A Pig’s Earring 猪耳鐶

The gentleman Jiang Songwei travelled from Shu via Xia, and on reaching the Yun’an Pass killed a pig as a temple sacrifice. When it came to washing the offering, he saw a single ring below one ear, inky coloured, clear and glistening; it must have formerly been a person and a thieving criminal.[1]

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙18.514

猪耳鐶

將仕郎宋衞自蜀道出峽,至雲安關,殺猪賽廟。洗牲時,見耳下一方鐶,墨色猶明潤,蓋必前身為人而犯盜者也。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

[1] This refers to the practice of tattooing a ring behind the ear as punishment for convicted thieves or bandits. On this practice, see Songshi 宋史 201.5018; Carrie E. Reed, ‘Tattoo in Early China’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000), 360-76: 365. (the article is available online here)

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A Yangzhou Thunder Spirit 揚州雷鬼

The senior official Gentleman Yan Heng resided with his household in Yangzhou. His wife, the Lady Yang, was sitting together, in broad daylight, with their sons and daughters in the hall when thunder and rain suddenly burst forth, and a strange apparition fell from the empty air onto the floor. A little over three chi in height (i.e., about a metre), its face and flesh were both black, and it wore a turban on its head, like the head-cloths of the present day, but as if it were made of flesh, this was joined to its forehead. Turning to look at the people, it covered its face as if in laughter. Before long the crowd grew more and more numerous, but its laughter continued without pause. After a moment, a great thunderbolt erupted outside, thick clouds bringing sombre darkness so people could not be distinguished from one another, and it quickly climbed the empty air and departed.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 7.421:

揚州雷鬼

上官彥衡侍郎,家居揚州。夫人楊氏白晝在堂中與兒女聚坐,忽雷雨大作,奇鬼從空隕於地,長僅三尺許,面及肉色皆青,首上加幘,如世間幞頭,乃肉為之,與額相連。顧見人,掩面如笑。既而觀者漸衆,笑亦不止。頃之,大霆激於屋表,雲霾晦冥,不辨人物,倏爾乘空而去。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

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.

Taixuan Nü 太玄女

The Taixuannü, surname Zhuan, personal name He, lost her father as a child. Mother and child lived together for some time, and all said they would not survive long. Their sadness became worry. She often said: “The life of a human, once lost, cannot be restored. Moreover, I have heard that this span of life is limited, and life cannot be extended without perfecting the Way.” She then went to call on a sagely teacher, purifying her heart, seeking the Way and achieving the *wangzi* techniques. After practicing this for several years, she was then able to enter water without getting wet. At times of deep cold and snow, she could climb the ice in an unlined robe showing no change in countenance, warm in body and able to go on for several days. Moreover she was able to visit government offices, palace chambers, city markets and private residences in many other places. Not thinking this strange, pointing at them they would shift from their previous location. Doors and gates bearing locks would open upon her gesture; pointed at, mountains would crumble, pointed at, trees would fall; pointed at again, all of these would be restored. Taking disciples travelling through the mountains, when the sun set, she struck the rock with her staff, and opened up a door. Entering, there were chambers with beds, curtains and canopies, with food, provisions and wine as if this were normal. Even were she to travel ten thousand li, her whereabouts would often be like this. She could order small items to grow suddenly to the size of a house, and big things to shrink suddenly down to be like a hair or grain. Sometimes she would spit fire to cover the heavens, and sigh to extinguish it. She was also able to sit among flames, her clothes and shoes never scorching. Within a short period, she would change into an old man, change into a small child, change into a carthorse; there was no transformation she could not achieve. She practiced the thirty-six arts with complete dedication, bringing people back to life, and saving innumerable folk. It is not known from where her food or clothing came, and none achieved her powers. Her colour reduced ever more, but the hair on her temples was raven-black. Suddenly, in broad daylight, she ascended to heaven and departed.

From Nüxianzhuan.

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), ii, 59.363

太玄女

太玄女,姓顓,名和,少喪父。或相其母子,皆曰不壽。惻然以為憂。常曰:「人之處世,一失不可復生。況聞壽限之促,非修道不可以延生也。」遂行訪明師,洗心求道,得王子之術。行之累年,遂能入水不濡。盛雪寒時,單衣冰上,而顏色不變,身體溫煖,可至積日。又能徙官府宮殿城市屋宅於他處,視之無異,指之即失其所在,門戶櫝櫃有關鑰者,指之即開,指山山摧,指樹樹拆,更指之,即復如故。將弟子行山間,日暮,以杖叩石,即開門戶。入其中,屋宇床褥幃帳,廩供酒食如常。雖行萬里,所在常爾。能令小物忽大如屋,大物忽小如毫芒。或吐火張天,噓之即滅。又能坐炎火之中,衣履不燃。須臾之間,或化老翁,或為小兒,或為車馬,無所不為。行三十六術甚效,起死廻生,救人無數。不知其何所服食,亦無得其術者。顏色益少,鬢髮如鴉。忽白日昇天而去。出女仙傳

A Copper Coffin Descends From Heaven 天降銅棺

Zou Su, the Wine Supervisor for Zhengzou, was just and impartial in office, and respected by people for that. In Zhengzhou one day, as the sun reached noon, wind and hail descended from the heavens, mist and cloud arose from all four sides around the north gate, and a black miasma spun out of it and arose vertically, meeting the heavens without dissipating. A lidless copper coffin descended from the sky, and music came loud and clear out of the empty air. At that time all of Zhengzhou’s junior clerks below the rank of prefect, generals and officers, scholars and commoners, monks and Daoists all changed their clothes and tried to get into the coffin. It being narrow outside and wide within, however, none were able to enter. Winding his wine supervisor’s kerchief as he arrived, Su was asked by the crowd to enter the coffin, and he had not the slightest difficulty. A moment later, a copper lid descended, circled by multi-coloured clouds, and it was all then lifted among the beautiful sound of immortals and the voices of cranes, amid auspicious clouds of heavenly fragrance, and, in a cloud of enduring mist, the coffin gradually turned to the north and departed. He now serves as the judge over longevity in the distant north.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.150 (Tale 263):

天降銅棺

鄭州監酒鄒宿,為官公正無私,人所推敬。一日,鄭州日方午,天降風雹,煙雲四起於北門,黑霧盤旋直上,衝天不散,降下無蓋銅棺一具,但聞空中音樂嘹喨。時鄭州自守倅以下官吏、將校、士庶、僧道,盡易衣服,欲入銅棺。而外狹內寬,皆莫能入。續監酒巾裹而來,衆請之入棺,亦無少(「少」,明刻本作「所」。)礙。少焉,復降銅蓋,綵雲繚繞,擎舉而上,仙韶鶴唳,瑞氣天香,靄靄不散,其棺冉冉向北而去。今為北極司壽限判官。

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 Immortal Teaches Medicine 神仙教醫

Wei Taicheng was from Pucheng. He had never possessed any medical ability. On the day of the Yuanxiao Festival (the fifteenth day of the first month) he went to the suburbs, and he encountered an elderly man carrying firewood, who went over and sat with him, remarking that the festival would be good to see that evening in Yangzhou. Wei said: “That place is thirty li away; how could one see it?” The old man said: “This is an especially simple matter.” He then unfolded a lined garment of black cloth and had Wei close his eyes and sit tight. After a little while, he told him to open his eyes, and they were indeed in the city of Yangzhou. The inhabitants thought them descended immortals. After the cock crowed, he again unfolded the black lined cloth, they sat in it, and then found themselves back at their original point of departure. One day, which happened to be the birthday of True Man Hua Yue, the old man went in to celebrate it, and instructed Wei at the gate: “We will meet a two-eyed person; that is my master. When you see him you should bow.” After some time, three people, each blind in one eye, arrived supporting an old man, and Wei then bowed to them. The elderly man entered and addressed the first old man: “That person outside the door has the character of an immortal but lacks the fate and fortune of an immortal; he should quickly receive instruction.” They therefore handed over a volume of prescriptions, instructing him how to use the medicines. There was a sufferer of illness whose case he treated and who returned, and then he left home for more than twenty years. None among the villagers knew that he had medical ability, but when he returned and reached their fields, a rue grower said: “Medical Officer Wei says he has medical ability; let’s test his skill a little.” Someone, as soon as their lunch hour arrived, came leaping and jumping together, entering one of his rooms, and pretending to be a patient, their friends making them ask him for medical treatment. Wei felt their pulse and said: “You will die at the shen hour.” (i.e., between 3 and 5pm) They replied: “I am actually not ill.” Returning to the fields they said: “The Medical Officer is mistaken.” Before a moment had passed, however, they developed unbearable abdominal pain, this being caused by the food of their meal having burst through their stomach and intestines during their jumping. From then on Taicheng’s medical practice flourished more and more each day; it is not known how he ended up.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.141 (Tale 248):

神仙教醫

衛太丞,浦城人也。素不能醫。元宵日郊行,遇一老子負薪而至,與之同坐,且謂今夕揚州上元好看。衛曰:「此去三千里,何可得觀。」老子曰:「特易事耳。」乃鋪青布複,俾衛閉目同坐。少頃,令其開目,則揚州城矣。州人以為仙降。至雞鳴後,復用青布複,坐其中,則已回原處矣。一日,值華岳真人誕日,老子入內慶賀,俾衛在門首:「遇二目人,此吾師也。見即拜之。」良久,有三人皆瞽一目,扶一老人到,衛則設拜。老人入謂老子曰:「門外之人,有仙骨而無仙分,宜速分付。」乃付藥方一本,指教用藥,有病者治之原而歸,則去家二十餘年矣。鄉人莫知其能醫,歸到田所,芸田人曰:「衛太丞謂其能醫,少試其術。」一人方午飯,自田中跳躑踴躍走入一室,佯為病者,俾請之用藥。衛診脈曰:「申時當死。」其人曰:「我本無病。」復于田曰:「太丞誤矣。」未踰時,腹痛不可救,蓋飯飽踴躍,斷其腸胃故也。自是醫道日盛,不知所終。

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 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).