A Guangling Clerk 廣陵吏人

A clerk from Guangling, surnamed Zhao, was sleeping alone in a chamber through the summer heat. Around midnight, he suddenly saw a tall person in a yellow robe enter via the door, followed by seven much smaller people, also wearing yellow. The stranger muttered to himself: “Looked everywhere without result, and now here, eh?” He shouted at him to get up, and said: “This can now be carried out.” One of the yellow-robed people stepped forwards and said: “This life is not yet finished, and we cannot just take it away. It would be better to make a record of this.” The taller person then reached inside his robe and brought out a seal. They made a seal impression on his left arm and departed. When dawn came he inspected it. The seal stuck closely to his skin, and its characters were like the ancient seal script. The lower character was shi 識 ‘knowledge’, the right looked like xian 仙 ‘immortal’, the left like ji 記 ‘record’, but the one above that could not be read. It is not known how Zhao ended up.

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, 353.2800:

廣陵吏人

廣陵吏姓趙。當暑。獨寢一室。中夜。忽見大黃衣人自門而入。從小黃衣七人。謂己曰。處處尋不得。乃在此耶。叱起之。曰。可以行矣。一黃衣前曰。天年未盡。未可遽行。宜有以記之可也。大人即探懷。出一印。印其左臂而去。及明視之。印文著肉。字若古篆。識其下。右若仙字。左若記字。其上不可識。趙後不知所終。出稽神錄

Hostel Pavilion Spiders 館亭蜘蛛

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom and sweep it all away, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, wishing to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp unbearable pain; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. It soon swelled up, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “My two brothers, younger and elder, were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor has avenged this injustice according to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had killed the spider in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination),1.3 (Tale 4):

館亭蜘蛛

有御史韋君,嘗從事江夏,復以奉使至京,既還,道次商於館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下,狀甚微。韋君曰:「是為人之患也。吾聞汝雖小,螫人,良藥無及。」因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下,如前所殺之。且視其上,有綱為窟,韋乃命左右挈箒盡為盡掃去,且曰:「為人患者,吾已除矣。」明日欲去,因以手撫去柱,忽覺指痛不可忍,乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚,即拂去。俄遂腫焉,不數日而盡一臂。由是肩輿舁至江夏。醫藥無及,竟以左臂潰為血,血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏,夢一白衣人謂曰:「我弟兄二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝,帝用雪其寃,且遂吾請。」言畢,夫人驚寤。甚異之,惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至,具得其狀,方悟所夢,覺為夢日,果其殺蜘蛛於館亭時也。夫人泣曰:「其能久乎!」數日而韋君終矣。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination)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)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Wei Jun 韋君

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom to remove it all, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, about to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp pain that he could not bear; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. Soon the swelling grew, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “I had three brothers, younger and elder, and two were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor felt sympathy and agreed to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had been in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

From Xuanshizhi

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 476.3920:

韋君

有御史韋君嘗從事江夏。後以奉使至京。既還。道次商於。館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下。狀甚微。韋君曰。是人之患也。吾聞雖小。螫人。良藥無及。因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下。如前所殺之。且觀其上。有綱為窟。韋乃命左右挈帚。盡為去。且曰。為人患者。吾已除矣。明日將去。因以手撫去柱。忽覺指痛。不可忍之。乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚。即拂去。俄遂腫延。不數日而盡一臂。由是肩舁至江夏。醫藥無及。竟以左臂潰為血。血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏。夢一白衣人謂曰。我弟兄三人。其二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝。帝用憫其寃。且遂吾請。言畢。夫人驚寤。甚異之。惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至。具得其狀。方悟所夢。覺為夢日。果其館亭時也。夫人泣曰。其能久乎。數日而韋君終矣。出宣室志

An Earthworm Kills 蚯蚓殺人

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by tilling the soil. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for a full month. A physician stated: “This is a case of extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and [3] subtle, like the crying of an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever louder, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.2-3 (Tale 3):

蚯蚓殺人

寶曆初,長沙有民王叟者,家貧,營田為業。一日於野,為蚯蚓螫其臂,痛楚甚,遂馳以歸。其痛益不可忍,夜呻而曉,晝吟而夕,如是者凡旬月。有醫者云:「此受毒之甚者也。病之始,庶藥有及。狀且深矣,則吾不得而知也。」後數日,病益甚,忽聞臂中有聲,幽然而 [3] 微,若蚯蚓吟者。又數日,其聲益響,如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination)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)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Wang Sou

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by diligent farming. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony [3918] grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for more than ten days. A physician stated: “This is extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and subtle, like an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever greater, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

From Xuanshizhi.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 476.3917-18:

王叟

寶曆初。長沙有民王叟者。家貧。力田為業。一日耕於野。為蚯蚓螫其臂。痛楚甚。遂馳以歸。其痛 [3918] 益不可忍。夜呻而曉。晝吟而夕。如是者凡旬餘。有醫者云。此毒之甚者也。病之始。庶藥有及。狀且深矣。則吾不得而知也。後數日。病益甚。忽聞臂中有聲。幽然而微。若蚯蚓者。又數日。其聲益大。如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。出宣室志

A Girl With Two Heads And Four Arms 兩頭四臂女

During Emperor Ling’s reign (168-89 CE), a girl was born in Luoyang with two heads and four arms.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 52):

兩頭四臂女

靈帝時,洛陽女子生時兩頭四臂。

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)

Mulan Joins The Army 木蘭從軍

Long ago there was a young woman called Mulan, who replaced her father on campaign and bore armour and weaponry for thirteen years, her fellow soldiers having no idea that she was actually a girl.[1]

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 54):

古有女木蘭者,代其父從征,身備戎裝凡十三年,同伙之卒不知其是女兒。

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] For a fascinating and beautifully illustrated version of the Mulan story, see https://chinesebooksforyoungreaders.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/i-am-mulan/.

 

The Shaoyang Cowherd 韶陽牧牛人

In Shaoyang there was a cowherd, and one morning a cow licked his arm, leaving it brilliant white in colour. This delighted him, so he stripped off and told the cow to lick him everywhere, becoming white all over. Within several days the cowherd died of a sudden illness. His family felt hate over the matter, killing the cow, and summoning the entire village to eat it together. Those who ate numbered several dozen in all, and they all died in a single evening.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 28):

韶陽牧牛人

韶陽有一人牧牛,一旦,牛舐其臂,而色皎白。此人樂之,即袒其體,令牛遍舐,皆白。其人數日間暴卒。其家恨,殺此牛,召村社同食之。凡食者數十人,一夕同卒。

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)

Remarkable People, Remarkable Matters 異人異事

Yi Yin[1] had no father and was born in Kongsang. The wife of Yu[2] turned to stone, her stomach later slitting open to give birth to Qi.[3] Laojun (i.e., Laozi) had ears that were seven chi in length (about 2.1m); he spent eighty-one years in his mother’s womb, splitting open her left side to be born, and at birth the hair on his temples was pure white. King Yan of Xu[4] was without bones but possessed sagely virtue. Liu Yong[5] enjoyed eating people’s scabs. King Wen (of Zhou)[6] had four breasts. Gao Yao[7] had a bird’s beak. Yao’s[8] eyebrows were eight-coloured. Tang’s[9] (the Shang founder) arm had four elbow-joints. Yu’s ears had triple openings. Li Lou (aka Li Zhu) could distinguish Qiu from Bo from ten li away. Hong Yan, minister of Wei, opened his own belly to receive Duke Yi’s liver.[10] When King Mu of Zhou ascended as Son of Heaven, the traces of his chariot-wheels and horses spread across ‘all-under-heaven’ and in all he travelled one yi and one wan (100,100,000) li (c.33,033,000 miles).

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 1):

異人異事

伊尹無父,生於空桑中。禹妻化為石,後剖腹而生啟。老君耳長七尺,在母腹中八十一年,剖左脇而生,及生,鬢髮皓白。徐偃王無骨而有聖德。劉邕好食人瘡痂。文王四乳。臯陶鳥喙。堯眉八彩。湯臂四肘。禹耳三漏。離婁察見秋亳於十里之外。衛臣弘演開己腹納懿公之肝。周穆貴為天子,車轍馬迹遍於天下,凡遊行一億一萬里。

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] Yi Yin 伊尹 (c.1600-1549 BCE) is famed as a minister under the Shang Dynasty. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yi_Yin.

[2] This is Yu the Great, legendary founder of the Xia夏. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_the_Great.

[3] This is Qi 啟, monarch over the Xia. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi_of_Xia.

[4] A king ruling around 944 BCE; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_(state).

[5] This is likely a figure of some note in the Three Kingdoms era. See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8A%89%E9%82%95_(%E8%9C%80%E6%BC%A2).

[6] 1152-1056 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Wen_of_Zhou.

[7] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gao_Yao_(minister).

[8] Traditionally c. 2356-2255 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Yao.

[9] Traditionally r. 1675-46 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_of_Shang.

[10] Duke Yi died c. 660 BCE. See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%A1%9B%E6%87%BF%E5%85%AC.