A Huge Serpent Spits A Pearl 巨蛇吐珠

A country woman surnamed Huang from Qinzhou once found rays of bright light shining out of her grain store at night; people marvelled greatly at it. One day, Huang took out the grain to dry in the sun, and saw among it a great snake coiled up in there, which spat out a round object emitting dazzling rays. When the serpent leapt up and departed, she picked up the object, which turned out to be a pearl. She held it close and returned. That night her room was  filled with light, and the neighbours reported the matter to the local officials. Because the officials pursued the matter rather urgently, the woman became alarmed. She therefore hid the pearl in a steamer basket and it was cooked. Afterwards its bright gleam faded to dullness. A scholar she later encountered said: “This was a snake pearl; had it not been cooked in the steamer its value would have been boundless!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.66 (Tale 114):

巨蛇吐珠

欽州村婦黃氏,禾屋內夜有光芒現,人甚訝之。一日,黃婦取禾曬曝,見禾中有一巨蛇蟠屈於彼,口吐一圓物,光耀奪目。蛇躍而出,婦拾而視之,乃一珠,懷而歸之。是夜滿室光耀,鄰右以其事首官,官司追索稍緊,其婦驚懼,以珠於甑內蒸過,遂晦而不明。後遇識者乃曰:「此蛇珠也,若不蒸過,則價無限矣!」

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).

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Skull Spirits 髑髏神怪

During the Jiaxi era (1237-41), the ten-year-old grandson of a villager suddenly vanished without trace, and could not be traced despite prayer, divination and the distribution of notices. During his search it started to rain, and when he sought temporary shelter in a doorway he suddenly heard his grandson call out the names of his ancestors, leaving him shocked and astonished. Being very familiar with his grandson’s voice, he hurried to report the matter to the local officials. When official messengers made a search they indeed found him in a cupboard. By that time he was already emaciated and haggard, having lost the appearance of life, breathing feebly and close to his end, he went to the officials and was still able to relate the whole story of his case. When he was first taken, he was treated with the greatest kindness, each of his meals always filling him right up. Day by day from then on his food was reduced, even his rice dumplings shrinking, and he was eventually left without even a pickle. Each day he was washed only with vinegar, from head to toe, and his joints and blood vessels stopped up with nails. He experienced the greatest cruelty, and at the end of his report, he finally passed away. The kidnappers confessed, and their household, with the exception of the elderly and underage, all received the death sentence.

It is widely said by people in the present generation that those concerned with fortune steal away young boys in this way, waiting for them to die and then taking their bones. Grasping their immortal and mortal souls, it is said that when placed by the ear they gain reports on affairs; these are called ‘Skull Spirits’. When Wu Yuyan was a censor in Jiangdong, he too discovered such a matter, and on investigation heard an account much like this.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.69 (Tale 120):

髑髏神怪

嘉熙年間,村民有孫年十歲,忽失不見,祈卜散榜不獲。尋討偶值雨,暫宿於門首,忽聞孫喚祖之名姓,為之駭然。認其孫之聲甚稔,急告於官,差人搜捕,果得於其家櫃中。時已枯朽,略無人形,奄奄餘息,到官猶能道其事之本末。初被竊,溫存備至,一飯必飽,自是日減一日,繼用糭子亦減,久則咸無焉。每日惟灌法醋自頂至踵,關節脈絡悉被錮釘,備極慘酷,言畢氣絕。盗者伏罪,家無老幼盡獲,置之極刑。今世言人之吉凶者,皆盗人家童男如此法,待其死後收其枯骨,掬其魂魄,謂能於耳邊報事,名「髑髏神」也。吳雨巖憲江東,亦斷一事相類,推勘其由,乃如此云。

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 Heart Contains Mountains and Rivers 心有山水

In a wild place outside Shanyang County in Chuzhou there was an ancient tomb, of which family or era it is not clear. Suddenly a Persian person came to pay visit a neighbour to the tomb, and said: “I wish to buy this land.” The neighbour said: [65] “This is the tomb of our ancestors; how could I dare to sell them so lightly?” The Persian said: “Don’t pretend that you know those people; no offerings have been made here for five or six centuries!” The other thought about it again through the night, deciding: it is not my tomb, and if there is to be payment, why cherish something without benefit? The following morning, when the Persian came, he accepted the request, asking for 2,000 strings of cash, and this was duly paid to him. After discussion they decided to excavate, and, finding a woman looking like the earth within a wooden coffin, cut open her belly and took out her heart. Displaying it they said: “Through her whole life this woman never achieved her ambitions, but viewing and appreciating the mountains and rivers, their purity and clarity entered her heart.” Separating it into two slices, they emitted bright lustre like jade. Each piece contained the real hills and real waters which a woman had once admired as she leant on her balustrade. Believing it rare and precious, he then took it back to his home country. It was a truly priceless treasure.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.64-65 (Tale 112):

心有山水

楚州山陽縣荒郊有古墳,不詳姓氏年代。忽有波斯人來謁墳鄰曰:「吾欲買此地。」鄰曰: [65] 「墳乃吾祖,安敢輕售!」波斯曰:「汝毋妄認,廢祀已六百年矣!」其人中夜思之,既非我墳,若有所償,何惜不與!詰旦,波斯人來,從其請,索二千緡,隨即償之。議定即掘,見棺木中一婦人如土,剖腹取心,指示曰: 「此婦平生不得志,觀玩山水,清氣盡入其心。」解開兩片,光瑩如玉,每片皆有真山真水,一婦人倚欄凝望。以為奇寶,遂帶歸本國,真無價珍。

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).