A Demon Wizard Takes Heads 妖巫斷首

When Yuan Wenyu of Taihe was transferred to take charge of the Hunan Censorate, he first waited in his home to take up the post. A scholar came to visit him with a request, and informed him: “The Censorate has a doubtful case that has gone three years without judgement, [87] and hearing that the gentleman will soon attend the censorial offices, I reverently offer humble loyalty. In Heng there is a diabolical wizard surnamed Li, who is able to decapitate people by magic. In the village there was a daughter of the Liu family who was married into the Zhangs. On the day of her marriage they encountered the demon magician and the woman ended up losing her head without the Liu family realizing. When they reached the Zhangs, her close relatives and clan gathered to lift the bride from her carriage, but they suddenly found a headless girl. They bound and dragged the matchmaker and footmen and asked to make reports to the government office. The Lius sued the Zhangs saying that the Zhangs had killed their daughter. The Zhangs sued stating that the Lius had attempted to deceive them by means of a headless woman. Those imprisoned were numerous, and those who had since died in prison numbered more than ten; neither prefecture nor province have been able to make sense of this. If the gentleman can redress this injustice, it would indeed be an act of hidden virtue.” Yuan was very pleased to hear this. When his appointment began, this case indeed still required resolution, so he secretly briefed the judicial commissioner Liu Xiren, and Xiren entrusted it to the county constable Wang Jun. The constable declared himself on sick leave, not emerging for over a month, but took his servant along to the place to make a divination. The constable was proficient in Five Element theory, and had a divine view over fortune and misfortune. The villagers all respected him, and spoke to him: “In this village is Wizard Li, who has great skill in magic; how could anyone be more expert than him?” The constable was pleased and deputed his people to make overtures to Li. Li was very pleased, and he promised him rich reward if he restrained himself. First he tested Li on his servant; Li said: “Turn your head once.” Suddenly his servant was decapitated. The constable was terrified, but Li said: “Don’t be scared, just drink.” He then spoke to the constable: “Look again,” and the servant was restored to wholeness. This continued for three days, after which the decapitated person could no longer be fixed. The constable eventually left, with an agreement to bring paper money and having exhausted the sorcerer’s magic. When the time came he returned with the troops under his command. The constable visited his house first, and got him roaring drunk. At midnight he ordered a group of his subordinates to surround the room and bind him, and then they searched and confiscated the property. There turned out to be 150 baskets of skulls, together with those of his wife and child, which were turned over to the government, and later released. The Censorate took the sorcerer and his household and executed them in the marketplace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.86-87 (Tale 150):

妖巫斷首

太和袁文焴,調湖南憲幹,待次於家。有謁士來訪,告之曰:「憲司有一疑獄不能決者三年, [87] 聞君將赴憲幕,願獻小忠。衡有妖巫李生,能以術斷人之頭。里有劉氏嫁女於張,去之日,中途而遇妖巫,女竟失首,劉氏不知也。至張,親戚族黨及環聚扶新人下車,忽見無首之女子,大駭,紐拽媒妁僕從,求白於官。劉訴張則云:張殺其女。張訴則云:劉以無首之人欺騙。繫獄者數人,前後囚死者十餘人,州郡皆不得其情。君能平反,亦是陰德。」袁聞之喜。及任,果有是獄未斷,乃以是言密告之提刑劉希仁,希仁委之縣尉王君。尉告病假,月餘不出,攜僕至其地算卜。尉精於五行,禍福如神,里人皆敬之,與之言曰:「吾里李巫,有術甚奇,何若更學之為佳!」尉欣然託其人求之於李,許以厚資,李喜,與之斂。先以其僕試之,李曰:「請回頭一覷。」則其僕無首矣。尉恐,李曰:「無恐,且飲。」又與尉言:「更一覷。」則其僕復存。蓋其法過三日,斷者不可復全矣。尉遲去,約以某日攜錢楮來盡其術。及期領卒同行,尉先過其家,飲酒極歡。中夜令羣卒圍屋就縛,搜籍其家,有髑髏百五十箇,並其妻子,悉以付官,獄遂解。憲司將妖巫一家棄刑於市。

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).

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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