Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)

事姑不孝

邢州李生母,年老目盲,李生事之至孝。每出外,慮其妻金氏侍奉有闕,必再三囑付之而後往。金氏不聽夫語,不盡禮,母甚埋怨,金氏憤之。恰值燒餅欲進母,傍有小兒阿糞,金氏乃以麵裹糞為餅餡以進,母食既半,覺臭穢不可食,遂留以待兒歸。李生歸,見其以穢物食母,持杖擊之,金氏奔走,尋邏不見。忽有人報云:「昨日奔入關王廟中。」李生入廟,見一狗伏於案下,睜目不敢親近。遂呼金氏父母來看,此狗流涕自稱曰:「我不合以穢物奉姑不孝,忽入廟中化為狗矣!」數日而卒。

昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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 this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

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] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

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).