During the Yongjia era (307-13 CE), the palace guard commander Zhang Yu once travelled through the Great Marsh. The sky had grown dark when he suddenly spotted a mansion with its gates open wide. Yu thus approached and when he arrived before the hall a maid emerged and greeted him. Tu said: “I was passing when the rain started, and would just like to stay over.” The maid entered to report, and soon emerged again, calling Yu forward. He saw a woman, aged around thirty years, seated under a canopy, and waited on by more than twenty maids, their clothing all luminous and beautiful. She asked Yu what he desired. Yu said: “I have my own food, and only need something to drink.” The woman ordered that a shallow pan be brought out and given to him. He therefore kindled a fire to make soup. Despite hearing the water boil, when tried it remained cold.
The woman told him: “I am a dead person, within my tomb mound. I have nobody to share with, only my sense of shame and guilt.” She then began to weep and told Yu: “I am a daughter of the Sun family from Rencheng County, and my father served as Prefectural Chief of Zhongshan. I left to marry into the Li clan of Dunqiu, and bore a son and a daughter. The boy is eleven sui and the girl seven. After my death, the Lis favoured my former maidservant Cheng Gui. Now my son is always beaten, not even sparing his head or face, and pained to the depths of the heart. I wish to kill this maid, but a dead person’s qi force is weak. I have been waiting to find someone on whom I could rely on, and I beg the gentleman to help with the matter. The rewards would be rich.”
Yu said: “Though I cherish Madame’s words, because killing people is a serious matter, I dare not take on this assignment.” The lady replied: “Why would the gentleman be ordered to take up a knife himself? It is only wished that he speak to Li and his family on my behalf, telling them what I have explained. Li will then regret Cheng Gui, and will have to offer prayers to remove this misfortune. The gentleman will then explain that he himself has power to suppress spirits. When Li hears this he will order Cheng Gui to be present for the matter, and I will have the opportunity to kill her.”
Yu made a pledge to her, and set off the next day, telling Li everything he had been told. Li was shocked and terrified, and told Cheng Gui, who was very frightened. They sought help from Yu, but just then he saw the lady Sun coming in from outside, accompanied by more than twenty female attendants. All carried knives and stabbed Cheng Gui, who immediately fell to the floor and died. Before long, Yu passed through the Great Marsh again, and the woman sent her maids out with fifty bolts of zacai coloured silks to reward him.
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), vii, 318.2517-8: