Conjuring For Theft 幻術為盗

The villagers of Qiongzhou went daily to the labour exchange on the Xiaodongguo Bridge in Chengdu District, where anyone with money could hire bearers to carry their loads. It happened that the imperial scholar Yang Shanfu came there and hired ten people, offering each two hundred cash per day. Returning with them to his home, as the sky turned to dusk, he lit lamps and candles and provided wine and food. When they had finished eating, each was ordered to take up two cloth sacks and a shoulder pole, and follow in silence; four or five of his trusted subordinates went along with them. After going more than ten li (about 3km), they saw a large house, its walls over a zhang (c. 3m) tall, and a pack of dogs began to bark. Before long, the hounds fell silent. Yang attached a rope ladder to the top of the wall,  and climbed up first, and the multitude followed behind him, stealthily and without a sound. Entering the kitchen, they found tables and boards full of pork, mutton, goose and duck; the household was on the eve of a wedding, and a dozen of the men ate without restraint, but still none was any the wiser. Yang entered a chamber, arranging and folding more than ten loads of items and clothing in gold and silver, and ordered the group to bear them away. Yang, along with those he trusted, went behind the newcomers, following them over the rope ladder and returning. The hired hands each sneaked out some kind of garment; when they reached Yang’s place, he was delighted with them, again providing alcoholic drink, and they settled to sleep, sated and drunk, before his bedchamber. Waking sober the next morning, they found themselves among weeds and ruins, with no human household in sight, the robes having also vanished, leaving them only their agreed two hundred cash. The labourers had no idea what kind of magic had taken place. The servant of Gao Youer was among them, and said it was like a dream.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.88 (Tale 152):

幻術為盗

邛州村民日趨成都府小東郭橋上賣工,凡有錢者皆可僱其充使令擔負也。忽有楊秀才善夫來僱十人,議工錢每人二百。與之同歸,天色暮,點燈燭,具酒飯,食罷,各人領布袋二、匾擔一,令其閉口隨〔行〕,(據元刻本補。)亦自有心腹四五人同路。行十餘里,見大屋一所,牆高一丈餘,羣犬狺吠。頃之,犬亦無聲,楊以軟梯搭牆頭先上,衆躡步相隨,寂無一語。入廚內,豬羊鵝鴨之物充滿臺案,蓋其家先一夕成姻也,十餘人恣意而食,並無知者。楊入房內,治疊金銀衣物作十擎,令衆擔出。楊在後同親信者並負新人行,仍從軟梯上回。僱夫亦各竊取衣著之類,到善夫家,喜甚,復得酒物,醉飽羣宿於門前睡房。天明眼醒,見荒草墟中皆無人家所居,衣有盡失之,只(「只」原作「己」,據元本改。)有僱錢二百而已,工不知其何術也。高有二僕在內,言之如夢焉。

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).

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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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