Moonlight Traces An Immortal 月影仙跡

Wang Tinggui was from Luxi, in Ancheng. His courtesy name was Minzhan, and he was a student of the imperial university, having passed the highest examinations. He once took leave of Hu Dan’an with a poem on the latter’s demotion to Xinzhou. Gui [?who? Qin Hui (1090-1155)?] heard of this and was angry, demoting him too. When Gui died, he was summoned to court once more, appointed Academician in the Cabinet for Promotion of Literature, but resigned the post and returned to live in seclusion in his home village, travelling around and resting at Mengcao Convent. In late spring, when the roseleaf raspberry was in full bloom, it was almost dawn when the waning moonlight illuminated a figure, seemingly dressed like a lay Buddhist, and who addressed a vegetable-washing servant, saying: “Please give us a poem; Lü Dongbin is coming to see you.” The servant said: “It is still early.” When the servant went in to announce this, Wang straightened his robe and hurried out, but could see only the moonlight outlining the form of a person on the ground. He kowtowed and bowed to them, but then there was nothing to be seen. He later amended the scrolls around the convent gate to read:

Moonlight traces immortal vestiges

Fragrant blooms bring spirit to the writing-brush.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.133 (Tale 233):

月影仙跡

安成盧溪王庭珪,字民瞻,太學生(明刻本無「生」字。)登第。嘗以詩送胡澹庵貶新州。檜見而怒,例遭貶。檜死,召還朝,除敷文閣學士,致仕,歸遯丘園,遊息于夢草庵。莫春荼䕷盛開,天將曙,殘月照人,偶有衣白衣人來,與洗菜僕曰:「請與敷文說,呂洞賓來相見。」僕曰:「尚早。」及僕入語,王攬衣急出,但見月影,一人在地,遂扣而拜之,不復可見。後改庵前門帖云:「月影印仙迹,花香供筆靈。」

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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An Eagle Seizes A Soldier’s Kerchief 鷹攫卒巾

When Wang Menglong[1] administered Wuzhou, there was an eyrie atop an ancient tree in the prefectural capital, and a soldier sneaked into it and stole a chick. His commander was just beginning to attend to the matter, when an eagle swooped down, grabbed a kerchief from one of the troops and departed. Soon after, realising that this was not the nest snatching soldier, it returned bearing the kerchief, but straightaway snatched the kerchief belonging to the kidnapping soldier. The commander, making a deduction from this, beat the soldier and drove him away, and the eagle drew a flock of birds, calling and wheeling above the hall, as if they were calling out in gratitude, before they departed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.269 (Tale 490):

鷹攫卒巾

王夢龍知婺州日,州治古木之上有鷹巢,一卒探取雛。守方視事,鷹忽飛下,攫一卒之巾以去。已而知非探巢之卒,復銜巾來還,乃徑攫探巢者之巾。守推其故,杖此卒而逐之,鷹乃引羣鷹飛鳴旋繞於廳上,若鳴謝之意而去。

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).

[1] This seems likely to be the Wang Menglong 王夢龍, courtesy name Huafu 華父, who passed the civil examinations in 1208. See Harvard University, Academia Sinica, and Peking University, China Biographical Database (January 1, 2018), https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cbdb.

A Spirit Rebukes A Musician 神譴樂人

The Dongyue Temple in Fenggao County was very austere, and observed an annual custom on the twenty-eighth day of the third month, where the townsfolk celebrated the birthday of the Yue Emperor. The old custom was to offer wine, and at the fourth cup to play the [225] tune ‘Ten Thousand Years of Joy’. In the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), the wuyin year (1278), the musician Wan Shou thought that, because that year’s harvest had failed, there would not be anyone to take charge of the affair, and also no offerings, so only played a popular tune in the mournful shang mode. Wan Shou later dreamed that he was escorted by yellow-robed clerks to a place below the hall of the True Lord Qingyuan at the Yue Temple, and the True Lord asked: “Yesterday, on the birthday of the Yue Emperor, wine was offered; why, on the fourth cup, did you just play some kind of popular ditty?” Wan Shou could not find a single word to respond. The True Lord spoke in judgement: “The sentence is: twenty canes across the back, three successive years of illness, banishment across the sea to be incarcerated in the demon cave.” The next day an abcess opened on his back, as big as a bowl in size. It persisted for three years, after which he died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.224-25 (Tale 400):

神譴樂人

奉高縣東嶽廟甚嚴,年例以三月二十八日,市民慶賀岳帝壽辰。舊例酌獻,第四盞例是樂 [225] 奏《萬年歡》。至元戊寅,樂人萬壽心思是年荒歉,既無人主事,又無祗待,遂只奏商調小曲。後萬壽夢被黃衣吏攝至岳廟清源真君殿下,真君問曰:「前日嶽帝生日酌獻,你如何第四盞只奏小曲?」萬壽竟無辭以應。真君判云: 「決脊杖二十,連病三年,押赴海外鬼洞收管。」次日果背發一疽,其大如碗,連綿三歲而死。

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).

Envy Drowns Sons and Grandsons 妒溺子孫

Li Zhengzou had a daughter-in-law from the Zhao family, who was extremely fierce. She had a son, but on reaching the age of seven he lacked intelligence and Li was extremely disappointed. His son had four concubines, all of whom became pregnant, and the old man said: “Even if I have ten grandchildren, educate them, do not drown them.” When Zhao heard this she became extremely resentful. Waiting until the old man and her husband left, Zhao called for the concubines and rebuked them, asking who had made them pregnant. The concubines said: “The old master.” Zhao said: “If you say that the master got you pregnant, you will be given a heavy flogging and married out to live among the distant wastes, going without money or clothing. If you say that it was a servant, you will then be spared a beating, you will be married out in a good place, and receive generous gifts.” The concubines were afraid and falsely identified this and that person among the servants. When the old man returned with her husbands, Zhao went straight up and reported this. The old man was unable to investigate, so took them at their word and dismissed them. The four servants were all reprimanded, and he urged the concubines to marry and give birth after, and then not to rear those children. The concubines followed these words, and drowned them. Not many years later, Li died early, and his grandsons also died young. When the lady Zhao died she went without inner and outer coffins, and was almost exposed in the grave. The Li household was affected by the lady Zhao’s jealousy to the point of childlessness, alas! An intelligent woman would never act in such a manner.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.101 (Tale 173):

妒溺子孫

李正奏子婦趙氏,極悍。得一子,至七歲不慧,李甚不滿。子有四妾皆孕,翁曰:「若有十孫,育之不溺。(「溺」原作「潛」據元刻本改。)」趙聞之憤甚。伺翁與夫俱出,趙呼妾責之,問其所孕。妾曰:「主人翁也。」趙曰:「爾謂主孕,必痛撻汝,遠嫁荒惡,行無資裝。若指為僕所有,仍免痛撻,汝(「汝」,元刻本作「且」。)適好處,厚有所贈。」妾懼而妄指為僕某人、某人所有。及翁與夫歸,趙直以告。翁不能察,遂信其說,屏之。四僕俱斥,且囑其妾,嫁後有子,毋育此子。妾從其言,溺之。不數年,李先亡,孫亦早喪,趙氏死無棺槨,幾至暴露。李氏一門,為趙氏妒孕而致絕嗣,哀哉!有識之婦,幸毋倣此可也。

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).

Repay Injustice, Settle A Dispute 冤報解和

[127] There was once a merchant who went to Shu (Sichuan), sharing a boat with a rich trader. One day, the boat was moored on the riverbank and all the servants went ashore, leaving the merchant alone. He wanted to steal the other’s property and seeing that the rich trader was washing his hands to one side of the deck, he went and shoved him into the river. The wealthy trader leaped back up out of the water, grasping the rail in his hands, so the other took up a knife and chopped away all five fingers; the trader sank into the river and drowned. Snatching up all of his goods, the merchant returned with great wealth.

One day, he dreamed that the wealthy trader came to his neighbour’s house, and he awoke with a start. When he sent people to check this, a baby boy had indeed been born, and he ordered that it be nurtured and raised, providing money for the child’s support. When the child was five or six, he adopted it into his own family, nurturing it personally; every day he indulged all the boy’s wishes. On reaching the age of capping (20 sui), the boy suddenly became addicted to drink and gambling, stopping at nothing in pursuit of pleasure and desire, losing uncountable piles of tens of thousands every day, and continuing like this for several years.

One day he had lost a great deal, but in the evening wanted still more money. The head of the household told him: “You have already lost a lot; keep some for the future.” His son became very angry, taking a knife and hacking at him. The older man raised his hand to ward off the blade, and his five fingers fell to the ground. His retinue managed to seize the young man, and he pleaded for his life to be spared. The older man addressed him: “In a former life you were a wealthy trader. I travelled with you on the same boat but plotted to steal your property and killed you. Having discovered in a dream that you had been reincarnated, I nurtured and raised you from childhood until you became fully grown, paying for whatever you wanted; calculated altogether, this has now returned your property to you. Now that my five fingers have also been taken, this is enough to repay the debt, minus the one human life. If I used my wealth and handed you over to the authorities, having you executed would be easy. I fear that this process of retribution for unpunished wrongs might then go on endlessly, so I now release you, sending you off with whatever property you need to establish fields and household in some other faraway prefecture, resolving once and for all this need for revenge.” The young man thanked him and departed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126-27 (Tale 221):

冤報解和

[127] 有一商人入蜀,與富商同舟。一日,艤舟江滸,從僕皆上岸,惟此商,欲圖其財,見富商在船旁盥手,遂推之於江,富商又躍起,手拏船舷,又為持刀斷其五指,遂墜江而死。席卷財物,歸成大富。一日,夢富商來其鄰家,驚覺。遣人視之,果生一男子,遂命育之,給以乳哺之資。年五六歲,收歸其家,撫之猶手,每日恣其所欲。及年冠,忽嗜飲賭博,無所不至,一從其意,日輸累萬亦不較,如是者數年。一日多敗,及晚猶欲索錢。主家語之曰:「今日已輸多了,尚有來日。」 其子忿怒,拔刃斫之,主家舉手捍禦,五指俱落,得左右人擒住,倖免不死。主語之曰:「汝前生為富商,我與同舟,圖汝財,害汝命,續夢汝託生,我撫育自少至長,恣汝所欲,總而計之,亦可以還汝財物矣。今又傷我五指,亦足以還,但所欠一命耳。以我財力置汝於官,殺之不難。又恐冤冤相報無已,今放汝去,更隨汝意財物,可遠去他郡,別置田宅,解釋冤讐。」其人感謝而去。

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 Person Transformed into a Tiger 人變虎

Wang Yong, of Black Fish Gorge, in Wangcheng County, Guo Prefecture, was a charcoal-burner by trade. He often walked in the valley by the stream and saw two black fish, a little over a chi (c. 33cm) in length, swimming on top of the water. Yong, tired and hungry from cutting wood, then gutted and ate one of them. His younger brother was shocked and said: “This fish is a spirit being belonging to the valley; how could my elder brother kill it?” Soon after this, his wife brought food to them, but Yong kept on wielding his axe, and when he did eventually turn around, his wife realised that his appearance had changed, and called his brother over to look at him; Yong suddenly shed his clothes, calling and leaping, and, changed into a tiger, headed straight for the mountains. He would sometimes kill roe deer and stags, throwing them into the house at night; he was like this for two years.

One day at dusk he knocked on the door and announced himself, saying: “I am Wang Yong.” His younger brother replied: “My elder brother has been transformed into a tiger for three years now; what ghost is taking my brother’s [230] name?” He spoke again: “I previously killed a black fish; the officials of the underworld banished me as a tiger, and, because of harming people, they gave me a hundred lashes; now I have obtained return to my body; you have a look, there is no doubt.” His younger brother was delighted, hastily opening the door. He saw a person with a head just like a tiger’s and died of fright. The whole family screamed and yelled, and fled, and in the end the villagers beat him to death. His wife’s family confirmed that his body bore a distinctive black mark, and that it was truly Wang Yong; his head never changed back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.229-30 (Tale 412):

人變虎

虢州王城縣黑魚谷王用,業燒炭。於谷中有水方數步,常見二黑魚,長尺餘,遊於水上。用伐木饑困,遂宰一食之。其弟驚曰:「此魚乃谷中靈物,兄奈何殺之?」有頃其妻餉之,用運斤不已,久乃轉面,妻覺狀貌有異,呼其弟視之,忽脫衣號躍,變為虎焉。徑入山,時殺麞鹿,夜擲於家,如此二年。一日昏暮,叩門自鳴曰:「我王用也。」弟應曰:「我兄變為虎三年矣,何鬼假吾兄 [230] 姓名?」又曰:「我往年殺黑魚,冥官謫為虎,因傷人,又笞予一百,得復人身,汝視予,無疑也。」弟喜,遽開門,見一人,頭猶是虎,因怖死。舉家叫呼奔避,竟為村人格殺之。其妻屬驗其身有黑志,信王用也,但首未變爾。

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).