Xuanzang Ordains A Pine 玄奘摩頂松

At the beginning of the Tang era there was a monk called Xuanzang who went to the western regions and brought scriptures, in a single journey of seventeen years.[1] On the day of his departure, in the Lingyan Monastery in Qizhou, a pine stood in the courtyard, and Zang touched his hand to its branches, saying: “I go west to seek the teachings of the Buddha; you should grow to the west; if I return, these twigs should face east: let my pupils and disciples know of it.”[2] When he left, the branches pointed westward year by year, growing several zhang (c. 3.3m). One day, they were suddenly pointed to the east, and his pupils and disciples said: “The Master has returned.” They thus went west to greet him. Zang had indeed returned, and obtained six hundred volumes of Buddhist scriptures. To this day people still call it ‘the ordained pine’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.17 (Tale 86):

玄奘摩頂松

唐初有僧玄奘往西域取經,一去十七年。始去之日,於齊州靈巖寺院,有松一本立於庭,奘以手摩其枝曰:「吾西去求佛教,汝可西長;若歸,即此枝東向:使吾門人弟子知之。」及去,其枝年年西指,約長數丈。一年忽東向指,門人弟子曰:「教主歸矣。」乃西迎之。奘果還歸,得佛經六百部。至今衆謂之「摩頂松」。

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)

An account in the Taiping Guangji pairs this story with a tale describing an incident during Xuanzang’s journey:

Xuanzang 玄奘

The Śramaṇa (Buddhist ascetic) Xuanzang’s secular surname was Chen, and he was from Yanshi County.[3] As a youth he was intelligent, and studious in behaviour. At the beginning of the Tang Wude era (618-26 CE), he went to the Western Regions to fetch scriptures. When he reached the Kubhā realm, the road became perilous, with tigers and leopards[4] he could not pass. Zang did not know what to do, so he locked himself into a room and sat. When night came he opened the door, and saw an elderly monk, whose head and face bore sores and wounds, and body showed discharge and blood. Sitting alone on the bed, he had no idea from where he had come; Zang therefore bowed courteously and diligently sought his help. The monk dictated a section of the Duoxinjing (the Prajñā-Pāramitā Hrdaya Sūtra), and ordered Zang to recite it. He then found that the landscape broadened and flattened, and the road opened up, the wild beasts hiding themselves, and the monsters retreating into concealment, allowing him to reach the land of the Buddha. He took six hundred works of scripture and returned, and his Prajñā-Pāramitā Hrdaya Sūtra is recited to this day. At the beginning, when Zang was about to depart for the Western Regions, there was a pine tree in the Lingyan Monastery, and Zang, standing in the courtyard, touched its branches with his hand and said: “I am going west to seek the Buddha’s teachings. You should grow to the west, and if I return, you should stop and turn to the east, so that my disciples can be informed.” He then left. Its branches then grew westward as year followed year, reaching several zhang in length (a zhang is c. 3.3m). One year it suddenly turned back around. His disciples said: “The Master has returned!” They then went west to greet him, and Zang had indeed come back. To this day people still call it the ‘ordained pine.’ Taken from Duyizhi and Tangxinyu.

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, 92.606:

玄奘

沙門玄奘俗姓陳。偃師縣人也。幼聰慧。有操行。唐武德初。往西域取經。行至罽賓國。道險。虎豹不可過。奘不知為計。乃鏁房門而坐。至夕開門。見一老僧。頭面瘡痍。身體膿血。牀上獨坐。莫知來由。奘乃禮拜勤求。僧口授多心經一卷。令奘誦之。遂得山川平昜。道路開闢。虎豹藏形。魔鬼潛跡。遂至佛國。取經六百部而歸。其多心經至今誦之。初奘將往西域。於靈巖寺有松一樹。奘立於庭。以手摩其枝曰。吾西去求佛教。汝可西長。若吾歸。即却東廻。使吾弟子知之。及去。其枝年年西指。約長數丈。一年忽東廻。門人弟子曰。教主歸矣。乃西迎之。奘果還。至今衆謂此松為摩頂松。出獨異志及唐新語

[1] On Xuanzang (c. 602-64 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang.

[2] The late Glen Dudbridge states that this was a pine twig planted by Xuanzang, rather than an extant tree standing in the courtyard when he visited; I don’t see this reading in either version (but am happy to be corrected). See Glen Dudbridge, The “Hsi-yu Chi”: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 22.

[3] On the term Śramaṇa, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9Arama%E1%B9%87a.

[4] The phrase 虎豹could also refer to violent people.

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Guo Pu’s Multifaceted Wisdom 郭璞多智

The horse on which the Eastern Jin Marshal Zhao Gu was riding died suddenly, and the general let out a melancholy sigh. A guest arrived, and the clerks did not dare to inform him. Guo Pu[1] came to his gate, and announced: “I can save this horse.” The general thus summoned him for an audience. Pu ordered that thirty people should all hold long poles, and go east for thirty li, reaching a grave mound and a forest attached to an altar to the god of the land. They then dispersed and beat the area, at which they captured an ape-like beast, which they then carried back. When it came before the horse, the beast sniffed at it, and the horse arose as if to leap up. To this day macaques are placed in stables, for this very reason.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.18 (Tale 87):

郭璞多智

東晉大將軍趙固所乘馬暴卒,將軍悲惋。客至,吏不敢通。郭璞造門,語曰:「余能活此馬。」將軍遽召見。璞令三十人悉持長竿,東行三十里,遇丘陵社林,即散擊,俄頃擒一獸如猿。持歸。至馬前,獸以鼻吸馬,馬起躍如。至今以獮猴置馬厩,此其義也。

[1] On the polymath Guo Pu 郭璞 (276-324 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guo_Pu.

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 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.

Yan Gen’s Concubine 嚴根妾

During the reign of Zhang Gui (254-314 CE) of the Former Liang, a concubine belonging to Yan Gen, Governor of Fuhan, gave birth. In the same night she bore a daughter, a dragon and a falcon.[1]

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 22 (上1.3)

嚴根妾

前梁張軌時,枹罕令嚴根妾產,同夕產一女、一龍、一鷙。

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] The Jinshu 晉書 (Book of the Jin) mentions this same incident, dating it to the fifth month of the fifth year Yongjia (3 June to 2 July, 311 CE; under the Western Jin), and reporting a response, linking such anomalous births to military chaos. See Jinshu 29.909:

五年五月,枹罕令嚴根妓產一龍,一女,一鵝。京房易傳曰:「人生他物,非人所見者,皆為天下大兵。」是時,帝承惠皇之後,四海沸騰,尋而陷於平陽,為逆胡所害,此其徵也。

The Way Kills A Spider Demon 法誅蛛怪

In a household belonging to Jianning fu there was a married second daughter, who returned to the household for the new spring, and went to stroll with her younger sister in the flower garden to the side of the house. As they entered the garden gate there was a spider, deep red in colour, which descended onto her arm and could not be flicked away. The girl thought it a demon, and though desperate could not get rid of it. Returning, she fell ill and died. At the beginning of spring the following year, her younger sister walked again in that place to remember the dead and the past, and had not even finished speaking when the same thing descended onto her arm. The girl rushed back, also feeling the illness starting to develop, and told her mother: “Elder sister saw this last year and then died; now I have seen it again and fear that I will not be spared. This is a demon; I have heard that Huang Jinzhuang performs the Way with great efficacy. We should hurry and send people to ask for a talisman and curing water.” Her mother did as she said. Gentleman Huang sent out a talisman with instructions to burn it in the stove. Soon after, thick clouds arose on all sides, thunder and rain descending all at once, the neighbours saw a mountainside appear in the air before the gate, and saw a scarlet woman struck as if by a lightning spirit, over and over again. Before long, there was a single great thunderclap, and they saw the woman fall out of the sky and into the valley. Soon after the rain stopped, and, going to look, they saw the corpse of a woman laid out there. The demonic effects then ceased.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.164 (Tale 285):

法誅蛛怪

建寧府人家有二女適人,因春首歸家,(「家」,明抄本作「寧」。)與其妹同遊屋側花園。方入園門,有一蜘蛛,真紅色,墮其臂,拂之不去。女以為怪,意殊不釋,歸感疾而死。次年春初,其妹再遊其地,因感舊事,言未竟,此物復墮其臂。其女急回,亦感病,語其母曰:「姊去年見此而死,今我又復見之,恐不可免。此是一怪,聞黃金莊行法甚靈,可急遣人問討符水。」母如其言。黃公為遣將發符,令以符於竈中燒化。須臾,陰雲四起,雷雨交作,鄰人但見門前之山旁空中,見有一真紅婦人為雷神所擊,往來數四。須臾,霹靂一聲,見此婦人自空中跌下坑谷。須臾雨霽,往視,見一婦人橫尸在焉。其怪方絕。

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 Turtle Understands Fortune and Misfortune 龜知吉凶

Pacification Commissioner Yang Yanzheng and his younger brother had faith in dreams, and both followed previous generations in taking up office in the Pacification Commission via examination. In their household was a great turtle, over two chi (c.66cm) in size, and they prepared a turtle chamber in the centre of the hall, feeding it every day with cooked rice or various kinds of pastries. When the two Yangs received promotion, or there was some other type of joy, it would then emerge in leaps and bounds; where there was misfortune, it would then emerge shedding tears. This was truly a turtle spirit!

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.266 (Tale 484):

龜知吉凶

楊安撫炎正與其弟夢信,皆以世科官至安撫使。家蓄一大龜,二尺餘,作龜室於堂奧,每日飼以飯或餅餌之屬。二楊偶有除擢,或有他喜,則跳躍而出;或有凶事,則出而淚下。信乎龜之靈也!

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).