Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)



昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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)

[1] On this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

Lightning Strikes The Unfilial 雷擊不孝

In Wugongkou, in Wen, there were two criminal youths intending to make trouble. As each still had a mother, they plotted together that each would kill the other’s parent, and they could then stage an uprising. The chief plotter [20] was one Chen Wusi, who was then apprenticed in a restaurant as a cook, but not yet being allowed to prepare food, was stationed at the rear of the kitchen. A shepherd boy, called Wang Zheng, suddenly saw a person, a full zhang (3.3m) in height, enter the gate bearing a brocade-wrapped document. Everything went hazy for a while. It then came back out grasping the youth. There was the sound of a thunderclap. Wusi’s kerchief was pierced through, a hole visible deep into the crown of his head. He leaned against the wall and died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.19-20 (Tale 34):


溫之吳公口有二惡少,謀欲生事,尚各有母,欲假手於同謀者互殺其母,而後舉事。其主謀 [20] 者陳五四者,正在練店內烹飪,尚未得食,立於竈後。有牧童王正,忽見有丈身之人攜錦皮簿書入門,恍惚間,先攜小童出門外,霹靂一聲,五四頭巾穿破,頭頂上一竅穿透,靠壁而死。

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)

Heaven Bears A Daughter 天生女子

The Shengwu Emperor of the Later Wei bore the family name Tuoba and the first name Jiefen. Once, when he was hunting in the mountains and marshes he saw a beautiful woman riding in a curtained carriage and descending from the heavens. On her arrival, she emerged and said: “I am a daughter of the heavens, and have been ordered to come and marry Your Lordship.” The following morning she addressed the emperor: “Having combined with Your Lordship I am now with child; after a year has passed I will return here.” Having spoken, she departed. The following year, the emperor went there on time, and the daughter of heaven arrived as promised, handing over the child she had borne to the emperor, saying: “This is Your Lordship’s child, and will produce a line of emperors and princes.” After speaking she departed. The emperor named his son Li Wei, and he became the Shenyuan Emperor, the first imperial ancestor of the Wei. People of the time said: “Emperor Jifen lacked wife and family, Emperor Liwei lacked maternal uncles.” This is truly a marvel!”

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.3 (Tale 3):



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).

A Fake Woman Takes Wealth 假女取財

In the Baoqing era, the jiwei year (1259?),[1] Zhao Zhigan employed a female cook, and by this woman had a son, Wang Qianyi. Throughout his youth, the father dressed this son in the clothing of a daughter, piercing his earlobes and binding his feet; made up just like a woman, he studied female work in serving food and drink. Bribing an intermediary with gifts, they deceived a wealthy family and had him accepted as a kitchen maid. The rich household’s favoured concubine never [doubted] him and, having no idea that this was a boy, shared a bed with him, acting most lasciviously. When the matter became known, she was blamed and returned to her parents.

Later, he transferred to the employment of the East Gate Zhao family; Zhao noticed that [he] was somewhat attractive, and also repeatedly [50] wanted to violate him; the kitchen maid pleaded many times and did not consent. One day, when [Zhao] was drinking together with colleagues, one among their number said: “I heard recently that a boy has been got up as a kitchen maid, fooling rich households many times and defrauding them of their wealth; now I hear he has been hired again by a fellow official as a kitchen maid, and that none are aware of it.” When they stopped drinking, Zhao returned to his hall and called the kitchen maid out. Making an exploratory grope, his true form could not be hidden. Dismissed for the crime, he was sentenced to beheading and exposure in the marketplace; his parents and the intermediary were all banished and their property confiscated.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.149-50 (Tale 89):


寶慶己未,趙制幹雇一廚娘,乃男子王千一也。蓋幼時父將男子形軀假妝女子,與之穿耳纏足,搽畫一如女子,習學女工飲食。買賂牙保,脫騙富戶,充為廚娘。富家寵妾莫[疑衍。]不知是男子,與之共寢,俱為所淫。事彰,責還父母。後轉雇與東門趙家,趙見稍有姿色,亦屢 [50] 欲犯之,而廚娘累託不從。又一日,同僚會飲,坐間有云:「聞近日有一男子粧假廚娘,累次脫騙富家財物,今聞又僱在同幕為廚娘,莫得而知之。」飲罷,趙回廳喚出廚娘,試一捫摸,形不能掩。解之制幹,斷罪斬首棄市,父母、牙保俱配籍焉。

[1] The Baoqing 寶慶 regnal era, in the rule of the Song emperor Lizong 理宗 (r. 1224-64 CE), represents 1225-28. Jiwei 己未 denotes the 56th place in the sexagenary cycle, and as such could only refer to either 1199 or 1259, neither of which falls within this period.

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).