He Siling 賀思令

He Siling, of Guiji, was skilled at playing the qin zither. One night he was sitting in the moonlight facing into the wind and playing music, when he suddenly saw a person of extremely large stature, bearing shackles and wearing a sorrowful countenance. When this man arrived in the courtyard, he praised the playing and they spoke a while. He introduced himself as Ji Zhongsan,[1] and told He: “The gentleman’s hand movements are extremely rapid, but do not yet conform to the ancient rules.” He then gave instruction on the ‘Guanglingsan’,[2] and He thus achieved mastery in this. The manifestation then ceased.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 324.2569:



[1] Ji Zhongsan 嵇中散, also known as Ji Kang 嵇康, courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), a famed musician and Daoist poet active under the Wei 魏 (220-65 CE), was executed by the minister Sima Zhao 司馬昭 (211-65 CE).

[2] ‘Guanglingsan’ 廣陵散 was an air famously played but not explained or taught by Ji Zhongsan 嵇中散.

Wang Yuanzhi 王瑗之

Wang Yuanzhi, of Guanghan, served as Magistrate of Xin’an. He suddenly saw a spirit, which proclaimed its surname to be Cai and given name Bojie. They began to discuss philosophy and poetry. Possessing both magnanimity and extensive knowledge of the ancient and recent, there was nothing he didn’t know. Asked whether he was the ancient Cai Yong (132-92 CE), he replied: “No, we just share a surname and courtesy name.” Asked where the former Bojie was, he replied: “In the heavens, as an immortal, extremely orthodox, and the recipient of blessings, extremely happy, not like ancient times.”[1]

From Qixieji.

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), vii, 321.2543:



[1] referring to Cai Yong’s imprisonment and death?

Ruan Zhan 阮瞻

Ruan Zhan had always maintained the no-spirit-theory, but there was a spirit which identified itself to him, and called upon him, staying over as his guest. After a brief chat, they talked about famous philosophies, and his guest turned out to be extremely talented. Finally, they turned to matters of spirits and deities. He became extremely bitter, so his guest at first submitted to him, but then went on, quite worked up: “Accounts of spirits and deities have been transmitted by sages and the virtuous from ancient times. How can the gentleman alone declare that they don’t exist?” He then transformed and took on an astonishing shape, then after a moment quite disappeared. Ruan was dumbfounded, his expression terrible to behold. Within the year he had fallen ill and died from the after-effects.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 319.2526:



Wang Zhaozong 王肇宗

Wang Zhaozong from Taiyuan died from an illness, and appeared after his death to speak to his mother, Liu, and his wife, Han. He asked his mother for wine, so she took up a glass and passed it to him. He said: “Good wine.” He then addressed his wife: “Separation from your humble servant will only last three years.” Accepting this his wife eventually became ill. She said: “The virtue of husband-and-wife burial was often difficult for the ancients to achieve. Why would those who are fortunate enough to survive reject this?” She then refused to accept medicine and perished.

From Shuyiji.

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), vii, 318.2517:



Mei Zhu 糜竺

Mei Zhu employed the arts of Tao Zhugong (i.e., the pursuit of wealth),[1] his daily profits amounting to millions upon millions, and his treasure-houses numbering in the thousands. Zhu’s character and behaviour could command even life and death. To one side of his family stables there was an ancient tomb, and a corpse lay within it. One night Zhu followed the sound of weeping, and suddenly saw a woman, backing towards him and uncovered above the waist. She said: “Long ago at the end of the Han era my tomb was opened by the Red Eyebrows,[2] who smashed my coffin and exposed my skin. Now my bare flesh lies upon the ground, and more than two hundred years have passed. I request that the general might rebury me more deeply, and beg some old cloth that I might cover myself.” Zhu thus ordered she be placed in a stone outer and baked clay inner coffin, setting out offerings when this was complete, and clothing her in black skirt and gown, placing all of this upon the tomb.

A year had passed when, passing a bend in the road, he suddenly saw that, at the woman’s burial place, a black cloud was winding about like a dragon serpent. Some people questioned Zhu: “Is this not a dragon demon?” Zhu had doubts about this strange occurrence, and so asked a household page about it. He said: “I have sometimes seen a Qing Luzhang coming and go through the gate as if it were quite natural. I wondered whether he was a deity, and didn’t dare speak up.” Zhu was by nature very suspicious, believed in avoiding those who made requests, and punishing those who spoke up with additional harshness. His page had therefore not spoken.

Zhu’s treasures were piled like hills and mountains, quite beyond reckoning, with all the utensils required to equip the land of immortals, and pearls as big as eggs scattered across the whole courtyard. It was therefore named the Treasure Court, but outsiders never got even a peep inside it. After a few days had passed, he suddenly saw a number of black-clothed youths, who came and told him: “Mei Zhu’s home will suffer a disastrous fire, and not one in ten thousand things will survive. Fortunately, because the gentleman was able to feel sympathy for an old skeleton, the Heavenly Way cannot unjustly punish the gentleman’s virtue. Therefore we will come and repulse this fire, and make sure that the gentleman’s property is not entirely destroyed. From now on, the gentleman should also take steps to defend himself.” Zhu then dug irrigation ditches to surround his inner treasure-house. Ten days later, a fire broke out within the treasure-house and burned his pearls and jades, leaving only one item in ten. It was all caused by a bronze mirror which caused dry things to ignite in the sun spontaneously.

As the fire reached its peak, [2512] he saw several dozen black-robed youths arrive and attack the flames. A dark energy arose like a cloud, then fell back upon flames to extinguish them. The youths also said: “You should gather many birds of the stork family to avert disaster. Storks are able to gather water on their nests. Your family should therefore gather a thousand jiaojing pond herons, and tend to them among the ditches. They hate fire.” Zhu sighed: “A person’s luck in gathering money has limits, and it must not brim over.” Zhu feared suffering disaster, but at that time the Three Kingdoms were waging war and expenditure increased ten-thousand-fold, so he contributed his treasures, buying chariots and robes for his former lord. Of his hundred million jin of gold, his woven silks, embroidered silks, felts and rugs, piled like hills and mountains, his thousand head of thoroughbred horses, when Shu were later defeated, not a thing remained. He died harbouring a grievance in his heart.

From Wangzinian shiyiji.

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), vii, 317.2511-12:


糜竺用陶朱公計術。日益億萬之利。貲擬王侯。有寶庫千間。竺性能振生死。家馬廄屋側。有古冢。中有伏尸。竺夜尋其泣聲。忽見一婦人。袒背而來。云。昔漢末為赤眉所發。扣棺見剝。今袒肉在地。垂二百餘年。就將軍求更深埋。並乞弊衣自掩。竺即令為石椁瓦棺。設祭既畢。以青布裙衫。置於冢上。經一年。行於路曲。忽見前婦人葬所。青氣如龍虵之形。或有人問竺曰。將非龍怪耶。竺乃疑此異。乃問其家童。云。時見青蘆杖。自然出入於門。疑其神也。不敢言。竺為性多忌。信厭求之士。有言中忤。即加刑戮。故家童不言。竺貲貸如丘山。不可算記。內以方諸為具。及大珠如卵。散滿於庭。故謂之寶庭。而外人不得窺。數日。忽見有青衣童子數人來云。糜竺家當有火厄。萬不遺一。賴君能惻愍枯骨。天道不辜君德。故來禳却此火。當使君財物不盡。自今以後。亦宜自衛。竺乃掘溝渠。周繞其庫內。旬日。火從庫內起。燒其珠玉。十分得一。皆是陽燧得旱爍。自能燒物也。火盛之 [2512] 時。見數十青衣童子來撲火。有青氣如雲。復火上即滅。童子又云。多聚鸛鳥之類以禳災。鸛能聚水巢上也。家人乃收集鵁鶄數千頭。養於池渠之中。厭火也。竺歎曰。人生財運有限。不得盈溢。竺懼為身之患。時三國交兵。軍用萬倍。乃輸其珍寶車服。以助先主。黃金一億斤。錦綺繍氈罽。積如丘山。駿馬千匹。及蜀破後。無所有。飲恨而終。出王子年拾遺記


[1] Tao Zhugong was a minister of Yue who abandoned imperial service to become immensely rich, and whose name came to serve as a byword for extreme personal wealth.

[2] An uprising towards the end of the Western Han era (220 BCE – 8 CE), on which see http://chinaknowledge.de/History/Terms/chimei.html.

Zhong Yao 鍾繇

Zhong Yao (151-230 CE) suddenly stopped attending the morning court, and his mood and character were quite different to what people had become used to. When a fellow official asked him why this was, he responded: “A woman often comes to me; she has a beauty that is not of the mortal world.” His colleague replied: “This must be a ghost. You should kill it; afterwards it will stay away from your home.” He asked: “How could I intend to slaughter something possessing such a form?” Yuanchang replied: “There is no such problem.” In the end he eagerly called her to him, but could not bear to carry out the plan, so only lightly wounded her. She left immediately, staunching the blood with fresh silk floss, which was scattered along her route. The following day, he sent people to follow these traces. They came to a great tomb. In a coffin lay a woman, her body appearing still to be alive. Wearing a white silk gown and a cinnabar-embroidered waistcoat, there was a wound on one of her thighs, and the waistcoat showed signs of her having wiped away blood. From then the visits ceased.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 317.2509:



Wu Tao 鄔濤

Wu Tao was from Runan. He had skill and knowledge of ancient writings and was committed to the arts of the Way. While travelling he stopped temporarily at the Yiwu County guesthouse in Wuzhou. After more than a month, suddenly a girl appeared, with two serving maids arriving at night.[1] One of the maids came forward and told him: “This young lady is surnamed Wang.” That evening she turned and looked at the gentleman. Tao looked at her, and she was extremely beautiful. He thought, ‘this is the daughter of a great noble’, but did not dare speak. The lady Wang smiled, and said: “The esteemed scholar does not value wine or beauty; how can a mere concubine gain his trust?” Tao then rose and bowed to her, saying: “Such lowly scholars would not dare direct their gaze thus.” The lady Wang ordered a maid to bring her clothing and utensils to Tao’s bedchamber, lighting bright candles and laying out wine and food. They drank several rounds, and then lady Wang rose and addressed Tao: “Your servant is a young orphan without anyone to turn to, and would like to serve the gentleman at his pillow and mat. Would that be acceptable?” Tao initially refused in his humility, but then relented and permitted it in his sincerity. The lady Wang departed at dawn and arrived at dusk, and this continued for several months.

Yang Jingxiao, a Daoist of Tao’s acquaintance, visited and stayed at the residence. On seeing that Tao’s countenance had altered, he advised: “The gentleman has been deluded by spirits and demons. This must be broken off, or death will follow.” Tao questioned him about this in alarm, and then related the whole story. Jingxiao told him: “This is a spirit.” He then provided two amulets, one to attach to clothing, and the other to be fixed above the gate. He said: “When this spirit arrives, she will become very angry. Be careful not to speak to her.” Tao accepted these instructions. When the young woman arrived that night, she saw the token above the gate, let fly a string of curses, and departed, saying: “Remove that tomorrow, or suffer great misfortune.” Tao called on Jingxiao the next day and told him all about it. Jingxiao told him: “When she returns tonight, you should sprinkle her with this water on which I have cast a spell. That will surely bring things to an end.” Tao returned carrying the water. That night, when the woman returned, she was extremely sad and angry. Tao then sprinkled her with the water Jingxiao had treated. Her visits then ceased.

From Jiyiji.

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for the improved translation here.

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), vii, 347.2747:



Gongsun Da 公孫達

During the Ganlu era,[1] Gongsun Da of Renchen died in office at Chen Prefecture. When they were about to prepare him for burial, his sons, together with the prefectural clerks, numbering several dozen people, were approaching the funeral scene when his five-year-old son began to speak in tongues, sounding just like his father. He scolded the people gathered for only weeping, and then called out to all his sons as a further warning. His sons and the rest were unable to control their grief, so he comforted and encouraged them:

The fortune of the four seasons,

Still has beginning and end.

Human life may be cut short,

Who can avoid this fate?

If the tongue makes a thousand words,

All should accord with the hidden meaning.

His sons questioned him again: “Nothing is known of any who have died. The intelligence of Your Excellency is a unique exception. Are there deities and spirits?” He replied: “The matter of spirits and deities is beyond your knowledge.” He then requested paper and brush, and he wrote. Having filled the page with meaningful poetry, he tossed it to the ground and died.

From Lieyizhuan.

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), vii, 316.2499:



[1] The Ganlu 甘露 era could refer to either 53-50 BCE, 254-59 CE, 265-66 CE, or 359-64 CE.

Zhang Fei’s Temple Attendant 張飛廟祝

A little over ten li outside the walls of Zizhou lies a temple to Zhang Fei (d. 221 CE). Within it a clay idol stands guard. One night it stirred the emotions of a temple attendant’s wife and, after a year had passed, she bore a daughter, her hair like vermillion and her eyebrows, eyes, hands and feet all just like those of the idol in shape. When she reached adulthood, all of the people feared her. Every official posted to Zizhou would always visit the temple and call her out to see her, some of these leaving gifts of money and silks. She remains there even today.

From Yerenxianhua.

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), viii, 353.2798:



Fang Qianli 房千里

Outside the south gate of Chunzhou stood a residence for nether world officials. When Fang Qianli was dismissed from office he sought treatment in that prefecture, and the governor assigned him to the residence. In the eastern wing there was an inner chamber. A servant was once snoozing there, when suddenly a red-robed man, of very imposing build, came straight up before him. The servant fled in panic, and informed Qianli. After one or two nights, this happened again. Qianli did not believe him, but no longer sent him to the room. After several months had passed, he moved to the Brook Pavilion. He again entrusted the eastern chamber to clerks for their rest. In broad daylight, one of them saw a boy, draped in an ancient gauzy robe and hurrying towards him. It said: “You will not stay here long.” The clerk fled the house in panic. All of this was related to the subordinate officials. An elderly general, Lu Jianzong, said: “During the Yuanhe era (806-20 CE), they punished Master Li. His travels having been brought to an end he was banished to this prefecture, and instructed to commit suicide right here.” The clerk’s report did not omit any of this.

From Touhuangzalu.

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), viii, 351.2780