Han Gan Paints Horses 韓幹畫馬

Han Gan[1] of the Tang was skilled at painting horses. While he was leading a quiet life at home, a person suddenly appeared, arriving wearing a black hat and red robe. Gan asked him: “What brings you here?” He replied: “I am an agent of the nether world. I heard that the gentleman is skilled at painting horses, and hoped to be granted one.” Gan erected a painting and burned it. Several days later he went out, and somebody bowed to him in thanks, saying: “Having benefited from the gentleman’s kindness, I have been spared the pain of trudging through hill and water, and you will also receive a reward for this service.” The following day, somebody brought a hundred bolts of white silk, not knowing where it had come from; Gan accepted and used it.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.19 (Tale 98):

韓幹畫馬

唐韓幹善畫馬,閑居之際,忽有一人,玄冠朱衣而至。幹問曰:「何緣及此?」對曰:「我鬼使也。聞君善畫良馬,願賜一匹。」幹立畫焚之。數日因出,有人揖而謝曰:「蒙君惠駿足,免為山水跋涉之苦,亦有以酬效。」明日,有人送素縑百匹,不知其來,幹收而用之。

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] On Han Gan韓幹 (c. 706-783), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Gan.

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Yang Xinglian’s Wooden Puppet 楊行廉木偶

Yang Xinglian of Shu was meticulous and ingenious, and once carved wood into a monk, which extended its hand in the Yizhou market and begged for coins. When it its hands were filled with fifty coins, it would lean and pour them into a jar, saying the word “give alms”.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 55):

楊行廉木偶

蜀人楊行廉精巧,嘗刻木為僧,於益州市引手乞錢。錢滿五十於手,則自傾寫下瓶,口言「布施」字。

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)

The Lord of Profound Heaven Manifests 玄帝現像

Wang Daozhi was known as Lay Scholar Free of Knowledge, and lived to the west of Anfu. In his household were collected eighteen of the very finest statues of arhats, and every month he had monks perform rites and make offerings to them. They had a plum blossom [129] that fruited in its porcelain vase, and people thought this an auspicious sign. One day, his family fell ill, and he dreamed that two scrolls were offered before the arhats, saying: “You should go north in person, and ask the Profound Emperor to provide healing.” The following day, a monk came to the gate and asked: “Why do you not attend the immortal?” He replied: “I have no image.” The monk said: “You should invite an artist.” An image of the emperor then appeared on the table, face like a full moon, black robes and golden armour, feet treading on turtles and serpents, five generals to his right and left, holding knives, grasping banners held erect and surrounded by streamers. Known as the Five Dragons, their might and grandeur was far beyond that which one might usually see. When the image was finished it was traced by hand and then vanished. The illness was then cured, and his household treasured the icon.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.128-29 (Tale 223):

玄帝現像

王道之,號無識居士,住安福之西。其家蓄十八羅漢像最精妙,月月命僧禮而供之。有梅花 [129] 結實於甆瓶,人以為瑞。一日,其家病作,羅漢前兩軸獻夢云: 「待自去北方,請玄帝來救治。」明日,一僧登門曰:「如何不奉真聖?」答曰:「無像。」僧曰:「可邀畫匠(「匠」原作「像」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)來。」就桌上現(此處原衍「像」字,據明刻本、明抄本刪。)出帝像,面如滿月,皁袍金甲,足踏龜蛇,左右五將,持刀執纛樹幡,號五龍,猛烈雄偉,非尋常所有者。描訖,像隨手而沒。後病癒,其家寶藏之。

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).

Ascended Immortals Manifest Power 上真顯靈

The Imperial Academician Pan Zuhao (unidentified) lived in Yuzhang. He painted ink and wash images of ascended immortals, then made offerings that they might support him, and his prayers were always answered. One day, the painted image made a weeping sound, and then explained to Zuhao: “You will now die.” Before long he did indeed expire, aged 38 sui. On the day of his death, it also appeared to his son in a dream, saying: “Your father is dead; we ought to return to guard his coffin.” It seized his son Yida, and took him urgently to act as a pallbearer; on the day he departed from the hostel, a vermillion snake curled itself over the coffin. Pan had always served with great care, and this was certainly the response of the immortals. In a wuyin year there was an invasion, and his house was destroyed in the flames of war, leaving only the images in dignified array. His grandson Lin treasured them, handing them down to his fourth son Qingkeng to be remounted, and they were then lost.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.128 (Tale 222):

上真顯靈

太學生潘祖浩,居豫章。水墨畫上真像隨行供養,每禱必應。一日,畫像作哭聲,仍明告祖浩曰:「汝其死矣。」未幾果卒,纔三十八歲。死之日,又託夢其子曰:「汝父已死,我當護其柩歸。」逮其子翼大,亟往扶櫬,離齋舍日,赤蛇蟠其柩上。潘平日事之甚謹,固真聖報之也。戊寅年寇作,其家毀於兵火,儼然獨存。其孫霖寶之,續付青坑季生表背,遂為所失。

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 Pair of Dragons Reveal Themselves 雙龍現形

Liu Dongwei was skilled at painting dragons, and one day a husband and wife came to his gate and said: “Dragons are male and female, and their forms differ. The males have horns that are wavelike and concave, their eyes deep and noses slit, their fins pointed and scales thick, strong above and weaker below, and their tails glow with bright flame. The females’ horns are extravagant, wavelike and even, their eyes shallow and their noses straight; their fins rounded and their scales thin, their tails are strong and thick.” Wei said: “How do you know this?” The people said: “We are ourselves dragons.” They transformed into a pair of dragons and flew away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.265 (Tale 480):

現形

劉洞微善畫龍,一日有夫婦造其門曰:「龍有雌雄,其壯不同,雄者角浪凹,目深鼻豁,鬐尖鱗密,上壯下殺,尾火燁燁。雌者角靡浪平,目淺鼻直,鬐圓鱗薄,尾壯於腹。」微曰:「何以知之?」其人曰:「吾身即龍。」化為雙龍飛去。

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 Temple Deity Takes A Wife 廟神娶婦

In Pucheng there was the extremely efficacious Great Prince of the Protecting the Realm Temple, and the deity’s statue was grand and beautiful. A townsperson of the Liu lineage had two daughters, and one day, when they visited the temple, the eldest girl developed a desire to marry the prince. At night they returned home, and she dreamed that the spirit sent two seal-bearers to give Mr Liu silk and gold, and also followed, playing a flute, to greet her, asking that she return to the temple. On awaking from the dream, she told her father about it, and he was shocked and astonished by the matter. The girl then, without suffering illness, suddenly dropped down dead. The next morning Mr Liu visited the temple, and saw that the clay statue of the prince that had been placed in the middle of the central hall, had shifted to the left. The girl’s father, because in her dream she prayed to play music with the spirit, then had a statue of his daughter placed to the right to act as a wife.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.223 (Tale 397):

廟神娶婦

浦城有護國廟大王極靈,神像雄美。邑人劉氏有兩女,一日謁廟,長女有願與王為偶之意。夜歸,女夢神遣二直符齎金帛授劉氏,並簥從來迎,請歸廟。夢覺,以(「以」原作「己」據明刻本改。)告其父,方怪其事,女忽無病而卒。次早謁廟,見宮中王者本泥塑中坐,已移於左。厥父以女夢祈筊於神,遂塑其女於右作夫人。

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 Household God Brings Property 家神送物

The family of Zhang Shuiyuan, of Yongfeng Stone Well in Xinzhou, served their household god with great reverence. The [lacuna] household god was an ancestor. The [lacuna] household had very little property, and later, due to the exhaustion of their property, the family prayed from dawn to dusk, hoping for assistance from the nether world. One day, when dusk was approaching, an old woman was seen walking straight in, carrying a bamboo box which she placed on a table in the ancestral hall. The family rushed out to meet her, but she was nowhere to be seen. When they looked at the portrait of a female ancestor in the ancestral hall, however, there was a close resemblance; the family were astonished and confused, and hesitated to look at the box. After a night had passed they finally opened and examined it, and all the contents were items of silver and gold. The Zhangs sold this and managed their property, and from this initial wealth became an important lineage. The old woman was their ancestress.

Among these ancestral spirits there are none who do not watch over their descendants from the nether world, cherishing people who live in ignorance, instead revering and praying to lascivious demons from dawn to dusk, calling them deities and divinities. When other people pray for their ancestors, this can be called auspicious and prosperous. If one pays no heed to one’s ancestors, failing to observe the seasonal offerings, not revering the tombs, even when there are descendants, how does this differ to the extinction of a lineage? If people can shift their reverence from lascivious demons to respectful service of their ancestors, it would not only be the Zhangs who receive protection and reward, and the deities of heaven and earth too would extend their generosity and protection.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 389):

家神送物

信州永豐石井張稅院者,家事家神甚謹。[ ]家神者,祖先也。[ ]薄有貲產,後因破蕩,家人朝夕禱之,以冀陰相。一日將暮,忽見一嫗攜一小竹合子直入,置家堂中几案上,急出迎之,亦不見矣。但瞻家堂中所畫先世祖婆者如之,家人疑異,留不啟視。經宿啟視,皆黃白之物。張鬻之治產,(「產」,明刻本作 「生」。)因此貲產甲於〔一〕(據明刻本補。)族。蓋嫗者,祖婆也。夫祖宗英靈毋有不陰相子孫,惜人未之知,但朝夕奉祀淫鬼,指為神明。為他人祀祖宗,謂可徼福,反以本生祖宗置之度外,歲時不祭,墳墓不登,雖有子孫,絕嗣何異?儻能移祀淫鬼之心敬事祖宗,非惟如張氏之獲報,而天地神明亦加垂佑焉。

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).