The Venerable Rat Ancestor 老鼠祖公

In the Bujin Cloister, in Shanggao, Ruizhou, an elderly monk was ill, so lay down through the day. The temple was serene and tranquil, but below his feet was a jar containing leftover millet. A rat therefore called his peers together, but, circling around the jar, they could not get at the food, and soon scattered. After some time had passed they came back carrying together a large rat, and then gathered around to listen as he spoke haltingly, like a minister announcing a decree. The group of rats then dashed around, lifting and dropping the jar. After a short while the jar tipped and the millet spilled out.  The monk clapped his hands and tried to chase them, and the rats fled and scattered, leaving the large rat alone on the floor, old and unable to move. The monk sighed and marveled at it, moved to pity for it. People call it the Venerable Rat Ancestor.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.257 (Tale 466):

老鼠祖公

瑞州上高布金院有老僧病,因晝卧。僧房閒靜,蹋前瓶有餘粟,鼠乃呼儔旅,繞瓶側,不能得食,須臾皆散。久之共舁一大鼠至,鼠附耳囁嚅,若相誥詔之狀。羣鼠趕逐,起瓶上下。少頃瓶倒粟傾,僧拍手逐之,羣鼠走散,偶遺一大鼠在地,老不能動,僧嗟異而憐之,人謂之鼠祖公。

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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A Household God Brings Property 家神送物

The family of Zhang Shuiyuan, of Yongfeng Stone Well in Xinzhou, served their household god with great reverence. The [lacuna] household god was an ancestor. The [lacuna] household had very little property, and later, due to the exhaustion of their property, the family prayed from dawn to dusk, hoping for assistance from the nether world. One day, when dusk was approaching, an old woman was seen walking straight in, carrying a bamboo box which she placed on a table in the ancestral hall. The family rushed out to meet her, but she was nowhere to be seen. When they looked at the portrait of a female ancestor in the ancestral hall, however, there was a close resemblance; the family were astonished and confused, and hesitated to look at the box. After a night had passed they finally opened and examined it, and all the contents were items of silver and gold. The Zhangs sold this and managed their property, and from this initial wealth became an important lineage. The old woman was their ancestress.

Among these ancestral spirits there are none who do not watch over their descendants from the nether world, cherishing people who live in ignorance, instead revering and praying to lascivious demons from dawn to dusk, calling them deities and divinities. When other people pray for their ancestors, this can be called auspicious and prosperous. If one pays no heed to one’s ancestors, failing to observe the seasonal offerings, not revering the tombs, even when there are descendants, how does this differ to the extinction of a lineage? If people can shift their reverence from lascivious demons to respectful service of their ancestors, it would not only be the Zhangs who receive protection and reward, and the deities of heaven and earth too would extend their generosity and protection.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 389):

家神送物

信州永豐石井張稅院者,家事家神甚謹。[ ]家神者,祖先也。[ ]薄有貲產,後因破蕩,家人朝夕禱之,以冀陰相。一日將暮,忽見一嫗攜一小竹合子直入,置家堂中几案上,急出迎之,亦不見矣。但瞻家堂中所畫先世祖婆者如之,家人疑異,留不啟視。經宿啟視,皆黃白之物。張鬻之治產,(「產」,明刻本作 「生」。)因此貲產甲於〔一〕(據明刻本補。)族。蓋嫗者,祖婆也。夫祖宗英靈毋有不陰相子孫,惜人未之知,但朝夕奉祀淫鬼,指為神明。為他人祀祖宗,謂可徼福,反以本生祖宗置之度外,歲時不祭,墳墓不登,雖有子孫,絕嗣何異?儻能移祀淫鬼之心敬事祖宗,非惟如張氏之獲報,而天地神明亦加垂佑焉。

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).

Secret Virtue of the Dou Lineage 竇氏陰德

[107] When Dou Yujun of Yanshan first saw his ancestor in a dream, he was told: “You lack children, and moreover will not be long-lived; why not cultivate secret virtue early, to return to good fortune.” Yujun was terrified, and from then on where among his in-laws there were dead unburied, or daughters unmarried, he helped them all in achieving these things. Even in cases where the married women had been taken and their bonds burnt, he gave gold to return these lost people; cultivating his merit willy-nilly, there was nothing he would not do. Late in life he had five sons: Yi, Yan, Kan, Cheng and Xi, and they all passed the civil service examinations in turn. People called them the ‘Five Dou Dragons’, and a poem for them read:

Yanshan Counsellor Dou

Taught his sons the virtuous way.

The trunk of the heaven tree may age,

But the Osmanthus shows five fragrant branches.

Yujun’s career extended to Imperial Censor for Admonition, and he died aged eighty, without suffering illness. Now he is a True Man in the Heavenly Caverns.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.106-7 (Tale 185):

竇氏陰德

[107] 燕山竇禹鈞,初夢其祖曰:「汝無子,又且不壽,何不早修陰德,以回造化。」禹鈞惶懼,於是內外姻婭有喪未舉、有女未嫁,皆助成之。乃至焚券嫁有夫之女,得金還去失之人,苟可修德,無不為之。晚年生子,儀、儼、侃、偁、僖五人,皆相繼登科,時人謂之「竇氏五龍」,而為詩曰:「燕山竇十郎,教子以義方。靈椿一株老,丹桂五枝芳。」禹鈞官至諫議大夫,年八十無疾而卒,今為洞天真人。

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 Warning Against Selling Ancestral Graves 戒賣祖墳

From the dingchou year of the Zhiyuan era (1278), for more than ten years, rich families found themselves impoverished, with almost nothing left, their ancestral tombs overgrown and dirty, unreachable for ancestral offerings; they could not bear to admit this even to themselves. Who would have thought that such a disaster could have been seen [105] outside the Sitingji? In the vicinity there was a scholar who, seeing a prominent family sell their ancestral graveyard, could not bear his indignation, and at night inscribed a poem on their wall. The next day, when the wall was seen, both buyer and seller were full of shame, and retreated to the central chamber to discuss the matter. I read the poem. Its language was direct and ardent, with benefit to customs and morality, so I set it down here, to serve as a warning to public ways. The poem reads:

A family selects by wind and water

For descendants in countless generations

Who could know that latecomers

Would sell off their ancestors’ land?

Bargaining over digging in the dead of night

Celebrating the drunken signing of contracts

The seller is certainly inhuman

The buyer is also an evil type

If the land is well-chosen

The house will stand in wealth and honour

Those who come to sell

Their land will bring no good

Those future descendants emerging

They break from the pattern of precedent

Pretending that new families have strength

How can the creator have such selfish intent?

Those with coffins are laid bare

Those without abandoned bones

When new generations slide to poverty

When may they ever find burial?

Can you know those ‘below the springs’ (i.e., in the nether world)

Make no plaint for justice to the throne?

Say not that heaven is vast and obscure,

But stand before it in fear of calamity.

Ah! Those with human hearts, they should look at this and change their plans.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104-5 (Tale 181):

戒賣祖墳

至元丁丑以來,十數年間,富家零落殆盡,祖墳蕪穢,弔祭不至,自不忍言。誰謂其禍又有 [105] 出於《思亭記》之外者!近有一士人,見一名家出賣祖墳,不勝其憤,夜題詩於牆壁。次日,觀望如堵,買者、賣者皆有愧色,議中寢。吾讀其詩,語直而切,以其有益於風教,故錄於此,庶可為世俗之戒也。詩曰:「人家擇風水,子孫百世計。誰知後來者,反賣祖宗地。商量寅夜掘,醉後樂書契。賣者固非人,買者亦惡類。其地若果佳,其家長富貴。其人賣至此,其地必不利。他時出子孫,斷是傚此例。借曰異姓強,造物豈私意?棺存且暴露,無者骸骨棄。後代轉日貧,何時可薶瘞。安知泉下人,含冤不訴帝?勿謂天茫茫,禍患恐立至。」吁!有人心者,宜於此焉變計矣。

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).

Skull Spirits 髑髏神怪

During the Jiaxi era (1237-41), the ten-year-old grandson of a villager suddenly vanished without trace, and could not be traced despite prayer, divination and the distribution of notices. During his search it started to rain, and when he sought temporary shelter in a doorway he suddenly heard his grandson call out the names of his ancestors, leaving him shocked and astonished. Being very familiar with his grandson’s voice, he hurried to report the matter to the local officials. When official messengers made a search they indeed found him in a cupboard. By that time he was already emaciated and haggard, having lost the appearance of life, breathing feebly and close to his end, he went to the officials and was still able to relate the whole story of his case. When he was first taken, he was treated with the greatest kindness, each of his meals always filling him right up. Day by day from then on his food was reduced, even his rice dumplings shrinking, and he was eventually left without even a pickle. Each day he was washed only with vinegar, from head to toe, and his joints and blood vessels stopped up with nails. He experienced the greatest cruelty, and at the end of his report, he finally passed away. The kidnappers confessed, and their household, with the exception of the elderly and underage, all received the death sentence.

It is widely said by people in the present generation that those concerned with fortune steal away young boys in this way, waiting for them to die and then taking their bones. Grasping their immortal and mortal souls, it is said that when placed by the ear they gain reports on affairs; these are called ‘Skull Spirits’. When Wu Yuyan was a censor in Jiangdong, he too discovered such a matter, and on investigation heard an account much like this.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.69 (Tale 120):

髑髏神怪

嘉熙年間,村民有孫年十歲,忽失不見,祈卜散榜不獲。尋討偶值雨,暫宿於門首,忽聞孫喚祖之名姓,為之駭然。認其孫之聲甚稔,急告於官,差人搜捕,果得於其家櫃中。時已枯朽,略無人形,奄奄餘息,到官猶能道其事之本末。初被竊,溫存備至,一飯必飽,自是日減一日,繼用糭子亦減,久則咸無焉。每日惟灌法醋自頂至踵,關節脈絡悉被錮釘,備極慘酷,言畢氣絕。盗者伏罪,家無老幼盡獲,置之極刑。今世言人之吉凶者,皆盗人家童男如此法,待其死後收其枯骨,掬其魂魄,謂能於耳邊報事,名「髑髏神」也。吳雨巖憲江東,亦斷一事相類,推勘其由,乃如此云。

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 Heart Contains Mountains and Rivers 心有山水

In a wild place outside Shanyang County in Chuzhou there was an ancient tomb, of which family or era it is not clear. Suddenly a Persian person came to pay visit a neighbour to the tomb, and said: “I wish to buy this land.” The neighbour said: [65] “This is the tomb of our ancestors; how could I dare to sell them so lightly?” The Persian said: “Don’t pretend that you know those people; no offerings have been made here for five or six centuries!” The other thought about it again through the night, deciding: it is not my tomb, and if there is to be payment, why cherish something without benefit? The following morning, when the Persian came, he accepted the request, asking for 2,000 strings of cash, and this was duly paid to him. After discussion they decided to excavate, and, finding a woman looking like the earth within a wooden coffin, cut open her belly and took out her heart. Displaying it they said: “Through her whole life this woman never achieved her ambitions, but viewing and appreciating the mountains and rivers, their purity and clarity entered her heart.” Separating it into two slices, they emitted bright lustre like jade. Each piece contained the real hills and real waters which a woman had once admired as she leant on her balustrade. Believing it rare and precious, he then took it back to his home country. It was a truly priceless treasure.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.64-65 (Tale 112):

心有山水

楚州山陽縣荒郊有古墳,不詳姓氏年代。忽有波斯人來謁墳鄰曰:「吾欲買此地。」鄰曰: [65] 「墳乃吾祖,安敢輕售!」波斯曰:「汝毋妄認,廢祀已六百年矣!」其人中夜思之,既非我墳,若有所償,何惜不與!詰旦,波斯人來,從其請,索二千緡,隨即償之。議定即掘,見棺木中一婦人如土,剖腹取心,指示曰: 「此婦平生不得志,觀玩山水,清氣盡入其心。」解開兩片,光瑩如玉,每片皆有真山真水,一婦人倚欄凝望。以為奇寶,遂帶歸本國,真無價珍。

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 Slaughterer of Oxen Changes His Work 屠牛改業

In Shuinan, in Longquan County, there was a Zhao Taibao, who was accustomed to slaughtering oxen to gather profit in the market. He once bought three oxen, one of which was already boiled. One night, before dawn had broken, he had a nightmare, and, making a bellowing sound, passed a full day unable to awake; desperately calling out, a physician used medicine to relieve his distress and he finally awoke the following dawn. His family questioned him as to the cause, and he replied: “I happened to see one of my oxen suddenly speak with a human voice, its speeches being ‘I am your father’ and ‘I am your grandfather.’ Before long, the two oxen both took on human form, and I looked hard at them and they were indeed my grandfather and father.” He cried out piteously and earnestly, frightened and newly enlightened, and then handed over generous rent for the two oxen, feeding them with water and hay. From then on he changed his work and never slaughtered another ox.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.96 (Tale 165):

屠牛改業

龍泉邑之水南,有趙太保,居嘗屠牛以網市利。嘗買三牛,已烹其一。一夕,天未明,忽魘,作聲哮吼,經一日不醒,急呼醫者用藥救療,迄旦方醒。家人詢問其故,答曰:「適見所有之牛忽作人語,其一曰:『我爾父也。』其一曰:『我爾祖也。』須臾,二牛皆人形,熟視之,則真吾祖與父也。」哀號懇切,驚駭而覺,即以二牛付之莊佃,飽以水草。自後改業,不復宰牛。

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).