Xingwen Beats A Scholar 興文杖士

When Li, a county governor of Nanchang, moved the Confucius hall to the south of the county, he lifted the statue of the master but was quite unable to move it, and many of his subordinates also tried but had the same problem. There was a scholar who spoke from beside him, saying: “The gentleman should be called Zhongni” (This is another name for Confucius, but seems to be a pun, as a different zhong 重 can mean ‘heavy’, and this ni can mean ‘stop’ or ‘prevent’). Warden Li grew angry, and rebuked him with a stern countenance. When night came, in a dream the scholar was suddenly taken by two yellow-robed people to a place where in a side-room a horizontal board read ‘Xingwen’. After a little while a person sat down there and said: “You claim to be a scholar, reading the books of past sages; how can you make jokes and slight the ancient master?” He ordered the attendants to punish him with twenty strokes of the stave, and ordered that he be removed from the Confucian classicists. When he awoke he was feeble-minded, and could not recognise a single character.

Those among the present generation who treat the sagely words as jokes should indeed treat this as a warning.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.221 (Tale 392):

興文杖士

南昌李知縣遷先聖殿於縣南,舁夫子像而不能動,縱(「縱」原作「從」,據明刻本改。)人多亦如之。有一士在側曰:「夫是謂仲尼。」李宰怒,正色責之。至夜,士人忽夢被二黃衣使攝至一所,有小殿廡,扁額曰「興文」。少頃一人坐中,曰:「汝為士人,讀先聖之書,豈當戲言侮慢先聖!」命左右決杖二十,勒罷為儒。及覺如癡,自後不識一字。今世之人好引聖語之言為戲,亦當以為戒。

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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