Lu himself out on the waters, he wept. Several days later the waters leveled off and Lu went to see the emperor, who praised him highly. ‘The temples of Our ancestors are secure, thanks to your work,’ he said.

Lu responded, ‘Water is an element of the Yin class. Yin influences are ascendant and pervade even to the inner reaches of the city and palace. I pray Your Majesty will communicate directly with his ministers, sequester himself from feminine wiles and small-minded people, and heed well this warning from Heaven to make ready for the tribes.’ Huizong commended this memorial and accepted it.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period of the Great Song: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), pp. 29-30:

夏,五月,有物若龍,長六七尺,蒼鱗黑色,驢首,兩頰如魚,頭色綠,頂有角,其聲如牛,見於開封縣茶肆前。時茶肆人早起拂拭床榻,見有物若大犬蹲其傍,熟視之,乃是龍也。其人吃驚,臥倒在地。茶肆與軍器作坊相近,遂被作坊軍人得知,殺龍而食之。是夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道衝天,仰視北斗星若隔絳紗,其中有間以白黑二炁,及時有折烈聲震如雷。未幾,霪雨大作,水高十餘丈,犯都城,已破汴堤,諸內侍役夫,擔草運土障之,不能禦。徽宗詔戶部侍郎唐恪治之。即日,恪乘小舟覽水之勢,而求所以導之。上登樓遙見,問之,乃恪也,為之出涕。數日,水平,恪入對,上勞之曰:「宗廟社稷獲安,卿之功也!」唐恪因回奏:「水乃陰類。陰炁之盛,以致犯城闕。願陛下垂意於馭臣,遠女寵,去小人,備夷狄,以益謹天戒。」徽 [30] 宗嘉納之。

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Rice and Dried Meat Filled Lung 米脯灌肺

In Hangzhou there was once a seller of filled lung soup. Each day when night fell he shouldered his carrying-pole and set off into the street, walking his rounds in harmony and peace. One evening, a scholar of the National University, arriving extremely drunk by the head of his pole, suddenly threw up in the pot. The seller, not daring to say anything, extinguished his lamp and entered a small alley, wiping off the extra material, and then came back out. Seeing that the vomit still included grains of rice, he stuck on a new straw marker, changing the name of his wares to ‘Rice and Dried Meat Filled Lung’. People who were ignorant of the situation bought and ate all of it.

Had it not been for this period of wild behaviour, that scholar would never have made this ‘payment’, and brought such a day of trade!

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.71 (Tale 123):

米脯灌肺

杭州舊有賣灌肺湯者,每於入夜,夯擔出街,旋行調和。一夕,有太學士人乘醉到擔頭,忽然漚酒入於鍋內,賣者不敢言,即滅燈火挑入小巷內,拭括加料而後復出。視之嘔中尚有飯糝,遂插標改其名曰「米脯灌肺」,不知者皆買食之。否則一時喧鬨,士人未必有償,而一日之經紀休矣!

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).

Stopping the Releasing Life Festival 罷放生會

The Yanxiang Temple in Tanzhou had celebrated the Releasing Life Festival for many years in the third, fourth, sixth and eighth months. On the third day of the third month in the first year Kangding (16 April 1040), the birthday of Zhenwu (the Lord of Profound Heaven), birds and animals of the water were bought in advance, taken in ceremonial order past the prefectural pavilion and approaching the Yangtze, led by bells and cymbals, they were set free with chants and praise. Among these living things some were hurled towards the void and took flight, some were scattered into the water and swam. Of those that flew, some sank back down, some lay on the river’s surface. Some of the birds had their feet or wings trapped by glue, and others were hunted and shot with bows and arrows or catapults and pellets; when they are injured and killed in this way, the sound of their lamentations and cries cannot be borne. When the aquatic creatures are lured into the broad net and seized, or hunted with the bamboo basket and taken, scales, shells, heads and tails all torn and damaged, leaping and jumping with mouth wide but cries unheard; this sight cannot be borne. People from the four distant quarters having just heard of this release of life, vied with one another to stretch their nets and sell in the market, this having the contrary result of causing harm to living creatures. When the monk Sun Yuan’an was presiding over the hall, a mendicant priest approached the foot of the pulpit, intending to speak on the cause of the gathering, opposing Yuan’an’s offerings to the release. The priest said: “It should not be called ‘releasing life’, as it is premeditated murder.” None among the whole group opposed this, and afterwards the ceremony was abandoned. In the main this thing called release of life is actually the sale and purchase of animals and fish, bringing great wealth to hunters. Fulfilling this sees nets stretched wide for later release; how can this be right?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.72 (Tale 126):

罷放生會

潭州延祥宮,遞年三月、四月、六月、八月有放生社會。康定元年三月三日真武生辰,預買飛禽水族,例往州亭,臨大江,用磬鈸引導,讚詠放生。諸般物命或向空而飛,或漾水而遊,其飛沉之物,或向空復墮,或水面仰浮,飛禽者翅與足或被膠黏,或弓彈射獵,如有傷折,哀鳴愁噪之聲不忍聞也。如水族者罾釣張取、籮籃采捕,鱗甲頭尾皆有破損,跳躍張口之狀但叫嗸不出,不忍目之。四遠之人纔聞放生,爭競張捕以賣於市,反至損害物命。道士損元宴升堂,有雲遊道士至講下,願講此會之因,元宴遂以放生祝壽為對,道人曰:「非曰放生,即是故殺。」周無以對。後此會遂廢。大抵放生之說,遇有禽魚之類出賣者,買而放之則獲福無量,發章張羅網捕之而後縱之,豈可乎!

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).

Strange Events in Xuanhe (1119-25) 宣和怪事

During the Zhenghe era (1111-18) in the reign of the Song emperor Huizong (1100-25), a thing as big as a sitting-mat appeared at night in the imperial bedroom. Whenever it emerged this was preceded by a sound as if the room were being torn apart. It would then manifest, more than a zhang (3.33m) across, shaped somewhat like a turtle, making a clanging noise as it moved, but, shrouded in a dark mist, it could not be seen clearly. A bloody miasma spread around it to all four directions, and weapons had no effect against it. Further, it sometimes changed into human form, or that of a donkey, and could speak with a human voice. Many times it appeared in residences for the palace staff, and once appeared within the inner halls. Despite occultist scholars repeatedly banning it remained unaffected. Later on people grew accustomed to the presence, and felt no great fear.

In the fourth year of the Xuanhe era (1122), Jin people captured the Central Capital, and the Song sent the Imperial Preceptor Tong Guan (1054-1126) to lead the army against them. At that time a white halo ringed the sun and every night streams of meteors crossed the Heavenly Ford and the Herdsman, jumping the Milky Way, the Big Dipper and Altair and hurtling together into the south.

When the armies engaged, there was a huge earthquake in Xiongzhou, and a horse grew two horns of four chi (a chi is about 33.cm), and grew huge. The imperial guard presented this to the throne, and it was thought to be a horse-dragon.

In the first moon of the sixth year (19 January to 16 February, 1124), an earthquake shook the eastern capital, and later another earthquake was felt in Sanhe; sounds of quaking came from the gate of the imperial palace’s central chamber. In Hedong and Shanyou this was especially pronounced, and in the Lanzhou region trees and plants on the various mountains were swallowed by the earth, while wheat seedlings sown in the valleys rose upon the peaks.[1]

In the eighth moon of the seventh year (31 August to 28 September, 1125), a vegetable seller, on reaching the Xuande Gate, suddenly became confused and returned, pointing his finger at the gate and saying: “You have ruined our country! Our Supreme Ancestor the Shenzong Emperor set us on the way; we can still change back to that.” Soldiers on patrol seized him and locked him in the Kaifeng jail; none understood his speech, and within a single evening he had died in prison.[2]

One day, as the emperor entered the Xuanhe Hall, the ground caved in.[3] On the first day of the first moon a statue of a deity in the Jingling Palace was seen to shed tears. Clerks on duty in the imperial ancestral temple heard the sound of weeping, and on inspection found blood emerging from the bricks, seeping out again when it was swept away; all of this continued over several days.[4]

On Wansui Peak a group of foxes were seen to toast one another; it was ordered that they be beaten, but they [57] scattered. A fox emerged from a prison in the northeast and entered the palace precincts, seating itself on the imperial divan.[5]

In the twelfth moon (27 December, 1125 to 24 January, 1126), the Grand Secretary Wu Min submitted a memorial to the throne: “The capital has heard that enemies are making a great incursion and people’s sensibilities are shaken. Some want to flee, some want to mount a defence, some want to rebel over it; if these three types have to coexist within the country, the realm must be destroyed. Your servant has often prayed in the ancestral temple, and received a dream, but does not dare to report its content.” The emperor said: “Do not fear this.” Min said: “Your servant has often dreamed of a river, to its north, a coil-haired golden-bodied Buddha, its length reaching the borders of heaven. To the south of the water, a jade figure with an iron-hooped fish basket, called Mengzi by the people. To the south of Mengzi is a body of water, and to the south of that a mountain slope, and your servant was on that, people called it ‘Taishang Mountain’. Your servant once said to himself: “That to the north of the water is Hebei, that to the south Henan. The Buddha represents the Jin, and the Taishang Your Majesty, but it is not clear what Mengzi means. Some among the Central Secretariat have instructed your servant: ‘This Mengzi represents the imperial eldest son.’” There was thus a consultation on establishing the crown prince.

In the eleventh moon, offerings were made in the southern suburbs, and when the ceremony was complete the emperor descended from the altar and received a report from the frontier. When the imperial progress reached the Duancheng Hall of the Jiao Palace the dawn light was not yet clear. The various officials came forward to make their congratulations but suddenly heard the hoot of an owl from the roof of the hall, as if making its obeisances; those who heard it were shocked. No more than a month later, the emperor abdicated and suddenly went south. The following year, the city fell, the realm was humiliated, and this all took place in the Duancheng Hall.

Anon., , Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.56-57 (Tale 99):

宣和怪事

宋徽宗朝政和年間,有物大如席,夜見寢殿上。每出則先若裂屋摧倒聲,然後現形,廣丈餘,狀髣髴如龜,行動硜硜有聲,黑氣蒙蒙,不大了了。氣之所及,腥血四灑,兵刃皆不能施。又或變為人、為驢形,得人語聲則作矣。多在掖庭宮人所居之地,亦嘗及內殿。雖方士屢禁,自若,後習為常,人亦不大怖。宣和四年,金人陷中京,宋遣太師童貫出師,是時白虹貫日,連夕有流星犯天津、河鼓,越天漢、斗牛,皆向南奔曳。及用兵,雄州地大震,馬生角長二尺四,皆出距。貫以進御,以為龍馬。六年正月,東都地震,後三河又震,宮中殿門震動作聲。河東、陝右尤甚,蘭州地及諸山草木悉没入地,山下麥苗乃在山上。七年八月,有賣菜夫至宣德門,忽迷歸,向門戟手指而言曰:「汝壞吾社稷矣!太祖神宗皇帝使我來道,尚宜速改也。」邏卒捕下開封獄,一夕已省,不知所云,特於獄中盡之。一日帝御宣和殿,地陷。朔旦見景靈宮神像有淚,吏守太廟者聞哭聲,即之,乃神宗廟室有塼出血,隨掃又出,數日方止。萬歲山上羣狐杯酌對飲,敕拍之,皆 [57] 散。有一狐自艮獄來,入宮禁,於御榻而坐。十二月,給事中吳敏奏曰:「今京師聞虜人大入,人情震動,有欲出走者,有欲守者,有欲因而返者,以三種人共守一國,國必破。臣常私禱於宗廟,得之夢寐,不敢奏陳。」上曰:「無妨。」敏曰: 「臣常夢水之北,螺髻金身之佛,其長際天。水之南,鐵籠罩一玉像,人謂之孟子。孟子之南又一水,水南有山陂陁,而臣在其間,人曰『太上山』。臣嘗私解之曰:『水北河北也,南者江南也,佛者金人,太上陛下也,但不曉所謂孟子。有中書舍人席益諭臣曰:『孟子者,元子也。』」遂定立太子之議。十一月祀南郊,禮畢,降壇而得邊報。及上御郊宮之端誠殿,時天未明,百辟方稱賀,忽有鴟鴞嗚於殿屋之上,若贊拜聲,聞者駭之。未踰月,內禪,俄而南幸。明年城陷,國家被辱,皆在端誠殿焉。

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).

[1] A parallel account is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), p. 101:

In the intercalary month, there was an earthquake in the capital, and the buildings of the palace complex shook and rumbled audibly. Trees and vegetation on the mountains in both Shaanxi and Lanzhou sank into the earth. Cultivated crops which had once grown below the mountains now grew atop them. The court sent Huang Qianshan to handle the situation; but he returned with nothing but misleading reports and never revealed the true state of affairs to his superiors.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), p. 79:

閏月,京師地震,宮中殿門皆搖動有聲。又陝西、蘭州諸山草木皆沒入地中;其黍苗在山下者,又生於山上。朝廷遣黃潛善按視,潛善歸謂訛傳,不以實聞於上。

[2] A parallel account is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 102-3:

In the eighth month, a produce vendor from the eastern suburbs of the [103] capital suddenly appeared at the Gate of Virtue Proclaimed and threw a fit. He dropped his carrying pole and hacked at the gate with his hands, crying, “Emperors Taizu and Shenzong bade me come here. The Eighth Son’s pride and extravagance are bringing the nation to ruin. There’s still time for him to change his ways, however, if he does so quickly. Otherwise, his regrets will be too late!” The guard arrested him and took him off to the city jail. He came to his senses later that evening. He was interrogated time and time again, yet he had no recollection of what he had said. He was secretly executed in the prison.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), p. 80:

八月,有都城東門外賣菜夫突入宣德門下,忽若迷罔,將菜擔拋棄,向門戟手而言曰:「太祖皇帝、神宗皇帝使我來到。八郎驕奢喪國,尚宜速改也!不爾,悔無及矣!」邏卒捕其人赴開封府獄。一夕,其人方甦,再三詢問,竟不知向所言者。密於獄中殺之。

[3] Another parallel account, dated to the twelfth moon of the first year Chonghe (roughly February-March 1119) is found in Xuanhe yishi. Hennessey, Proclaiming Harmony, p. 40:

In the twelfth month, the emperor installed Wang Fu and other holders of the Secret Seal in the palace. On the day when he went to the Palace of Proclaiming Harmony, the ground there caved in.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi, p. 28:

十二月,御殿度王黼等祕籙。徽宗一日御宣和殿,地陷。

[4] A parallel account is found in Xuanhe yishi. Hennessey, Proclaiming Harmony, p. 103:

On the fifteenth day of the first month in that year, tears appeared on the statue of the first emperor in the Temple of Refulgent Spirits. The temple watchmen said they often heard weeping within the temple. One day, blood began to seep through the bricks in the changing room of Emperor Shenzong. As soon as it was wiped away, more would appear. This went on continuously for several days. Cai Jing and his cronies were so concerned with flattery and sycophancy that when they heard about this strange phenomenon they were too timid to tell the emperor about it, and his arrogant and prodigal behaviour grew worse.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi, pp. 28-29:

宣和元年,正月朔旦,朝見景靈喀,見聖祖神像有淚。守廟官吏聞之廟內常有哭聲。一日,神宗皇帝廟室便殿,有甎出血,隨掃又出,數日方止。是時蔡京等方事諛佞,有此異事,皆 [29] 不敢聞奏於上。而徽宗驕奢之行愈肆矣。

[5] Another parallel is found in Xuanhe yishi. Hennessey, Proclaiming Harmony, p. 103:

At about that time, a pack of foxes from Longevity Mountain settled into the palace and had a drinking party. Soldiers were sent to drive the foxes out, but they temporized and would not go. In the ninth month, foxes from Upright Hill entered the inner palace and sat on the throne. The majordomo of the palace sent the attendant Zhang Shan to drive them out, but he procrastinated and would not go. Huizong knew in his heart this was not a very auspicious sign. But Cai You twisted the argument around and said that it was because the Fox King wanted blood that these things had happened. So an edict was issued ordering the destruction of the Fox King’s temple.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi, pp. 80-81:

是時萬歲山羣狐於宮殿間陳設器皿對飲,遣兵士逐之,徬徨不去。九月,有狐自艮岳山 [81] 直入中禁,據御榻而坐;殿帥遣殿司張山逐之,徘徊不去。徽宗心知其為不祥之徵,而蔡攸曲為邪說,稱艮岳有狐王求血食乃爾。遂下詔毀狐王廟。

 

A Huge Serpent Spits A Pearl 巨蛇吐珠

A country woman surnamed Huang from Qinzhou once found rays of bright light shining out of her grain store at night; people marvelled greatly at it. One day, Huang took out the grain to dry in the sun, and saw among it a great snake coiled up in there, which spat out a round object emitting dazzling rays. When the serpent leapt up and departed, she picked up the object, which turned out to be a pearl. She held it close and returned. That night her room was  filled with light, and the neighbours reported the matter to the local officials. Because the officials pursued the matter rather urgently, the woman became alarmed. She therefore hid the pearl in a steamer basket and it was cooked. Afterwards its bright gleam faded to dullness. A scholar she later encountered said: “This was a snake pearl; had it not been cooked in the steamer its value would have been boundless!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.66 (Tale 114):

巨蛇吐珠

欽州村婦黃氏,禾屋內夜有光芒現,人甚訝之。一日,黃婦取禾曬曝,見禾中有一巨蛇蟠屈於彼,口吐一圓物,光耀奪目。蛇躍而出,婦拾而視之,乃一珠,懷而歸之。是夜滿室光耀,鄰右以其事首官,官司追索稍緊,其婦驚懼,以珠於甑內蒸過,遂晦而不明。後遇識者乃曰:「此蛇珠也,若不蒸過,則價無限矣!」

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).

Skull Spirits 髑髏神怪

During the Jiaxi era (1237-41), the ten-year-old grandson of a villager suddenly vanished without trace, and could not be traced despite prayer, divination and the distribution of notices. During his search it started to rain, and when he sought temporary shelter in a doorway he suddenly heard his grandson call out the names of his ancestors, leaving him shocked and astonished. Being very familiar with his grandson’s voice, he hurried to report the matter to the local officials. When official messengers made a search they indeed found him in a cupboard. By that time he was already emaciated and haggard, having lost the appearance of life, breathing feebly and close to his end, he went to the officials and was still able to relate the whole story of his case. When he was first taken, he was treated with the greatest kindness, each of his meals always filling him right up. Day by day from then on his food was reduced, even his rice dumplings shrinking, and he was eventually left without even a pickle. Each day he was washed only with vinegar, from head to toe, and his joints and blood vessels stopped up with nails. He experienced the greatest cruelty, and at the end of his report, he finally passed away. The kidnappers confessed, and their household, with the exception of the elderly and underage, all received the death sentence.

It is widely said by people in the present generation that those concerned with fortune steal away young boys in this way, waiting for them to die and then taking their bones. Grasping their immortal and mortal souls, it is said that when placed by the ear they gain reports on affairs; these are called ‘Skull Spirits’. When Wu Yuyan was a censor in Jiangdong, he too discovered such a matter, and on investigation heard an account much like this.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.69 (Tale 120):

髑髏神怪

嘉熙年間,村民有孫年十歲,忽失不見,祈卜散榜不獲。尋討偶值雨,暫宿於門首,忽聞孫喚祖之名姓,為之駭然。認其孫之聲甚稔,急告於官,差人搜捕,果得於其家櫃中。時已枯朽,略無人形,奄奄餘息,到官猶能道其事之本末。初被竊,溫存備至,一飯必飽,自是日減一日,繼用糭子亦減,久則咸無焉。每日惟灌法醋自頂至踵,關節脈絡悉被錮釘,備極慘酷,言畢氣絕。盗者伏罪,家無老幼盡獲,置之極刑。今世言人之吉凶者,皆盗人家童男如此法,待其死後收其枯骨,掬其魂魄,謂能於耳邊報事,名「髑髏神」也。吳雨巖憲江東,亦斷一事相類,推勘其由,乃如此云。

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).

A Heart Contains Mountains and Rivers 心有山水

In a wild place outside Shanyang County in Chuzhou there was an ancient tomb, of which family or era it is not clear. Suddenly a Persian person came to pay visit a neighbour to the tomb, and said: “I wish to buy this land.” The neighbour said: [65] “This is the tomb of our ancestors; how could I dare to sell them so lightly?” The Persian said: “Don’t pretend that you know those people; no offerings have been made here for five or six centuries!” The other thought about it again through the night, deciding: it is not my tomb, and if there is to be payment, why cherish something without benefit? The following morning, when the Persian came, he accepted the request, asking for 2,000 strings of cash, and this was duly paid to him. After discussion they decided to excavate, and, finding a woman looking like the earth within a wooden coffin, cut open her belly and took out her heart. Displaying it they said: “Through her whole life this woman never achieved her ambitions, but viewing and appreciating the mountains and rivers, their purity and clarity entered her heart.” Separating it into two slices, they emitted bright lustre like jade. Each piece contained the real hills and real waters which a woman had once admired as she leant on her balustrade. Believing it rare and precious, he then took it back to his home country. It was a truly priceless treasure.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.64-65 (Tale 112):

心有山水

楚州山陽縣荒郊有古墳,不詳姓氏年代。忽有波斯人來謁墳鄰曰:「吾欲買此地。」鄰曰: [65] 「墳乃吾祖,安敢輕售!」波斯曰:「汝毋妄認,廢祀已六百年矣!」其人中夜思之,既非我墳,若有所償,何惜不與!詰旦,波斯人來,從其請,索二千緡,隨即償之。議定即掘,見棺木中一婦人如土,剖腹取心,指示曰: 「此婦平生不得志,觀玩山水,清氣盡入其心。」解開兩片,光瑩如玉,每片皆有真山真水,一婦人倚欄凝望。以為奇寶,遂帶歸本國,真無價珍。

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).