Taixuan Nü 太玄女

The Taixuannü, surname Zhuan, personal name He, lost her father as a child. Mother and child lived together for some time, and all said they would not survive long. Their sadness became worry. She often said: “The life of a human, once lost, cannot be restored. Moreover, I have heard that this span of life is limited, and life cannot be extended without perfecting the Way.” She then went to call on a sagely teacher, purifying her heart, seeking the Way and achieving the *wangzi* techniques. After practicing this for several years, she was then able to enter water without getting wet. At times of deep cold and snow, she could climb the ice in an unlined robe showing no change in countenance, warm in body and able to go on for several days. Moreover she was able to visit government offices, palace chambers, city markets and private residences in many other places. Not thinking this strange, pointing at them they would shift from their previous location. Doors and gates bearing locks would open upon her gesture; pointed at, mountains would crumble, pointed at, trees would fall; pointed at again, all of these would be restored. Taking disciples travelling through the mountains, when the sun set, she struck the rock with her staff, and opened up a door. Entering, there were chambers with beds, curtains and canopies, with food, provisions and wine as if this were normal. Even were she to travel ten thousand li, her whereabouts would often be like this. She could order small items to grow suddenly to the size of a house, and big things to shrink suddenly down to be like a hair or grain. Sometimes she would spit fire to cover the heavens, and sigh to extinguish it. She was also able to sit among flames, her clothes and shoes never scorching. Within a short period, she would change into an old man, change into a small child, change into a carthorse; there was no transformation she could not achieve. She practiced the thirty-six arts with complete dedication, bringing people back to life, and saving innumerable folk. It is not known from where her food or clothing came, and none achieved her powers. Her colour reduced ever more, but the hair on her temples was raven-black. Suddenly, in broad daylight, she ascended to heaven and departed.

From Nüxianzhuan.

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), ii, 59.363

太玄女

太玄女,姓顓,名和,少喪父。或相其母子,皆曰不壽。惻然以為憂。常曰:「人之處世,一失不可復生。況聞壽限之促,非修道不可以延生也。」遂行訪明師,洗心求道,得王子之術。行之累年,遂能入水不濡。盛雪寒時,單衣冰上,而顏色不變,身體溫煖,可至積日。又能徙官府宮殿城市屋宅於他處,視之無異,指之即失其所在,門戶櫝櫃有關鑰者,指之即開,指山山摧,指樹樹拆,更指之,即復如故。將弟子行山間,日暮,以杖叩石,即開門戶。入其中,屋宇床褥幃帳,廩供酒食如常。雖行萬里,所在常爾。能令小物忽大如屋,大物忽小如毫芒。或吐火張天,噓之即滅。又能坐炎火之中,衣履不燃。須臾之間,或化老翁,或為小兒,或為車馬,無所不為。行三十六術甚效,起死廻生,救人無數。不知其何所服食,亦無得其術者。顏色益少,鬢髮如鴉。忽白日昇天而去。出女仙傳

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A Person Becomes A Tiger 人化虎

Niu Jing was ill for three months, and turned into a tiger. Then, when he ate another tiger, he turned back into a human. While he was a tiger, he was unaware that he had been a human; while human, he did not know that he had been a tiger.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 48):

牛京病三月,化而為虎,遂食其虎復化為人。當其為虎時,不知其為人;及其為人,又不知其為虎。

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)

A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

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)

[1] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

A Spring Contains A Pig-Dragon 泉有豬龍

By the side of a road in Qingshen County within Meizhou there is a small Buddha Hall, commonly known as the Buddha of the Sow Mother. When Su Dongpo (1037-1101) asked the local people about this, they said: “A century ago a sow prostrated herself there, and transformed into a spring with two carp; she was a pig-dragon. People petitioned the sow to grant them motherhood, and erected a Buddha Hall over it, hence the name.” The spring emerged upwards from rock, its depth not reaching two chi (about 66cm), but even in severe droughts it never stopped running. People could never see the carp, however. One day Dongpo told this to his wife’s brother Wang Yuan, but Yuan thought it absurd and preposterous. Unable to settle Yuan’s doubts, he went together with Yuan to pray at the spring, where the latter said: “Grant, if this is not all nonsense, another glimpse of the fish.” Before long the two carp emerged once again. Yuan was terrified, bowing over and over again and requesting forgiveness for his misdeed, and then departing.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.266 (Tale 483):

泉有豬龍

眉州青神縣道側有小佛堂,俗謂豬母佛。蘇東坡問之土人,曰:「百年前有牝豬伏於此,化為泉,有二鯉魚在泉中,蓋豬龍也。人請牝豬為母,而立佛堂其上,故以名之。」泉出石上,深不及二尺,大旱不竭,而鯉莫有見者。一日東坡以其事告妻兄王愿,愿疑之妄誕,不平其疑,與愿俱至井禱之泉上曰:「予若不妄言,魚當復見。」已而二鯉復出,愿大驚,再拜謝罪而去。

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 Frog Becomes A Spirit 蝦蟆為精

Wei Heshan was receiving guests, and was with a Mr Shi in the official hostel. After three rounds of toasts, Heshan went in. Then two servant girls emerged, each holding a candle, and said: “The Grand Councillor invites Professor [261] Shi.” Mr Shi went in after them, and the other guests all marvelled at this. Shortly after, Heshan emerged and asked: “Where did Mr Shi go?” The crowd said: “He followed two maids sent to invite him in.” Heshan was alarmed, and asked: “Where are they?” He then ordered his retinue to go and search everywhere. They suddenly heard a human voice coming from the pond, and hurriedly kindled a fire to illuminate it. They found Mr Shi, jumping into the water and already half submerged. The gathered people helped him up and used the cooking fire to warm and revive him. When they asked him why, he said: “Following the two maids’ invitation I arrived below a great building, and entering the central hall found a person dressed in green robes seated in the middle, who indicated a young woman and said: ‘It is ordered that you take her to wife; the rites will be completed this night.’ The gathering then swarmed around us as we entered the bedchamber. Your servant said: ‘My elderly mother still lives; she has not been consulted. Not right! Not right!’ I had no idea that we were in the water.” The next day, Heshan ordered people to drain the pond and inside it they found a frog as big as a grain scoop, with only four or five small frogs. Some suspected that this was a frog spirit.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.260-61 (Tale 473):

蝦蟆為精

魏鶴山會客,館中史先生與焉。酒三行,鶴山入內,忽有兩丫鬟秉二燭出,云:「參政請史教 [261] 授。」史君相隨而入,諸客怪之。少頃,鶴山出問:「史先生安往?」衆曰:「適先生令二婢請入內矣。」鶴山驚曰:「安有此?」於是令左右遍去搜尋,忽聞塘中人聲,急舉火照之,則史先生已半身投水矣。衆扶掖上,用火炙蘇,問其故,則曰:「適二丫鬟請到一大屋下,入中堂,有一人身綠衣坐於中,指一小女云: 『令與汝為妻,今夕成禮。』衆遂簇擁入房。某曰:『有老母在,未曾報覆,不可!不可!』不知身在水中。」次日,鶴山令人幹塘,內有蝦蟆一隻,大如斗,小蝦蟆四五而已。或者疑其為蝦蟆精也。

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).

 

An Earthworm Demon 蚯蚓為妖

Qian Zizhao of Pengze County in Jiangzhou had a daughter who was still unmarried when she reached ‘the hairpin’ (i.e., the age of fifteen). Her parents came to realise that she was pregnant, and questioned her about it. She said: “Every night a beautiful youth comes out of the Heavenly Well and sleeps with me; this has been going on for half a year.” Her father and mother suspected that she might have been seduced by a demon, so gave her a length of fine thread on a needle, and instructed her to wait until she went out, and then to secretly attach it to her robe, so they could track where she had gone. The next morning they walked around and made an inspection, finding a two-cun length of thread trapped against one of the bricks in the well (a cun is about 2.5cm). Digging out a stone slab, below it they found a white earthworm, more than two chi in length (a chi is about 33 cm). When they killed it, it made a chirruping sound.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.260 (Tale 472):

為妖

江州彭澤縣潛子昭,有女及笄未婚,父母覺而有娠,詰之。乃曰:「每夜有美少年從天井中出,與同寢,今已半年矣。」父母疑為祟所惑,乃以[*糸末*]線穿針授女,令俟其去,則密縫其衣,視之何去。次早巡視,天井中磚縫外尚留線二寸許,掘開石板,下得白蚯蚓一條,長二尺許,殺之,作聲唧唧。

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 Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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).