A Warning Against Selling Ancestral Graves 戒賣祖墳

From the dingchou year of the Zhiyuan era (1278), for more than ten years, rich families found themselves impoverished, with almost nothing left, their ancestral tombs overgrown and dirty, unreachable for ancestral offerings; they could not bear to admit this even to themselves. Who would have thought that such a disaster could have been seen [105] outside the Sitingji? In the vicinity there was a scholar who, seeing a prominent family sell their ancestral graveyard, could not bear his indignation, and at night inscribed a poem on their wall. The next day, when the wall was seen, both buyer and seller were full of shame, and retreated to the central chamber to discuss the matter. I read the poem. Its language was direct and ardent, with benefit to customs and morality, so I set it down here, to serve as a warning to public ways. The poem reads:

A family selects by wind and water

For descendants in countless generations

Who could know that latecomers

Would sell off their ancestors’ land?

Bargaining over digging in the dead of night

Celebrating the drunken signing of contracts

The seller is certainly inhuman

The buyer is also an evil type

If the land is well-chosen

The house will stand in wealth and honour

Those who come to sell

Their land will bring no good

Those future descendants emerging

They break from the pattern of precedent

Pretending that new families have strength

How can the creator have such selfish intent?

Those with coffins are laid bare

Those without abandoned bones

When new generations slide to poverty

When may they ever find burial?

Can you know those ‘below the springs’ (i.e., in the nether world)

Make no plaint for justice to the throne?

Say not that heaven is vast and obscure,

But stand before it in fear of calamity.

Ah! Those with human hearts, they should look at this and change their plans.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104-5 (Tale 181):

戒賣祖墳

至元丁丑以來,十數年間,富家零落殆盡,祖墳蕪穢,弔祭不至,自不忍言。誰謂其禍又有 [105] 出於《思亭記》之外者!近有一士人,見一名家出賣祖墳,不勝其憤,夜題詩於牆壁。次日,觀望如堵,買者、賣者皆有愧色,議中寢。吾讀其詩,語直而切,以其有益於風教,故錄於此,庶可為世俗之戒也。詩曰:「人家擇風水,子孫百世計。誰知後來者,反賣祖宗地。商量寅夜掘,醉後樂書契。賣者固非人,買者亦惡類。其地若果佳,其家長富貴。其人賣至此,其地必不利。他時出子孫,斷是傚此例。借曰異姓強,造物豈私意?棺存且暴露,無者骸骨棄。後代轉日貧,何時可薶瘞。安知泉下人,含冤不訴帝?勿謂天茫茫,禍患恐立至。」吁!有人心者,宜於此焉變計矣。

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).

Taking Pills, Getting Ulcers 服丹發疽

The household of Instructor Ding Guang of Baozhou included many attendants and concubines, and he was deeply committed to wine and sexual pleasure. At that time there was a Daoist passing through the prefecture, who claimed to be a hundred years old and able to smelt great pills, the taking of which enabled the fulfilment of all sensual desires while retaining good health without danger of illness, and allowing later transcendent elevation to the heavens. The prefectural head provided him with accommodation, and presented his compliments. On a selected day, the pill baking began, smelting following his specific method, and after forty-nine days it was finished, its spirit-gleam illuminating the heavens. They arranged a banquet with music to celebrate together, planning to take the pills afterwards. When Guang heard of this, he wrote a letter to be presented, begging to be allowed a measure for his own recuperation. The Daoist was unwilling, due to his common bones, but the prefectural head begged that his request be fulfilled, so he received a half portion, and Guang took it with delight. Several days later, the prefectural commander and magistrate developed ulcers on their backs. The Daoist fled by night, and the prefectural head reported death after death. Guang himself developed boils on his waist, and became terrified, drinking yellow earth water to relieve it, and eventually recovered. The following year, he again developed a hot rash, and therefore soaked himself in a bath; when water entered the sores, he could no longer rise. Cinnabar poisoning is sometimes like this, so we record it here, as a warning to the public.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104 (Tale 180):

服丹發疽

保州教授丁廣,家多侍妾,以酒色沉縱。會有道人過郡,自言數百歲,能煉大丹,服之可以飽嗜欲,而康健無疾,然後飛昇度世。守貳館之,以先生之禮事之。選日創丹竈,依其法煉之,四十九日而成,神光燭天。置酒大合樂相慶,然後嘗之。廣聞之,裁書以獻,乞取刀圭,以養病者。道人以其骨凡不肯與,守貳憐之為請,僅得半粒,廣欣然服之。不數日,郡將、通判皆疽發於背。道人宵遁,守貳相繼告殂。廣腰間生一癤,甚皇恐,飲地漿解之,得愈。明年,復作熱躁,因澡身,水入瘡囗,不能起。金石之毒,有如此者,故書於此,以為世戒也。

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).

Taking A Pill And Catching Fire 服丹自焚

Zhu, known as Dingguan, served as Palace Superintendent at the end of the Zhenghe era (1111-18). He was twenty-eight at the time, and entertained himself with food and wine. One day, received a sudden summons to the inner palace, and the emperor (Huizong, 1100-25) addressed him: “We have recently gained an extraordinary person, able to produce cinnabar pills, which if taken increase longevity. We have observed the long smelting process, and a year having passed they are finished, coloured like the finest gold; my minister will try them.” Dingguan leapt for joy as he humbly accepted [104] the decree, then took the medicine. Immediately after swallowing, he felt a great agitation within his chest. Soon after, smoke began to pour from his mouth. Urgently carried out, he was already beyond help. After he had been laid out, a knocking sound was heard from the coffin, and nobody could work out what caused it. Before long, flames emerged from within, and within the blink of an eye it was completely ablaze, and the chamber was gutted. The Kaifeng authorities rushed to the scene, but the fire spread to burn more than a hundred households, leaving only skeletons among the ashes. This is truly something to marvel at.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103-4 (Tale 179):

服丹自焚

主稱定觀者,政和末為殿中監,時年二十八,酒食自娛。一日,忽宣召入禁中,上云:「朕近得一異人,能製丹砂,服之可以長生。久視煉冶,經歲而成,色如紫金,卿為試之。」定觀欣躍拜 [104] 命,即取服之。才下咽,覺胸中煩躁之甚。俄頃,煙從〔口〕(據元刻本補。)中出。急扶歸,已不救。既殮之後,但聞棺中剝啄之聲,莫測所以。已而,火出其內,頃刻之間,遂成烈焰,室廬盡焚。開封府急救之,延燒數百餘家,但得枯骨於餘燼,深可怪也。

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).

Sprinkling Wine 潑散酒漿

Long ago an official was travelling through the mountains and, on reaching an isolated place, saw a wine shop, and went to buy some wine. A woman took his payment, and disappeared inside for a long time, before finally emerging carrying the wine. The colour of that liquor was as red as blood, and the taste was quite exquisite. When he wanted to buy some more to drink, the woman wept and told him: “Do not buy this. When your servant was alive I loved to sprinkle wine, and now suffer retribution. Whenever anyone comes to buy wine, I must supply them by squeezing it out of my own body.” At this the official glanced about fearfully and left in haste. After travelling for several li, he questioned someone on the road, whose reply: “There is no wine shop there”, left him even more terrified. This was a manifestation of the nether world authorities, to warn the public.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103 (Tale 178):

潑散酒漿

昔有一官員,山行至孤絕處,見一酒店,因往買酒。一婦人先收酒錢,入內良久,方提酒出。其酒色紅如血,飲之甚美。欲再買飲,婦人泣告曰:「莫買也。妾在生時好潑散酒漿,故今受報,每有人買酒,即於妾身上榨出供之。」其官矍然趨出。行數里,問路人,人曰「此無酒店」,愈大怖。蓋陰司顯化以警世。

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).

Mr Yao’s Insect Venom 桃生蠱毒

A Mr Yao of Guangnan murdered people, inviting victims to eat meat and fish, and then subduing them with a form of sorcery; the meat and fish returned to life in their bellies, causing the death of the person concerned. It was rumoured that those killed were secretly put to work in his household. When a famous scholar was appointed prefectural judge for Leizhou, he investigated the matter in person, setting up a plate of flesh from a dead convict in order to test the magical technique. After a while of observation, [88] the flesh indeed grew hair; what kind of an excessive devil could do such a thing? Nonetheless, curing it is also very easy; when it is felt that the thing is in the chest, then quickly take bugbane in order to spit it out; if felt in the belly, quickly take aromatic turmeric to expel it from below. This method was printed up and distributed in Leizhou, and (the criminal) placed in prison.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.87-88 (Tale 151):

廣南桃生殺人,以魚肉延客,對之行厭勝法,魚肉能反生於人腹中,而人以死。相傳人死,陰役於其家中。有一名士嘗為雷州推官,親勘此事,置肉盤,以死囚作法,以驗其術。有頃發 [88] 視,肉果生毛,何物淫鬼乃能爾也!然解之亦甚易,但覺有物在胸臆間,則急服升麻以吐之,覺在腹中,急服鬱金以下之。此方雷州印施,蓋得之於囚也。

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).

Human-Flesh Wontons 人肉餛飩

In the gengyin year of the Shaoding era (1230), the grain in the areas belonging to Ruizhou in Jiangxi ripened empty, and there was hunger and famine among the populace. Troublemakers in the affected region slaughtered cattle for market, but recklessly sold human flesh mixed and stuffed into it. The starved populace gathered ‘like spokes at a hub’, and it sold out with great speed; of what was left behind the beef was the majority. Therefore the people all looked to find the truth; they were arrested and taken to the government office, where they confessed one by one. When the officials thought about [73] the hubbub and chaos they made, they secretly decided they didn’t dare to impose the mandatory death penalty. On the basis of their confession, and as a person’s body does not contain much meat – there is only a little more than one-and-a-half strings of coins in weight that can be sliced off the buttocks and legs. Taking so many bodies, how can this be borne?

In the Jiading era (1208-24), the gengzi year,[1] Lin’an suffered a great drought, and the harvest failed. By the Liushui Bridge outside the city walls there were similarly deceitful types who killed people and picked off their flesh to make wonton, baozi dumplings and the like. In the spring of the xinchou year (either 1181 or 1241), this became especially serious; among the meat was skin tattooed with a recognisable pattern, although nobody dared to say so. All who bought meat had first to ask, “Is this polished-rice-pork? Or is it rice-husk-pork?” ‘Polished-rice-pork’ was human flesh; ‘rice-husk-pork’ was true pork. This matter later became the beginning of the Liu (i.e., Song) decline.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 127):

人肉餛飩

紹定庚寅,江西瑞州管下禾稼秀而不實,民間飢荒。屬地頑民屠牛為市,浪賣人肉雜而為餡,飢民輻輳,發賣盛行,而牛肉多有存者。以故人皆物色得實,緝捕到官,一一招伏。官司慮 [73] 此聲旁達,暗行予決,不敢明正典刑。據其供吐,人之一身苦無多肉,僅有臀腿亂削之餘有淨肉一緡半重。所得寧幾,何忍哉!

嘉定庚子,臨安大旱,歲飢。城外溜水橋亦騙死人剔其肉為餛飩包子之屬。辛丑春尤甚,其中間有花繡之皮,稍可辨認,人無敢言。凡買肉者必先問:「買米猪?買糠猪?」米猪則人肉也,糠猪則真猪也,後因劉自事始敗。

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] This is an impossible date: the 37th cyclical year should be either 1240 or 1180; neither fit the regnal era specified.

Deceit and Cheating Reap Retribution 欺誑獲報

In the government offices of Taiqing in Bozhou there was a Daoist, whose bearing and appearance was greatly lauded. He always carried a small oven, cooking up pills below the hall of Laozi to sell. When a multitude had gathered, he would always point to the image of Laozi and boast: “I am now his master.” The gathering were somewhat dazzled by him, and all without exception wanted more of his medicines. One day he had just pointed to the image when flames suddenly emerged from the oven, flying into his body. Before long the fire had caught him up completely, and the five bodily components were all burnt. The crowd soaked him with water, but the more they poured the more he burned; he leapt up with a cry, unable to bear his suffering. After a long time, he lay prostrate before the Laozi image, as if awaiting his punishment; when he was spotted he was already dead.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.95 (Tale 162):

欺誑獲報

亳州太清官有一道人,氣貌甚揚,每攜一小鑪、於老君殿下煆藥而賣。衆方集,必指老君像大言曰:「我乃彼之師也。」衆頗惑之,莫不皆欲多得其藥。一日方指像大言,忽火自鑪出,飛入其身,須臾焰發,五體俱燒。衆皆以水沃之,愈沃愈熾,號呼跳躍,不勝其苦。良久,面老君像俯伏如待罪狀,視之則已死矣。

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.