A Toad Emissary From Heaven 蝦蟇天使

Li Kui served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qianyuan era (758-59 CE). Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. A guest said: “This toad is a thing from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s award of a post to the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.1 (Tale 1):

蝦蟇天使

李揆於乾元中為禮部侍郎,嘗一日晝坐於堂之前軒,忽聞堂中有聱極震,若牆圮。揆驚,入視之。見一蝦蟇俯於地,高數尺,魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異,莫窮其來。卽命家童以巨缶蓋之。客曰:「夫蝦蟇者,月中之物,亦天使也。今天使來公堂,豈非上帝以榮命付公乎?」黎明,啟視之,已亡見矣。後數日,果拜中書侍郎平章事。

又見《廣記》卷四七四,題為《李揆》;《紺珠集》卷五,題為《蝦䗫天使》;《類說》卷二三,題為《見蝦䗫》。後二書所引均為節文。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Li Kui 李揆

Li Kui of the Tang served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qiantian era. Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. Someone named Jie said: “This toad is a lifeform from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s secret order for the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat. Taken from the Xuanshizhi

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 474.3907:

李揆

唐李揆。乾天中。為禮部侍郎。嘗一日。晝坐於堂之前軒。忽聞堂中有聱極震。若牆圮。揆驚入視之。見一蝦蟇。俯於地。高數尺。魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異。莫窮其來。卽命家童。以巨缶蓋焉。有解曰。夫蝦蟇月中之蟲。亦天使也。今天使來公堂。豈非上帝以密命付公乎。其明啟視之。已亡見矣。後數日。果拜中書侍郎平章事。出宣室志

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Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

李元恭
唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:

李元恭

唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

Zhao Yun Causes Catastrophe Through Drink 趙雲因酒德禍

*Translation edited with help from Ofer Waldman – many thanks, Ofer!*

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in twenty strokes of the cane. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, who invited him to talk. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They then said: “Some months ago. Because this section respects the gentleman, I suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, but at the gentleman’s urging I suffered heavy punishment.” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, clouding his mind from dawn to dusk. After about a month, they bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads and to twist their limbs. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Thinking him quite humbled from his previous status, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Xian, who sent soldiers to search, seizing the bandit and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!”

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.15-16 (Tale 82):

趙雲因酒德禍

唐元和初,有天水趙雲,客遊鄜畤,過中部縣。縣寮有讌,吏擒一囚至,其罪不甚重,官寮願縱之。雲醉,因勸加於刑責,於是杖之二十。累月,雲出塞,行及蘆子關,道逢一人,邀之言款。日暮,延雲下道過其居,去路數里。於是命酒偶酌,既而問之曰:「君省相識否?」雲曰:「未嘗。此行實昧平昔。」乃曰:「前月。於是部值君,遭罹橫罪,與君素無讐隙,為君所勸,因被重刑。」雲遽起謝之。其人曰:「吾望子久矣,豈虞於此獲雪小恥。」乃命左右拽入一室。室有大坑,深三丈餘,中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣,推雲於中。饑食其糟,渴飲其汁,旦夕昏昏。幾一月,乃縛出之,使人蹙頞鼻額、挼捩肢體,手指、肩髀,皆改於舊,提出風中,倐然凝定,至於聲亦改。以為賤隸,為烏延驛中雜役。累歲,會其弟為御史,出按靈州獄,雲以前事密疏示之。 [16] 其弟告於觀察使李銛。由是發卒討尋,盡得姦人,而覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥,云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。

此條又見《廣記》卷二八六,題為《中部民》。

 

The tale is also found in Taiping Guangji, in a version that shows several small variations:

The Zhongbu Populace

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in a flogging. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, joking with him and using kind words. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They spoke again: “On such and such a month and day. Because this section respects the gentleman, one suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, why would the gentleman urge them on, causing me to suffer heavy punishment?” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, and in this way clouded his mind for about a month. They then bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads. His limbs twisted. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Having humbled him from his previous status, and left him brooding, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Ming, who sent soldiers to search, capturing all of the evil plotters and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!” From Du Yi Zhi.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vi, 286.2279:

中部民

唐元和初。有天水趙雲。客遊鄜畤。過中部縣。縣僚有燕。吏擒一囚至。其罪不甚重。官僚願縱之。雲醉。因勸加於刑。於是杖之。累月。雲出塞。行及蘆子關。道逢一人。耍之言款。日暮。延雲下道過其居。去路數里。於是命酒偶酌。既而問曰。君省相識否。雲曰。未嘗此行。實昧平昔。復曰:「前某月日。於是部值君。某遭罹橫罪。與君素無讐隙。奈何為君所勸,因被重刑。雲遽起謝之。其人曰。吾望子久矣。豈虞於此獲雪小耻。乃命左右。拽入一室。室有大坑。深三丈餘。坑中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣。推雲於中。飢食其糟。渴飲其汁。於是昏昏幾一月。乃縛出之。使人蹙頞鼻額。挼捩肢體。其手指肩髀。皆改舊形。提出風中。倐然凝定。至於聲亦改。遂以賤隸蓄之。為烏延驛中雜役。累歲。會其弟為御史。出按靈州獄。雲以前事密疏示之。其弟言於觀察使李銘。由是發卒討尋。盡得奸宄。乃覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥。云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。出獨異志

Li Ze’s Corpse Rises 李則屍變

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), Li Ze, of Shaoyin in Henan, died. Before he could be prepared for burial, a scarlet-robed person called and expressed condolences, calling himself Herbalist Su. When he entered, his grief was especially deep. Before long, the dead man rose, and began to fight with him; his family, sons and brothers fled the hall in panic. The two closed the door and beat one another, continuing equally matched until dawn. When the Li sons dared to enter, they found two corpses laid together on the bed, their height, build, appearance, hair, beard and clothing quite indistinguishable. At this, the gathered clan being quite unable to work out the matter, they buried both in the same coffin.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.14-15 (Tale 78):

李則屍變

唐貞元初,河南少尹李則卒,未斂。有一朱衣人投刺申弔,自稱蘇郎中。既入,哀慟尤甚。俄頃,亡者遂起,與之相搏,家人子弟驚走出堂。二人閉門毆擊,抵暮方息。李子乃敢入,見二屍並卧一床,長短、形狀、姿貌、鬢髯、衣服一無差異。於時聚族不能定識,遂同棺葬之。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

Han Huang’s Clear Judgement 韓滉明察

Han Huang, Duke Jin (727-87 CE) was garrisoning Zhexi, his orders followed far and wide. At that time, Chen Shaoyou was military governor for Huainan, and when, in governing the populace, he had a case he was unable to straighten out, he went to call on Duke Jin, who would always resolve it. The revenue from Zheyou was sent across the river in a boat, but this was sunk by raging waves. When the boatman recruited people to dredge it up, they couldn’t find two strings of coins, so the populace had to make up the numbers. Jin went in person to the crossing, led an inspection, and then made a demand of the river spirits, indicating the money and saying: “This is dry money; it is not for those in the water to take.” He asked the clerk, and the clerk replied in confirmation. He again spoke to the shame of the matter. Suddenly the two strings of coins bobbed up on the wavetops, so he then plucked them out.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.9 (Tale 63):

韓滉明察

韓晉公滉鎮浙西,威令大行。時陳少游為淮南節度,理民有寃不得伸者,往詣晉公,必據而平之。浙右進錢,船渡江,為驚濤所溺。篙工募人漉出,二緡不得,衆以錢填其數。滉自至津,部視之,乃責江神,因指其錢曰:「此錢乾,非水中得之者。」問吏,吏具實對。復挩詞詬。俄然二緡浮出波上,遂以取之。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

Aunty Wang’s Daigan Pole Tricks 戴竿伎王大娘

At the court of Dezong (of the Tang, r. 779-805 CE), there was a Daigan acrobat, a married woman from Sanyuan, who could balance eighteen people on top of her head and walk.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 27):

戴竿伎王大娘

德宗朝,有戴竿三原婦人王大娘,首戴十八人而行。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)