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.

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Immortals Treat Tuberculosis 仙醫瘵疾

Xianju is a Daoist hall in Jizhou. In the xinchou year of the Song Jiaxi era (1241), near the hall there lived a Li Laojia, who was somewhat warm and well-fed, and whenever a Daoist came by, he would supply them with good quality tea, nicely cooked foods and wine. His baby son suffered tuberculosis; his bones as thin as firewood; the hour of his death seemed certain. It happened that there were three Daoists in the hall, their appearance and manner showing an ancient vigour and elegance; they came and said: “Your heir should come to the hall and spend a night in the bed with us; he will then be restored.” Li said he should urgently be sent out. When night fell, two Daoists surrounded him and slept, and one Daoist covered him from above. His breath steaming like smoke from a fire, the patient felt like he was seated in a rice steamer, and was several times unable to bear it. The Daoists said: “Just restrain yourself.” This happened five or six times, but as dawn rose his spirit became clear and free, his bones and muscles beautiful and loose, and he asked for food and drink just as usual. Within ten days, he was exceptionally plump and well-formed. The Daoists urged him: “Now you must wait for two years until he can be married, otherwise the illness will return.” The Laos, husband and wife, bowed in gratitude, offering them money, cloth and silk, but they would not accept any of these, taking only fruit and three cups of drink, announcing that they would leave the hall to set off for Shaoshan in Yuanzhou. When the skies darkened towards evening, old Li [145] and the Daoists of the hall implored them to stay, but they would not accept this request, and as soon as they emerged from the gate they vanished, so it became clear that they were immortals.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.144-45 (Tale 253):

仙醫瘵疾

仙居,乃吉州道堂也。宋嘉熙辛丑年,堂近有李老家,稍溫飽,道人〔來往〕(據明刻本補。)即供以好茶,深熟者與酒。適有幼子病瘵,骨瘦如柴,死期可必。忽有堂內三道人,風貌蒼古,來曰:「令嗣能過堂同榻一宵,則可再生。」李道急遣去。入夜,兩道人夾之而睡,一道人蓋其上。其氣蒸之如火,病者如坐甑,幾不能堪。道人曰:「且忍耐。」凡若是者五六次,早起精神清爽,肌骨美暢,索飲食如常。不十日,豐悅殊異。道人囑之曰:「姑遲兩年方可娶,若早則病復來。」李老夫婦拜謝之,與以錢會布帛,一毫不受,但受果飲三杯,辭堂往袁州邵山。時天色晚矣,李老 [145] 與堂中道衆苦留之,不從所請,方出門則不見矣,乃知其仙也。

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).

Immortals Treat Sicknesses Of The Feet 仙醫足疾

The Imperial Student Xu Quan was from Wuzhou. One day, leaving his home village and hurrying by water towards Hangzhou, he rode a rice boat, seated each day atop the rice sacks with his feet folded beneath him, and nobody realized that an illness affected his feet. It happened that, one day, the boat leaked, so the boatman asked him to step onto the shore, in order to stop up the hole. When, the job being finished, he was invited back on board, the water had risen under heavy rain, and everyone bared their feet to step aboard. His fellow passengers noticed that his toes were all as short as a little toe, and asked him about it. He replied: “When I left my mother’s womb, my toes all pointed backwards. After two years had passed, it happened that a Daoist came along and insisted on looking at me, so the wet-nurse wrapped me up and took me out to show him. The Daoist ordered her to cook up a young lamb, and use the lambskin to wrap my feet overnight. The next day at dawn they were unwrapped, and it turned out that my toes all pointed forwards. On examination they were all this size and length.” He subsequently passed the imperial examinations.

[144] Duya Guiyuan was from Jinhua. At the beginning of the Song Shaoxi era (1190-94), he arrived at Longquan at Guacang, passing his days in singing praises, and, because he suffered from arthritis and both feet were stiff and spasming, he tottered along on wooden clogs, begging in the market. On the seventeenth night of the eighth month in the guichou year of the Chunyou era,[1] he was squatting by Magistrate Zhang’s back gate. It was already the third watch (11pm to 1am), and the moonlight was as bright as day. He saw a person, wearing a dark soft hat, black ribbon and white scholar’s robe, who descended from on high and, stepping forward slightly, addressed Yagui: “Why would you be here so deep in the night?” He said: “Due to illness and fatigue I cannot go anywhere.” The person selected various weeds from the roadside, rubbed them and broke them apart, then mixed them with ditchwater into a kind of pellet, which he gave to him, saying: “You should eat this.” Yagui realised that this was no ordinary person, and swallowed it without suspicion. The person then said: “Come back tomorrow night and meet me here.” They then departed. Yagui felt a stirring within his belly, becoming restless and unable to settle himself, dragging himself onto the Jichuan Bridge, leaning against the railing and dozing. After a long time he awoke and found he could stretch his feet a little, and trying to stand while holding the balustrade, his bones making chirping sounds like birdsong, he found himself able to walk. The next night he waited for the other person, but they didn’t come back. Yagui travelled around talking to people, but never found his whereabouts.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.143-44 (Tale 252):

仙醫足疾

徐上舍洤,婺州人。一日,自鄉泛舟趨杭,乘米舟,每日坐於米袋之上,惟疊足坐,人亦不知其有疾也。忽一日,舟漏,梢子請上岸,將塞舟。事畢請入時,水潦稍漲,皆跣足而入,同舟人見其足大小指皆短,從容問之,彼曰:「自出母胎,一足指皆向後。越二年,忽有道人來,必欲見,乳母抱出示之。道人命烹一小羊,用羊皮裹其足,一宿,次早掀開,則其指皆向前,但視足指有大小長短耳。」後亦登第。

[144] 杜亞歸元,金華人。宋紹熙初,到括蒼龍泉歌唱度日,因病風,兩足拘攣,木屐曳行,丐於市。淳祐癸丑八月十七夜,蹲於張通判後門,已三鼓矣,月明如晝,見一人青巾皁絛白襴衫,自最高軒下,行至其前少許,謂亞歸曰:「夜深何故在此?」曰:「病倦,去不得也。」其人於路旁采雜草,挼碎,掬溝之污水若彈然,授之曰:「汝可食此。」亞歸亦意其不凡人也,餌之不疑。其人曰:「明夜再來會我于此。」遂去。亞歸覺腹中攪戚不能自安,曳行至濟川橋上,倚柱假寐。良久,方覺其一足略能伸,試扶欄起立,骨磔磔然有聲,自此能行。次夜候之,其人不復來矣。亞歸遍以語人,後不知所在。

[1] This is 11 September 1253, but the Chunyou era (1241-53) had already finished some months before, on 30 January 1253.

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).

A Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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 Great Serpent Of Chengdu 成都長蛇

In the Xianchun era, on the sixth day of the fourth month in the yichou year (23 April, 1265), the clerk Xia Yingchen of the Tanzhou government office made a report in an imperial bulletin, and one section within it read:

In Shenwenjiang County, Chengdu Prefecture, there was a mottled yellow snake, more than a hundred zhang (a zhang is about 3.3m) in length, a spirit radiance extending more than three hundred paces around, its mouth spitting out a fragrance of pepper and plum flowers, its vapour scorching more than twenty li; those people and animals killed by it are innumerable. On the third day of the seventh month last year (27 July, 1264), this prefecture gathered more than two thousand five hundred soldiers to apprehend it, but the serpent used its tail to turn and sweep the troops away. More than five hundred were drowned, and the rest all fled in terror. The emperor decreed that the Daoist Masters of Shu use their powers to deal with the matter; they have just slain it, and its bones are like mountains.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259 (Tale 470):

成都長蛇

咸淳乙丑四月六日,潭州書局夏應辰錄邸報從遞來,內一項云:「成都府申溫江縣有黃花斑蛇一條,長百餘丈,神光照三百餘步,口吐椒梅花香,薰灼二十餘里,殺人畜無數。去年七月三日,本府差甲士二千五百餘人收捕,蛇用尾掉卷軍士,溺死者五百餘人,餘皆驚遁。上旨命天師蜀中有法之士治之,方戮死,骨如山。」

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).

A Spirit Treats A Bone In The Throat 神醫骨鯁

Wang Youliang of Poyang, while eating a spicy pig’s trotter, accidentally swallowed a finger-sized bone which stuck in his throat and for several days could not be gulped down. Despite spitting and salivating being painful, he could take a little drink and soup, but his family were extremely worried about him. At dusk, when he was beginning to doze, he saw a scarlet-robed figure approach and tell him: “It is said you suffer from a bone. I have medicine, which is simply the finest southern pengsha.”[1] Awaking, he requested a small piece, held it in his mouth until it dissolved, and then on eating, was able to swallow freely as before. This can be seen as an example of spirits granting their secrets in the aid of others.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.226 (Tale 403):

神醫骨鯁

鄱陽汪友良因食辣蹄,誤吞骨如指大,鯁於喉間,累日不下,雖咳唾亦痛,但略通湯飲,家人絕憂之。於昏睡次,睹一朱衣來告曰:「聞汝苦骨,吾有一藥,唯南鵬砂最妙。」覺而索砂一小塊,淨洗含化,纔食頃,脫然如失。此殆神明陰授以方濟人云。

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] Pengsha 鵬砂 refers to borax, or sodium tetraborate.

 

A Warning Against Selling Ancestral Graves 戒賣祖墳

From the dingchou year of the Zhiyuan era (1278), for more than ten years, rich families found themselves impoverished, with almost nothing left, their ancestral tombs overgrown and dirty, unreachable for ancestral offerings; they could not bear to admit this even to themselves. Who would have thought that such a disaster could have been seen [105] outside the Sitingji? In the vicinity there was a scholar who, seeing a prominent family sell their ancestral graveyard, could not bear his indignation, and at night inscribed a poem on their wall. The next day, when the wall was seen, both buyer and seller were full of shame, and retreated to the central chamber to discuss the matter. I read the poem. Its language was direct and ardent, with benefit to customs and morality, so I set it down here, to serve as a warning to public ways. The poem reads:

A family selects by wind and water

For descendants in countless generations

Who could know that latecomers

Would sell off their ancestors’ land?

Bargaining over digging in the dead of night

Celebrating the drunken signing of contracts

The seller is certainly inhuman

The buyer is also an evil type

If the land is well-chosen

The house will stand in wealth and honour

Those who come to sell

Their land will bring no good

Those future descendants emerging

They break from the pattern of precedent

Pretending that new families have strength

How can the creator have such selfish intent?

Those with coffins are laid bare

Those without abandoned bones

When new generations slide to poverty

When may they ever find burial?

Can you know those ‘below the springs’ (i.e., in the nether world)

Make no plaint for justice to the throne?

Say not that heaven is vast and obscure,

But stand before it in fear of calamity.

Ah! Those with human hearts, they should look at this and change their plans.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104-5 (Tale 181):

戒賣祖墳

至元丁丑以來,十數年間,富家零落殆盡,祖墳蕪穢,弔祭不至,自不忍言。誰謂其禍又有 [105] 出於《思亭記》之外者!近有一士人,見一名家出賣祖墳,不勝其憤,夜題詩於牆壁。次日,觀望如堵,買者、賣者皆有愧色,議中寢。吾讀其詩,語直而切,以其有益於風教,故錄於此,庶可為世俗之戒也。詩曰:「人家擇風水,子孫百世計。誰知後來者,反賣祖宗地。商量寅夜掘,醉後樂書契。賣者固非人,買者亦惡類。其地若果佳,其家長富貴。其人賣至此,其地必不利。他時出子孫,斷是傚此例。借曰異姓強,造物豈私意?棺存且暴露,無者骸骨棄。後代轉日貧,何時可薶瘞。安知泉下人,含冤不訴帝?勿謂天茫茫,禍患恐立至。」吁!有人心者,宜於此焉變計矣。

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).