Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

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Li Zi’ang’s Strange Encounter 李子昂奇遇

In the Shenyijing[1] there is a Li Zi’ang, who was seven cun in height (c. 23cm), but could travel a thousand li in a day; one morning he was swallowed by a seagoing swan, and lived in the swan’s belly for three years without dying.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 42):

李子昂奇遇

《神異經》有李子昂,長七寸,日行千里;一旦被海鵠所吞,居鵠腹中,三年不死。

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 the Shenyijing 神異經, compiled by the Han-era scholar Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (c. 160 – c. 93 BCE), see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%A5%9E%E7%95%B0%E7%B6%93. The text is available at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=keio.10810914646

Yan Gen’s Concubine 嚴根妾

During the reign of Zhang Gui (254-314 CE) of the Former Liang, a concubine belonging to Yan Gen, Governor of Fuhan, gave birth. In the same night she bore a daughter, a dragon and a falcon.[1]

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 22 (上1.3)

嚴根妾

前梁張軌時,枹罕令嚴根妾產,同夕產一女、一龍、一鷙。

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] The Jinshu 晉書 (Book of the Jin) mentions this same incident, dating it to the fifth month of the fifth year Yongjia (3 June to 2 July, 311 CE; under the Western Jin), and reporting a response, linking such anomalous births to military chaos. See Jinshu 29.909:

五年五月,枹罕令嚴根妓產一龍,一女,一鵝。京房易傳曰:「人生他物,非人所見者,皆為天下大兵。」是時,帝承惠皇之後,四海沸騰,尋而陷於平陽,為逆胡所害,此其徵也。

Remarkable People, Remarkable Matters 異人異事

Yi Yin[1] had no father and was born in Kongsang. The wife of Yu[2] turned to stone, her stomach later slitting open to give birth to Qi.[3] Laojun (i.e., Laozi) had ears that were seven chi in length (about 2.1m); he spent eighty-one years in his mother’s womb, splitting open her left side to be born, and at birth the hair on his temples was pure white. King Yan of Xu[4] was without bones but possessed sagely virtue. Liu Yong[5] enjoyed eating people’s scabs. King Wen (of Zhou)[6] had four breasts. Gao Yao[7] had a bird’s beak. Yao’s[8] eyebrows were eight-coloured. Tang’s[9] (the Shang founder) arm had four elbow-joints. Yu’s ears had triple openings. Li Lou (aka Li Zhu) could distinguish Qiu from Bo from ten li away. Hong Yan, minister of Wei, opened his own belly to receive Duke Yi’s liver.[10] When King Mu of Zhou ascended as Son of Heaven, the traces of his chariot-wheels and horses spread across ‘all-under-heaven’ and in all he travelled one yi and one wan (100,100,000) li (c.33,033,000 miles).

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 1):

異人異事

伊尹無父,生於空桑中。禹妻化為石,後剖腹而生啟。老君耳長七尺,在母腹中八十一年,剖左脇而生,及生,鬢髮皓白。徐偃王無骨而有聖德。劉邕好食人瘡痂。文王四乳。臯陶鳥喙。堯眉八彩。湯臂四肘。禹耳三漏。離婁察見秋亳於十里之外。衛臣弘演開己腹納懿公之肝。周穆貴為天子,車轍馬迹遍於天下,凡遊行一億一萬里。

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] Yi Yin 伊尹 (c.1600-1549 BCE) is famed as a minister under the Shang Dynasty. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yi_Yin.

[2] This is Yu the Great, legendary founder of the Xia夏. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_the_Great.

[3] This is Qi 啟, monarch over the Xia. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi_of_Xia.

[4] A king ruling around 944 BCE; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_(state).

[5] This is likely a figure of some note in the Three Kingdoms era. See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8A%89%E9%82%95_(%E8%9C%80%E6%BC%A2).

[6] 1152-1056 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Wen_of_Zhou.

[7] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gao_Yao_(minister).

[8] Traditionally c. 2356-2255 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Yao.

[9] Traditionally r. 1675-46 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_of_Shang.

[10] Duke Yi died c. 660 BCE. See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%A1%9B%E6%87%BF%E5%85%AC.

A Wineseller Encounters An Immortal 賣酒遇仙

In the Song Jingding era, the renxu year (1262), within the borders of Jingjiang fu one Lin Yilang opened up a wineshop, the flavour of his wine being rather good. One day, a frail and emaciated Daoist came, saying: “This poor cleric wishes to buy wine from the gentleman on credit; one thousand per day, paying back the money within a year; how about it?” Lin said: “More than a thousand would also be permissible; longer than a year would also be permissible, just as long as the Master receives a drink.” He gave the cleric several cups of wine to drink before he left. The next day he came again, and, provided with a thousand’s worth of wine, the Daoist drank it all. Lin said to his wife and son: “This Daoist is unusual; he never [139] speaks at all.” From then he came and drank, the same for six days, then took out a lump of silver from his robe and entrusted it to Lin. Lin said: “The deal is for a year, and it has not even been ten days, so why now? I certainly do not dare to accept this.” The Daoist was pleased, drinking again, and then saying: “It is said that your residence contains unburied dead; this poor cleric is skilled at geomancy, and above your residence is a certain place in Wulito where you should bury it quickly, and subsequently attain wealth and prosperity.” Lin said: “How dare one expect such things? Have some wine.” After repeated urging he finally complied. When the burial was complete, the Daoist requested wine before the tomb, and poured several horn cups over it, chanting:

Finally drunk once after fifty days,

Villagers’ homebrew outshines heavenly ambrosia.

Holding out his hand he summoned a crane, climbing aboard it and departing, not returning despite the family all beseeching him. After three years, the Lin family became greatly wealthy, and the son went straight, by means of the grain for posts exchange, into office; this is truly proof of the cleric’s skill.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.138-39 (Tale 244):

賣酒遇仙

宋景定壬戌,靜江府境內有林一郎者,開酒肆,味頗佳。一日,有癯瘠道人來,曰:「貧道欲與公賒酒,一日一千,限一年方還錢,可乎?」林曰:「一千以上亦可,一年以外亦可,只要先生飲得。」即與飲數杯而往。次日來,供以酒一千,道人飲盡。林與妻子曰:「此道人不凡,決不可出 [139] 言語。」自此來飲,凡六日,懷中出銀一塊權寄。林曰:「一年之約,未得十日,何故?決不敢(「敢」,明刻本、明抄本作「收」。)受。」道人喜,又飲,卻云:「聞宅上有喪未葬,貧道善風水,宅上自有地在五里頭某處,急宜葬,則立致富貴。」林曰:「安敢望此!且飲酒。」再三再四方從。葬畢,道人在墳前索酒,連沃數觥,朗吟曰:「五十日來方一醉,人間村酒勝天漿。」引手招一鶴,跨之而去,一家懇求不返。後三年,林家大發財,直(「直」,明抄本作「產」。)子納粟補官,果符其術。

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).

Immortal Lü Composes Fu 呂仙賦詞

The Phoenix Pavilion Bridge is thirty li north of Ancheng. One day, Immortal Lü (Lü Dongbin, 796-) sat on top of it, protecting those crossing the bridge and brewing fine tea to give to them. The immortal asked for paper and brush and wrote out a poem:

As the sun sets the sound of birdsong multiplies,

A fragrant wind fills the road and caresses the blooms.

Travellers on the way ask me to brew fresh tea,

Cleansing to leave heart and mind pure and untrammeled.

Unable to face the cares of this world,

The dreaming soul winds around the furthest corners.

The banks at Phoenix Pavilion Bridge are my home,

I am greatly absorbed by the moonlight tonight.

As he wrote these characters he flew and danced, and where he is now nobody knows.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.129-30 (Tale 225):

呂仙賦詞

鳳停橋,在安成之北三十里。一日,呂仙坐其上,守橋道人煎佳茗供之。仙索紙筆書一詞云:「落日數聲啼鳥,香風滿路吹花。道人邀我煮新茶,盪滌胸中瀟洒。世事不堪回首,夢魂猶繞天涯,鳳停橋畔即吾家。管甚月明今夜。」字畫飛舞,今不知所在。

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).

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.