Dai Chengbo 戴承伯

During the Yuanhui era (473-77 CE), Dai Chengbo of the [Liu] Song bought into the Pipa Temple under the jurisdiction of Xingzhou. His inscribed tablet erroneously claimed an empty plot to the east as his residence. At nightfall he suddenly heard the sound of angry cursing and, getting up to look, saw a person of remarkably odd shape. When Chengbo questioned him, he replied: “My surname is Xi, and I’m the one who originally dwelled here. How can the gentleman wrest it away from me?” Chengbo said: “Dai Jin sold the land; I do not deserve blame.” The spirit replied: “Benefitting self, harming others; what has this to do with Jin? If you do not leave quickly, I will have to inform the Magistrates.” On finishing speaking, it vanished. Chengbo was stubborn by nature, and refused to move for it. Within ten days, he had succumbed to a sudden illness and died.

From Zhugongjiushi.

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, 323.2566:

戴承伯 宋戴承伯。元徽中。買荊州治下枇杷寺。其額乃悞東空地為宅。日暮。忽聞恚罵之聲。起視。有人形狀可怪。承伯問之。答曰。我姓龔。本居此宅。君為何強奪。承伯曰。戴瑾賣地。不應見咎。鬼曰。利身妨物。何預瑾乎。不速去。當令君知。言訖而沒。承伯性剛。不為之動。旬日。暴疾卒。出渚宮舊事

Lü Shun 呂順

[2552] When Lü Shun had prepared his wife for burial, he wished to marry a younger paternal cousin of hers. He therefore prepared three tombs, but each fell into disrepair and not one was completed. One day Shun was lying down during the daytime when he saw his wife coming to him. She got into bed with him, her body as cold as ice. Shun spoke of the differences between living and dead, and sent her away. His wife later also saw her younger relative, and told her, angrily: “How many males are there under heaven? Yet you and I have to share a husband. He may not be able to finish those tombs. I will do it.” Presently both husband and wife passed away.

From Youminglu.

(uncertain translation)

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, 322.2551-52:


[2552] 呂順喪婦。要娶妻之從妹。因作三墓。構累垂就。輒無成。一日順晝臥。見其婦來就同寢。體冷如冰。順以死生之隔。語使去。後婦又見其妹。怒曰。天下男子復何限。汝乃與我共一婿。作冢不成。我使然也。俄而夫婦俱殪。出幽明錄

Liu Ta 劉他

Liu Ta, who resided at Xiakou, suddenly saw a spirit, which came to reside at the Liu household. Initially it stayed dark and indistinct, and seemed to look like a person wearing plain white trousers. From then on it came every few days, and then stopped [2531] hiding itself or going away. It enjoyed pilfering food, and, though not causing major problems, made life difficult. At first none dared scold or rebuke it, however. One Ji Yizi, a bullying man who refused to believe in spirits, arrived at the Liu household, and asked his host: “Where’s your family’s ghost? Summon it so I can tell it off for you.” They then heard noises coming from the roofbeams. At that time many guests had gathered there, and all looked up together. A tangle of things were thrown down, hitting Yizi square in the face. When examined, these turned out to be underwear belonging to the ladies of the house. When he continued to act ferociously, they all laughed delightedly at him. Ji, very embarrassed, washed his face and departed.

Someone told Liu: “As this spirit steals food and consumes it, it must have physical form. It should be attacked with poison.” Liu therefore cooked up some yege (冶葛, known as ‘heartbreak grass’ or Gelsemium elegans) in a neighbour’s house and secretly brought back two sheng of its juice. When night fell, he had broom millet cooked and placed on the table, then covered it with a bowl. Later on they heard the spirit arrive from outside, lift the bowl, take the millet and eat it. It then threw the bowl, smashing it, and departed. Before long, they heard the sound of spitting from above, and a ferociously angry beating at the window-frames. Liu prepared himself to fight it but still did not dare to enter the room. By the time of the fourth watch (1-3 am), the matter was at an end.

From Xusoushenji.

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, 319.2530-31:


劉他在下口居。忽有一鬼。來住劉家。初因闇。髣髴見形如人。著白布袴。自爾後。數日一來。不復 [2531] 隱形。便不去。喜偷食。不以為患。然且難之。初不敢呵罵。吉翼子者。強梁不信鬼。至劉家。謂主人。卿家鬼何在。喚來。今為卿罵之。即聞屋梁作聲。時大有客。共仰視。便紛紜擲一物下。正著翼子面。視之。乃主人家婦女褻衣。惡猶著焉。衆共大笑為樂。吉大慙。洗面而去。有人語劉。此鬼偷食乃食盡。必有形之物。可以毒藥中之。劉即於他家煮冶葛。取二升汁。密齎還。向夜。令作糜。著於几上。以盆復之。後聞鬼外來。發盆取糜。既吃。擲破甌出去。須臾。聞在屋頭吐。嗔怒非常。便棒打窗戶。劉先以防備。與鬪。亦不敢入戶。至四更中。然後遂絕。出續搜神記

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:



Lu Su 魯肅

When Sun Quan (r. 222-52 CE) fell ill, a shaman informed him: “There is a spirit who wears fine silks and who appears as one of the former officers or ministers.” Quan did not heed this but berated him and entered the palace. That night, Quan saw Lu Su[1] coming towards him, wearing silk robes just as had been described.

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, 317.2513:



[1] This is Lu Su 魯肅 (courtesy name Zijing 子敬, 173-217 CE), a famous general who fought at the battle of Red Cliff (Chibi 赤壁, in 208 CE).

Wang Bi 王弼

Wang Bi[1] repeatedly mocked Zheng Xuan’s[2] Confucianism, saying: “That old codger didn’t have a clue.” It happened that, at midnight, he suddenly heard the sound of clogs outside his pavilion. After a short time someone entered and introduced himself as Zheng Xuan, reproving him: “The gentleman is only young; how can you take the strained interpretation of a few sentences so lightly as to concoct such a rash and preposterous slandering of Laozi?” His countenance coloured deeply by anger, after finishing speaking he withdrew. Bi resented this greatly, but not long after encountered a pestilence and died.

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, 317.2512:



[1] Wang Bi 王弼 (226-49 CE, courtesy name Fusi 輔嗣), a philosopher counted among the founders of the Xuanxue 玄學 School of Neo-Daoist thought.

[2] Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200 CE, courtesy name Kangchen 康成), an Eastern Han scholar of the Confucian Classics.

Zhou Shi 周式

Zhou Shi lived in Xiapei under the Han. He once travelled to Donghai, and along the way he encountered a clerk, carrying a book, who asked for a lift on his carriage. After they had travelled a little over ten li, he spoke to Shi: “I have to pay a quick visit. I will leave my book in the gentleman’s care. See that you do not open it.” When he had departed, Shi stealthily opened and examined the book. It recorded all of the people’s deaths, and Shi’s name was right there in the lower column. Before long the clerk returned, and Shi was still looking at the book. The clerk addressed him angrily: “This is why I told you! Why would you suddenly start to look at it?” Shi kowtowed until blood flowed from his head. After some time of this the clerk told him: “I am grateful that the gentleman brought me so far, but this book cannot be altered. The gentleman will depart today. Go home. Do not leave your door for three years, and you will be reprieved. Do not speak of having seen my book.” Shi returned home and did not leave.

More than two years passed. His family all thought this very strange. When a neighbour passed away, his father became very angry, and ordered him to go to mourn, leaving Shi unable to refuse. When he passed through the gate, he immediately encountered the clerk, who told him: “I ordered you not to leave for three years, but today you emerge from your gate. What option do I have? I tried to prevent you looking, and arranged a continuous punishment, but now I see you, and have no choice. In three days’ time, we will come for you.” Shi returned weeping, and recounted the whole matter. His father still did not believe him, but his mother watched over him, weeping day and night. When high noon arrived on the third day, they did indeed take him, and he died immediately.

From Fayuanzhulin.

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, 316.2504:



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:



Zhang Yi 張遺

The Prefectural Chief of Guiyang Zhang Yi[1] was from Jiangxia. His courtesy name was Shugao, and he resided in Yanling. Amid his fields there was a great tree, more than ten spans around, that shaded six mu (around 40 acres). Its branches and leaves were luxuriant, and no millet would grow beneath them. He sent a passing traveller to fell it, but after several swings of the axe the tree began to bleed profusely. The traveller was terrified, and returned to tell Shugao. Shugao told him, furiously: “Old trees sweat; what’s so strange about that?” He therefore went in person and hacked at it. A large amount of blood poured out. Shugao hacked at it again, and again, and opened up a hollow space within. A white-haired old man, four or five chi tall (1.3-1.6m), emerged suddenly and stepped towards Shugao. Shugao greeted him with a swing of his blade, and killed him. Four or five old men emerged in the same way, falling to the ground in fear and shock. Shugao carried on as before, quite unruffled. The various people looked on at these beings. Like people but not human, like beasts but not animals, could they be what is known as wood or stone devils, or Kui sprites? In the year he felled the tree, Shu- [2841] -gao was appointed Censor to the Ministry of Works and Governor of Yanzhou.

From Fayuanzhulin. [2]

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, 359.2840-41:


桂陽太守江夏張遺。字叔高。居𨻳〈居上原有隱字。據明鈔本刪。𨻳字原闕。據法苑珠林三一補。〉陵。田中有大樹。十圍餘。蓋六畝。枝葉扶疏。蟠地不生谷草。遣客斫之。斧數下。樹大血出。客驚怖。歸白叔高。叔高怒曰。老樹汗出。此等何怪。因自斫之。血大流出。叔高更斫之。又有一空處。白頭老翁長四五尺。突出趁〈趁原作稱。據法苑珠林三一改。〉叔高。叔高以刀迎斫。殺之。四五老翁並出。左右皆驚怖伏地。叔高神慮恬然如舊。諸人徐視之。似人非人。似獸非獸。此所謂木石之怪。夔魍魎者乎。其伐樹年中。叔 [2841] 高辟司空御史兗州刺史。出法苑珠林。法苑珠林四二作出搜神記

[1] An editor’s note here states that the story is titled (and the character likewise named) Zhang Liao 張遼 in the Soushenji 搜神記.

[2] An editor’s note here states that the Fayuanzhulin reports that the story is taken from the Soushenji 搜神記.

Magistrate Li Of Wangjiang 望江李令

Magistrate Li of Wangjiang lived in Shuzhou after his dismissal from office. He had two sons, who were extremely intelligent. The magistrate once went to drink wine, returning at sunset. A hundred paces short of his house, he saw his two sons coming to greet him. On reaching him, they grabbed him between them and gave him a beating. The magistrate was alarmed and angry. He let out a great cry, but it was a place far from other people, so nobody knew of his plight. They kept hitting him as he went, but, just as he was about to reach his home his two sons left him and departed. When he arrived at the gate, however, his two sons were just arriving to meet him below the hall. When he questioned them they both said that they had never stepped outside the gate. A little over a month later, the magistrate again held a drinking party, but this time told his host the whole story, asking if he could stay the night as he did not dare return. His sons, however, fearing that he would return at dusk and be beaten again, set out together to meet him. Halfway there, however, they saw their father, who asked them, angrily: “Why would you go out at night?” He then had his attendants beat them, before letting them go. The next day, the magistrate returned, and was even more shocked at these events. Before several months had passed, father and sons were all dead.

People of the region say: ‘In Shu there are mountain spirits, and they excel in such cruelty, as they are followers of Liqiu.’[1]

From Jishenlu.

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, 353.2797:



[1] Translation revised with generous help from Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!