The Shaoyang Cowherd 韶陽牧牛人

In Shaoyang there was a cowherd, and one morning a cow licked his arm, leaving it brilliant white in colour. This delighted him, so he stripped off and told the cow to lick him everywhere, becoming white all over. Within several days the cowherd died of a sudden illness. His family felt hate over the matter, killing the cow, and summoning the entire village to eat it together. Those who ate numbered several dozen in all, and they all died in a single evening.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 28):

韶陽牧牛人

韶陽有一人牧牛,一旦,牛舐其臂,而色皎白。此人樂之,即袒其體,令牛遍舐,皆白。其人數日間暴卒。其家恨,殺此牛,召村社同食之。凡食者數十人,一夕同卒。

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)

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Tigers Thank A Midwife 虎謝老娘

In the Zhiyuan era, the jiashen year (1284), an old woman surnamed Wu lived outside the city of Wenzhou, and at night, during the second watch (9-11pm), a sedan chair stood at her gate, and someone knocked and said: “I request the midwife deliver a baby.” When the midwife opened the gate, he delightedly beckoned her into the sedan chair. She could see little except that the two bearers ran with great speed, paying no heed to thorns and brambles. They arrived at a place with a tall and spacious house, lit brightly by lamps and candles, where a woman lay in confinement. The midwife went through the delivery, which turned out to be a son, and when the washing was finished returned, arriving at home after midnight. When her family asked about it all, the midwife acted as though it had been a dream, and didn’t know what kind of family it had been. Suddenly they saw two tigers roaring and thundering at the gate, and were absolutely terrified. When they opened the gate the next day, they found hung on the fence a side of pork and a leg of beef, and the neighbours all around marvelled at this. This was tigers coming to thank the midwife; who then can say that animals don’t possess human feelings?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.252 (Tale 454):

虎謝老娘

至元甲申,溫州城外有老娘姓吳,夜二更有荷轎者立於門首,敲門曰:「請老娘收生。」老娘開門,喜而入轎。但見輿夫二人行步甚速,雖荊棘亦不顧也。到一所,屋宇高敞,燈燭明麗,一女子坐蓐。老娘與之收生,得一男子,洗畢而歸,到家夜已中矣。其家問之,老娘如夢,亦不知為何人之家。忽見二虎咆哮於門,驚甚。次日開門,見籬上有豬肉一邊,牛肉一腳,左右鄰里莫不怪之。蓋虎以此來謝老娘也,誰謂禽獸無人心哉!

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).

Human-Flesh Wontons 人肉餛飩

In the gengyin year of the Shaoding era (1230), the grain in the areas belonging to Ruizhou in Jiangxi ripened empty, and there was hunger and famine among the populace. Troublemakers in the affected region slaughtered cattle for market, but recklessly sold human flesh mixed and stuffed into it. The starved populace gathered ‘like spokes at a hub’, and it sold out with great speed; of what was left behind the beef was the majority. Therefore the people all looked to find the truth; they were arrested and taken to the government office, where they confessed one by one. When the officials thought about [73] the hubbub and chaos they made, they secretly decided they didn’t dare to impose the mandatory death penalty. On the basis of their confession, and as a person’s body does not contain much meat – there is only a little more than one-and-a-half strings of coins in weight that can be sliced off the buttocks and legs. Taking so many bodies, how can this be borne?

In the Jiading era (1208-24), the gengzi year,[1] Lin’an suffered a great drought, and the harvest failed. By the Liushui Bridge outside the city walls there were similarly deceitful types who killed people and picked off their flesh to make wonton, baozi dumplings and the like. In the spring of the xinchou year (either 1181 or 1241), this became especially serious; among the meat was skin tattooed with a recognisable pattern, although nobody dared to say so. All who bought meat had first to ask, “Is this polished-rice-pork? Or is it rice-husk-pork?” ‘Polished-rice-pork’ was human flesh; ‘rice-husk-pork’ was true pork. This matter later became the beginning of the Liu (i.e., Song) decline.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 127):

人肉餛飩

紹定庚寅,江西瑞州管下禾稼秀而不實,民間飢荒。屬地頑民屠牛為市,浪賣人肉雜而為餡,飢民輻輳,發賣盛行,而牛肉多有存者。以故人皆物色得實,緝捕到官,一一招伏。官司慮 [73] 此聲旁達,暗行予決,不敢明正典刑。據其供吐,人之一身苦無多肉,僅有臀腿亂削之餘有淨肉一緡半重。所得寧幾,何忍哉!

嘉定庚子,臨安大旱,歲飢。城外溜水橋亦騙死人剔其肉為餛飩包子之屬。辛丑春尤甚,其中間有花繡之皮,稍可辨認,人無敢言。凡買肉者必先問:「買米猪?買糠猪?」米猪則人肉也,糠猪則真猪也,後因劉自事始敗。

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 is an impossible date: the 37th cyclical year should be either 1240 or 1180; neither fit the regnal era specified.

A Slaughterer of Oxen Changes His Work 屠牛改業

In Shuinan, in Longquan County, there was a Zhao Taibao, who was accustomed to slaughtering oxen to gather profit in the market. He once bought three oxen, one of which was already boiled. One night, before dawn had broken, he had a nightmare, and, making a bellowing sound, passed a full day unable to awake; desperately calling out, a physician used medicine to relieve his distress and he finally awoke the following dawn. His family questioned him as to the cause, and he replied: “I happened to see one of my oxen suddenly speak with a human voice, its speeches being ‘I am your father’ and ‘I am your grandfather.’ Before long, the two oxen both took on human form, and I looked hard at them and they were indeed my grandfather and father.” He cried out piteously and earnestly, frightened and newly enlightened, and then handed over generous rent for the two oxen, feeding them with water and hay. From then on he changed his work and never slaughtered another ox.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.96 (Tale 165):

屠牛改業

龍泉邑之水南,有趙太保,居嘗屠牛以網市利。嘗買三牛,已烹其一。一夕,天未明,忽魘,作聲哮吼,經一日不醒,急呼醫者用藥救療,迄旦方醒。家人詢問其故,答曰:「適見所有之牛忽作人語,其一曰:『我爾父也。』其一曰:『我爾祖也。』須臾,二牛皆人形,熟視之,則真吾祖與父也。」哀號懇切,驚駭而覺,即以二牛付之莊佃,飽以水草。自後改業,不復宰牛。

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).

Warnings Against Eating Beef 戒食牛肉

During the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), a Director-General Sun was assigned to Shaozhou. On reaching the river he climbed into a boat, but was blown around by a great gale, finally arriving at a place with a huge mountain. He did not recognise the place, but a navigable path led across the peak. Sun strolled off up the mountain, and saw that there was a large gate. Examining this in the distance, behind the gate were corridors, wings and chambers like those of a government office. The gate guards stopped him, saying: “This is where the sin and merit of the human world is investigated and compared; what business brings you here?” Sun reported to them how he been appointed to Shaozhou and how his boat had encountered the gale, and wished to enter the hall and have a look; the guards led him inside. Stepping in the door he saw a large hall, with superiors sitting in large numbers and extremely strict guards in the lower hall. To the side of the hall was a door, with different guards, all of whom had the fanged faces of spirits, and they would not let him enter. The guards said: “That is the jail. All those who kill cattle and eat their flesh are imprisoned there.” Sun’s uncle had, in life, enjoyed eating beef, so he gave them his family and personal name and asked about him. The guards said: “He’s there. It was once said that your uncle had eaten seven hundred jin (one jin is about 500g) of beef, an unpardonable crime.” Sun earnestly begged the guard to lead him to the chief clerk so he could plead for his uncle. The clerk said: “Your uncle ate seven hundred jin of cow flesh, so his karmic sins are extremely heavy. Moreover, you too have taken pleasure in eating beef; the authorities of the nether world are limiting your lifespan, too; you will only accrue one term of office at Shaozhou.” Sun pleaded once again, now in order to save himself, and after a long time the clerk said: “If, when you take up your post at Shaozhou, you can command a halt to the slaughter of cattle, leading five hundred households to stop eating beef, your uncle will be allowed life in human heaven, and your lifespan will be extended.” Gentleman Sun accepted this command and left, descending the mountain and, on launching his boat, looked back, but the mountain could not be seen. On arriving at his post, his first action was to prohibit the slaughter of cattle; he also travelled widely urging people not to eat beef. More than half a year later, one night his uncle reported to him in a dream: “The governor says that you have prevented the slaughter of cattle, extending many lives, and have also urged seven hundred households to stop eating beef. Your merit is extremely great and the deities praise you. I have achieved life in human heaven, and your lifespan will also be extended.”

 

Sheng Zhao of Qinglongzhen had held a hundred banquets in all, having always to kill and butcher a cow; cooking with skill he ate without restraint. One day, someone knocked on his door; when Sheng Zhao opened it himself and went out to look, he saw a servant bringing him a bamboo slip. He opened it to look, finding writing in large characters: “The Six Domestic Animals are all the work of previous lives (in the reincarnatory process); the ox alone faces bitter toil. If one looks at those meeting a violent end, [98] they are all eaters of beef.” He read it three times, by which time the person who gave it to him had vanished. Sheng Zhao was shocked and alarmed, and from then on abstained from eating beef.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.97-98 (tale 166):

戒食牛肉

至元年間,有孫總管韶州任,江次登舟,為大風飄揚至一所,有巨山,莫知何地,有山徑可行。孫信步登山,見有大門,望之,門內廊廡廳舍如官府狀。守門者止之,曰:「考較人間罪福去處,爾何事至此?」孫以赴韶州任舟行遇風告之,並欲入廳舍遊觀,守者引進。入門見一大殿,有主者廣坐,殿下侍衛甚嚴。殿旁有一門,另有守者,皆狼牙鬼面,不許進。守者曰:「此獄也。陽世殺牛食肉者,皆囚於此。」孫之舅在世亦好食牛肉,並以姓名問之。守者曰:「有之。曾聞汝舅食牛肉七百斤,罪不可宥。」孫力禱守者,託之引見主吏禱之,吏曰:「爾舅食牛肉七百斤,罪業至重,況爾亦喜食牛肉,陰司亦減爾壽算,隻滿韶州一任矣。」孫再禱以求救之由,吏良久曰:「汝到任若能禁殺牛命,善誘五百家不食牛肉,爾舅得生人天,亦延爾壽。」孫公領命而離,下山即登舟,回視亦失山矣。及到任,首以宰牛為禁,並廣行勸人不食牛肉。踰半年,夜夢舅報曰:「主者云爾禁殺牛,延命亦多,曾勸到七百家不食牛肉,功德浩大,神明交讚。我得生天,汝亦延壽矣。」

秀州青龍鎮盛肇,凡百筵會,必殺牛取肉,巧作庖饌,恣啖為樂。一日,有扣門者,盛肇自啟門出視,見一蒼頭授以青簡,展而視之,乃大字書云:「六畜皆前業,惟牛最苦辛。但看橫死者, [98] 盡是食牛人。」讀之三過,人與簡俱亡。盛肇驚駭,自是戒食牛肉。

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).