The Living Avenge Unjust Death 生報死冤

In Jianyang County there was a woman of the Liu family who because of an illicit relationship with a passing traveller, one Yu Er. Yu therefore, when she later buried her husband, exhausted all his property, giving it to the woman for her expenses. When she took up with someone else, Yu felt deeply hurt and whipped the woman, after which she hung herself. Her son covered up the matter and buried her. The woman was then reincarnated in the family of Wang Qianliu in Jiankang, remaining as his daughter. Her birth took place on the same year, month and day as the woman’s suicide.

Yu returned to seeking books and literature, and travelled to Jiankang, happening to visit Wang Qianliu’s house. Wang and Yu were aware that the girl’s birth tallied with the death of the adultress, so raised her as an adopted child. On reaching thirteen or fourteen, the girl formed an illicit attachment with the youthful son of a neighbour, but Yu prohibited this and declared it unacceptable. One day, Yu Zhai, who was serving as Grand Military Commissioner, was travelling by sedan chair and followed Yu to the second entrance, when he came across the girl weeping and crying in an upper storey, saying that her father and Yu had forced her into adultery. Yu was terrified at being questioned by the military commission about these strange events, and, falling into a panic, hung himself and died. The next year, the girl married the neighbour’s young son.

The adulterer died in Min (Fujian), but the retribution of this matter took place several thousand li away. It can clearly be seen that injustice inevitably faces retribution, like an echo following a sound. Matters of uneasy conscience can never be endured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126 (Tale 220):

生報死冤

In 建陽縣有劉家一婦,因與衢客余二者私通,余因此婦喪夫,遂罄其財本,以給此婦用度。此婦復通他人,余痛箠之,婦自縊而死。其子匿其事葬之。此婦乃託生於建康王千六家,仍為女子。所生之日,乃此婦之自縊年月日時也。余復營求文籍,往建康販賣,遇於王千六家。王與余心知女生年與姦婦死日符合,遂就王螟蛉為女看養。年及十三四歲,此女遂私與鄰之少年子通,余禁之不可。一日,裕齋為制置使,行轎從余二門首,遇此女在樓上狂叫,謂其父余二強逼之姦私。余恐制司怪問,被此一嚇,自經而死。後年,其女嫁鄰之少年子為妻。姦婦死於閩,乃責報於數千里外,信知冤必有報,如響隨聲,虧心之事,斷斷乎不可為已。

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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Reincarnating to Avenge Injustice 託生報冤

In Chuzhou there were three brothers surnamed You, the eldest called Zhidao, the second Shidao and the youngest Wendao. Zhidao and his brothers were classicists by profession, but Wendao suffered from a manic illness, and at bad times became crazed and violent, impossible to restrain. Their mother, née Weng, adored her youngest son, and so locked him in a hidden room, opening the window a small chink to pass him food; this continued up to the gengwu year of the Xianchun era (1270), when he was 22 sui in age. On the eighteenth day of the sixth month (7 July 1270), Wendao’s birthday, his two elder brothers left the county. His mother, pitying him, said that although he was usually locked away, that day being his birthday, she would therefore release him. Wendao, having achieved his release, went straight to the chamber of his elder brother Zhidao and forced himself on his brother’s favoured maidservant, wielding a knife. His mother hurried to save [125] her, but was then killed by Wendao, who tore her remains into three parts and then went out before the gate, shouting: “I have slaughtered a sow today.” He was lured out by their neighbours, tied up and delivered to the authorities. The officials, horrified by this offence against custom and morality, sent him to a dungeon and imposed the death penalty. Among the neighbours was one Hua Jian, who by plotting to deceive Zhidao and his brother, gained their silverware and 20,000 strings of guanhui notes. Afterwards, this Hua Jian fell ill for over a month and, spending the days confined to his bed and suffering increasingly serious debilitation, ordered the officials to send him a chaste virgin for his treatment. The lady Weng entered her body to take her revenge, and said: “Three lives ago I was a general in the Wuwei army and Wendao was my subordinate. Killed unjustly he therefore reincarnated in my family, to repay a debt of injustice from three lives before. How could you take my family silver through deceit? I have seen it hidden in the tree; you should return it all to my sons, and then you will be forgiven and spared death.” Hua Jian was completely convinced and, calling out for Zhidao and his brother, returned their property. He then made a complete recovery.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.125-25 (Tale 218):

託生報冤

處州有游其姓者,兄弟三人,長曰志道,次曰適道,季曰聞道。志道兄弟業儒,惟聞道自生來有心瘋疾,非時顛狂,不能制。其母翁氏酷愛季子,乃扃鑰於密室,開窗隙以給食,至咸淳庚午,年已二十有二歲矣。六月十八日乃聞道生日,二兄出縣,其母憐之,謂尋常拘繫,今日乃其生辰,姑縱之出外。聞道既得出,直造乃兄志道寢室,驅迫兄之寵婢,取刃在手。其母急往救 [125] 之,遂為聞道所殺,折其屍為三,往門前疾呼:「我今日屠一母豬矣。」遂為居鄰以計誘之,縛送於官。官以大傷風教為恐,押赴土牢,處以極刑。鄰有譁健,因謀騙志道兄弟,得其銀器及官會二萬緡。後譁健者被病月餘,日伏枕沉重,因命法官附童體救治。翁氏入體報應,且言:「我三生前在無為軍為將,聞道為我部下卒,不合誤殺,故託生我家,以報復三生冤債。你何得騙去我家銀?見藏在樹內,可悉以還吾兒,免汝殘喘也。」譁健者大服,呼志道兄弟還之,其病即愈。

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).

Slaughtered Eels Take a Life 殺鱔取命

The Buddhist priest Zhang Daolong of the Guangxiao Temple had been addicted to eating eel since birth, claiming that the warm flesh could provide additional warmth, and the bones and blood be fed to hens. This continued for several years. One day, he bought a tub of eels, planning to kill them the following morning. That night he dreamt that there were several hundred eels in the tub and among them two grew to be very large, suddenly taking on human form, standing up before him and saying: “Our people have long filled your belly; now we demand your life.” Zhang hacked off their heads with a blade and awoke with a start, his whole body bathed in cold sweat, and spent the whole day in a miserable daze, entirely unaware of his disciples’ words. Two months later, hearing a rumour that the cavalry of the Pacification and Control Commissioner Zhao were approaching, the monks fled together, Zhang hanging back alone to cook and eat his eels before following. His soup was only just ready when the horsemen arrived, and Zhang was taken prisoner. Tortured, beaten and facing demands for silver and gold, he had nothing to give, so the cavalry force-fed him the boiling soup, killing him.

The priests of the He Temple use this to warn people not to eat eels. These eels may be very small things that look like worms, but at midnight they can raise their heads and face the north. Because the people of the world desire a tasty mouthful and a full stomach, these will be slaughtered in restaurants on any given day, the numbers of lives harmed reaching untold tens of thousands. The deliciousness and flavour in this world is boundless, what bitterness in their consumption! If we can be aware of this warning, and better still encourage its spread, then the lives of many things will be preserved and our own lifespan extended too; this is truly a greatly laudable act, and should be taken seriously and never forgotten.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.99 (Tale 170):

殺鱔取命

光孝宮道人章道隆,生平嗜食鱔魚,謂肉暖可以資補,骨血可以餧雞。如是數載。一日,買鱔一盆,方欲次早殺之。夜夢盆中鱔魚數百條,中有兩條至大,忽化人形,立於其前,曰:「我輩久飽爾腹,今就爾索命。」章用刀砍其頭而驚覺,遍身冷汗,終日恍惚以不樂,以言其徒弟,俱不之悟。越二日,傳聞趙招討軍馬到來,道衆皆避,獨章欲俟煮鱔喫,後走。煮湯方沸而軍馬亦到,章為所獲。拷掠需索金銀,無可應付,為軍人以煮鱔湯灌口而死。自是合宮道士戒不食鱔。夫鱔至微之物,其形如蟲,夜半尚能矯首朝北。世人慾一甘口飽腹,與夫食肆一日所殺,不知所害幾萬命矣。世間珍味無限,何苦而食之!若能知戒,更加廣勸,則物得活命,而我壽亦延,實一大美事,宜信之毋忘。

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).

Beat A Dog, Receive Punishment 擊犬受報

Long ago there was a temple monk who kept a dog and loved it. One day he went away some distance, and a passing traveller beat the dog to death and buried it in the rear garden. When the monk returned, he searched and searched but couldn’t find it, but the traveller reported its death. When the monk went to look for it in the burial place, it turned out that the dog had already turned into a huge serpent, its eyes alone not yet having transformed. The abbot hastily ruled that the traveller should chant sutras to redress the injustice. Suddenly, however, the same abbot had an enlightening dream and understood how to repay the crime. They then placed the traveller under a heavy cover. The serpent gradually approached, raising its head before the monk, and then went to seek the traveller. It coiled closely around him for three days and then departed, and when they lifted the cover and looked, the traveller was dead. All that remained were old dry bones.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.123 (Tale 216):

擊犬受報

昔有寺僧,蓄一犬,愛之。一日遠出,行者擊殺此犬,埋於後園。僧歸,尋不見,行〔者〕(據上下文補,下同。)以死告。僧於所埋處尋看,則犬已化為巨蛇矣,眼猶未開。主僧急令行者誦經釋冤。忽主僧感夢,知有冤報,遂用鍾蓋此行〔者〕於中。其蛇冉冉而來,昂頭於僧之前,遍尋此行〔者〕,繞鍾三日而去。及揭視,行者已死,惟存枯骨而已。

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).

Aggrieved Spirits Become Visible 冤鬼現形

In the guiyou year of the Song Chunyou era (1253), in Duanyang there was a person surnamed Chen, who plotted to kill a seller of medicinal herbs, and to carry away a boatload of medicine. He plotted this together with the merchant’s servant. On returning he went himself to open up a druggist’s shop, and when the time came to make sales, he unwrapped the bundled medicines, but inside he saw the head of the murdered tradesman. Unwrapping every bundle they were all the same. He became completely terrified, leaped up once, and died.

Moreover, in a bingyin year, in Yuanzhou there was a monk whose surname had formerly been Wang, who followed the official Liu Cui in Changwu, seizing the abbot of a Chan monastery. Before this, the monks of that monastery had all exhausted their funds and borrowed money so they claimed it; the abbot had not been there long, and was frightened that he might seize the monastery. The monk thought that the repayments already made had been heavy enough, and refused to pay more, offering only 300,000 as payment. Monk Wang wished to seize it all with main strength, and although it was strongly fortified and resisted, the abbot cut his own throat in angry despair. Monk Wang took all the monastery’s treasure and returned, but whenever crossing a watery place, he always saw the dead abbot following behind him. On reaching his home compound, whenever he glanced in a mirror, he would always see the dead monk behind his left or right shoulder, and due to this never dared to use a mirror. After the extensive burning of incense and spirit money, he found peace for a time. After [122] several years had passed, the monk Wang suddenly developed a sore on his left cheek, its pus and blood never drying, and eventually he died.

It is thus clear that the burden of taking human life cannot be borne, and that rancour endures in the darkest places.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.121-22 (Tale 211):

冤鬼現形

宋淳祐癸丑年間,端陽有陳其姓者,謀殺一販生藥商人,席卷一船生藥。蓋與商僕共圖之。歸則自以開張藥局,遇發賣之時,解開藥裹,則見被殺商人之頭在內,裹裹皆有。其人驚駭,一躍而亡。

又丙寅年間,袁州有僧俗姓王者,隨劉倅官於常武,於倅奪一禪寺住持。先是,此寺之僧皆竭資舉債而圖之,住持未久,而遽遭其奪寺。僧思前費已重,後顧無償,只得又經營三百千貼之。王僧志在強奪,堅然不允,而寺僧憤鬱自刎。王僧席卷寺財而歸,沿途凡渡水處,即見死僧隨後。到鄉所歸院,每覽鏡,又嘗見死僧在肩之左右,於是不敢用鏡,廣燒香紙,以期平善。越 [122] 數年,王僧忽左腮患瘡如碗,膿血不幹,竟斃。信知人命不可負,其冤對在冥冥間也。

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).

Mercy to Sparrows is Repaid 慈仁雀報

[121] County Constable He of Jingxing was by nature kind and merciful. Whenever he went out, if he saw someone catching sparrows, he would destroy their equipment and chase the people away. When he saw sparrows alive he would always buy and release them; seeing dead ones, he would warn those responsible to change their trade. He carried on like this for three years. When the time for his transfer drew near, the local populace suffered robbery and murder at the hands of bandits, and his superior urged urgent action, but he was unable to catch them. Then a flock of several hundred sparrows flew up to meet around his horse’s head; He marveled at this. The sparrow flock then flew towards and over a straw hut several hundred paces from the road. He sent troops to search the building, and it turned out that there were seven people lying quite unaware in a drunken stupor, each with booty and weapons by their side. Capturing them, they were indeed the thieves, and were turned over to the authorities. Constable He successfully fulfilled his task, and ultimately took up orders as a thief-taker. In ancient times there was faith in such payment of moral debts.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.120-21 (Tale 210):

慈仁雀報

[121] 井陘何縣尉,天資仁慈。每出,見捕雀者,必毀其具、逐其人。見活雀,必買而放之;見死者,必戒使易業。如是者三年。代期將近,鄉民有被盗劫殺者,上司督促急迫,不能捕獲。卻有羣雀數百飛迎馬首,何深異之。既而羣雀飛往路旁百步外草舍上,何遣卒搜屋下,果有七人醉卧未醒,及有贓仗在傍,禽之,乃真盗也,遂解於官。何尉美解,竟授捕盗賞秩。古有銜環之報,信矣。

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).

Fostered Swallows Show Gratitude 飼燕知恩

During the Yuanyou era (1086-1094), a daughter of the Wang family, named Yasan, lived in Qingxi, in Yanzhou. She saw a mother swallow, whose three chicks were not yet able to leave the nest, being eaten by a cat, and daily took food to feed them, until they grew up and flew away. That winter, Yasan fell ill and died. The next spring, the three swallows returned, flying around and around her room without stopping. Her mother said: “You are flying in search of Yasan, aren’t you? Yasan is dead; she is buried in the back garden. Follow me if you want to find her.” Her mother walked, the swallows flying behind her, until they reached the garden, where she pointed to the tomb. The three swallows flew to the grave, crying out, and then, using their beaks, all dug themselves into the earth and died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.120 (Tale 209):

飼燕知恩

元祐間,嚴州青溪王氏女,名亞三。見燕母為貓所食,有未出巢燕子三,每日將飯飼之,後長大飛去。其冬,亞三病死。次春,三燕復來,飛繞其屋不已。母曰:「你飛尋亞三否?亞三已死,葬在後園中,欲尋則隨我去。」母行,燕飛隨後,至園,母指墓,三小燕飛鳴於墓,以嘴鑽入墓土中皆死。

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).