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.

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).

The Two Sages of Yuelu Monastery 岳麓寺二聖

In Hengyue there was the Yuelu Monastery, rebuilt and refurbished in brilliant gold and jade, its lustre dazzling everyone. A wandering Hu (northwestern) monk visited the temple, and addressed its abbot: “If, at the northeastern corner [214] a Tusita Bridge could be built over a small stream, once completed it would resemble the Western Heaven.” The following day the abbot brought together a multitude to discuss this transformation, and after some years it was complete.

The two sages of the temple gate then appeared to the abbot in a dream, saying: “This temple resembles the Western Heaven above, but now it falls short and the spirit of Mars is coming to burn and seize it. You should urgently take your multitude south to meet him by the ten li bridge.” On awaking, the abbot was terrified, and gathered his monks to go out front and wait. From dawn to evening, nobody came. When the sky darkened, they suddenly saw a priest, hair loose and unkempt around his temples, his clothes old and shabby, approaching them very slowly. The crowd of monks bowed as they saw him, leading him to the temple, making a great gathering with food and chanting, treating him with great honour, and begging him sorrowfully: “This temple has been built and repaired through the begging of alms; it is newly completed after more than a decade of hard work. If it should one day be reduced to a field of ashes, how could that not be regretted? We beg that the star lord would have a special mercy on us, and extend a brief pardon.” The priest was astonished, and said: “How could a poor cleric have such power?” The crowd of monks begged and supplicated over and over, so he asked: “Who was it that told you I was the spirit of Mars? If I could understand, perhaps this can be sorted out.” The abbot had no choice but to speak directly: “The two sages of the temple gate manifested in a dream.” The priest said: “You should make up several dozen widths of sticky paper and build them together to resemble the halls and chambers of this temple. Then burn it with lots of spirit money, so as to dispel this issue.”

The assembled monks did as he instructed, and burned it all. Just after the fifth watch (about dawn), the multitude escorted the priest out through the mountain gate, where he scolded the two sages: “Who taught you to shoot your mouths off like this? Who taught you to see the bone and not the flesh, the flesh and not the bone?” When they escorted him to the bridge of the previous day, cloud and mist arose on all sides, and the priest suddenly vanished. When the multitude returned to the mountain gate, the two sages collapsed into earth and dust, leaving only their wooden frames. When the abbot had them re-sculpted, within ten days they had fallen apart once more. To this day the temple’s mountain gate lacks its two guardian sages.

後2.213-14 (Tale 379):

岳麓寺二聖

衡岳有岳麓寺,重新修建,金碧輝煌,光彩爍人。有胡僧雲遊詣寺,與寺主言:「若於東北角 [214] 上小溪中造一座兜率橋,成則類西天矣。」寺主翌日集大衆題化,積年橋成。山門下二聖忽現夢於寺主云:「本寺類西天上界,今差火德星君來焚取,可急聚大衆南去十里溪橋邊迎之。」夢覺,寺主驚,遂集僧衆前去往候。自朝至晚,無往來者。天將昏,忽有一道人,鬢髮鬅鬙,身衣藍縷,徐徐然來。僧衆見之下拜,迎至寺,大作齋會,待之甚至,哀懇之曰:「此寺緣化修造,以十數年之辛勤方能圓就,若一旦為煨燼之場,寧不可惜!慾望星君特發慈悲,姑與原宥。」道人驚曰:「貧道安有此!」僧衆再三哀告不已,乃問曰:「誰與汝說我是火德星君,言若明白,當與料理。」寺主不得已,直云:「山門下二聖現夢。」道人云:「可打黏紙數十幅,一一綵繪本寺殿宇房廊樣式,多將紙錢前來燒化,庶可消禳。」僧衆如其教焚訖。五更初,衆送道人出山門下,乃指駡二聖云:「誰教汝饒舌,教汝骨不見肉,肉不見骨。」及送至昨日橋邊,雲霧四起,道人倏然不見。衆回山門,則二聖泥土皆落,隻有木胎。寺主再裝塑之,越旬日又落。至今本寺山門下無金剛二聖也。

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).

Lightning Demolishes A Diviner’s Shop 雷撤卦肆

In Longquan County there was one Minister Si, who revered spirits and deities, and was devoted to good deeds. When Gan Yuan rebuilt the Jizhou Bridge, at the north gate he painted an image of the Heavenly King. There was a scholar Hu (his given name has been forgotten), who chiseled this out of the beam and moved it, renting it to Revisor Li as a sign for his divination business, where it was used to bring in profit. Hu Si brought the matter before the authorities as a lawsuit, but the circuit officials looked around and were afraid to make enquiries. Minister Si then took up the incense burner devoted to the Heavenly King, carried it around the town, and called on the heavens to curse him. Several days after, the skies darkened bringing rain and lightning, and the diviner’s shop was demolished. The townsfolk therefore named him ‘Hu King of Heaven’.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.106 (Tale 184):

雷撤卦肆

龍泉縣有四郎,敬信神佛,好為善事。幹緣再建濟州橋,於橋之北門繪一天王像。有胡學士不顯其名,鑿其梁柱,浮搭一間,賃與李祕校作卦肆以收利。胡四經官訟之,縣道觀望不敢問。四郎輒肩天王香鑪,繞市呼天以呪之。數日後,陰雨迅雷,竟撤卦肆。邑人以胡天王號之。

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).

A Painted Child is Able to Cry 繪兒能啼

Mao Hui (Artist Mao) came from Suichang, and was skilled at making the most fascinating paintings. He often went to the Guangren Temple on Ceng Peak, where the disciples did not follow the appropriate rites. He entered the Buddha chamber, painted a woman breastfeeding an infant at the base of the wall, and then left. Suddenly at night there came the sound of a child crying, and people marveled at it. One day when Hui arrived, the monks told him of this, and Hui laughed: “If you want it to stop, that is very easy!” He therefore increased the breast, so it was inside the baby’s mouth, and from then on the sound of crying stopped.

Moreover, in a pavilion of the Nanzhou Monastery in Songyang hangs a silk scroll presented in the Jiayou era (1056-63), on which the Compiler Gong Yuan 龔原 (1078-1101) inscribed this poem: “Gentleman Mao of our city, Paintings exquisite and enthralling.” The assistant minister Zhou Wan also composed a poem for presentation to him; his skill was indeed outstanding.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.81 (Tale 140):

繪兒能啼

毛繪,遂昌人,善畫入神。常至曾山廣仁院,其徒不之禮。入佛殿畫一婦人乳一小兒於壁角而出。遇夜有兒啼聲,怪之。一日繪至,僧語及,繪笑曰:「若欲絕之甚易!」乃添(「添」原作「啼」,據元刻本改。)乳入口,自此啼聲遂止。又在松陽南洲寺閣畫帛道猷相,嘉祐中,待制龔原題詩其上云:「吾邑毛生者,畫格妙入神。」侍郎周綰亦作詩贈之,其術亦不俗矣。

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).