Zhou Shi 周式

Zhou Shi lived in Xiapei under the Han. He once travelled to Donghai, and along the way he encountered a clerk, carrying a book, who asked for a lift on his carriage. After they had travelled a little over ten li, he spoke to Shi: “I have to pay a quick visit. I will leave my book in the gentleman’s care. See that you do not open it.” When he had departed, Shi stealthily opened and examined the book. It recorded all of the people’s deaths, and Shi’s name was right there in the lower column. Before long the clerk returned, and Shi was still looking at the book. The clerk addressed him angrily: “This is why I told you! Why would you suddenly start to look at it?” Shi kowtowed until blood flowed from his head. After some time of this the clerk told him: “I am grateful that the gentleman brought me so far, but this book cannot be altered. The gentleman will depart today. Go home. Do not leave your door for three years, and you will be reprieved. Do not speak of having seen my book.” Shi returned home and did not leave.

More than two years passed. His family all thought this very strange. When a neighbour passed away, his father became very angry, and ordered him to go to mourn, leaving Shi unable to refuse. When he passed through the gate, he immediately encountered the clerk, who told him: “I ordered you not to leave for three years, but today you emerge from your gate. What option do I have? I tried to prevent you looking, and arranged a continuous punishment, but now I see you, and have no choice. In three days’ time, we will come for you.” Shi returned weeping, and recounted the whole matter. His father still did not believe him, but his mother watched over him, weeping day and night. When high noon arrived on the third day, they did indeed take him, and he died immediately.

From Fayuanzhulin.

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), vii, 316.2504:



A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2799-800:


丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

A Qingzhou Traveller 青州客

During the Later Liang (907-23 CE), a traveller from Qingzhou encountered a gale while crossing the sea. Blown to a very distant place, when he looked into the distance he could make out mountains and rivers and a walled city. A veteran sailor told him: “We have been seized by the wind. I have never been here before, but have heard that the realm of the spirits is in these parts. Could this be it?” After a little while, their boat reached land, so he climbed onto the shore and set off towards the settlement. The houses and residences, fields and plots showed no difference from those of the Middle Realm. Whenever he saw people he bowed to them, but none of those people seemed to notice him. When he reached the town walls, there was a custodian at the gates. When bowed to, he likewise failed to respond. He entered the town, and all of the buildings and people were very dark in colour. When he reached the royal palace, a great banquet was taking place, with several dozen of the monarch’s attendants waiting on the feast. Their robes, hats, utensils, musical instruments and furnishings were diverse, but all of Chinese styles. Ke therefore ascended the hall, and approached close to the king’s seat in order to catch a glimpse of him. Suddenly, however, the king fell ill. His retinue held him up and withdrew him from the room, urgently summoning a shaman to make an examination. When the shaman arrived, he declared: “Someone has arrived from a yang region. Their yang energy presses on the people, and this is the cause of the monarch’s illness. They came here inadvertently, without intending to haunt us. They should be sent away thankfully, with food, drink, carts and horses. This is appropriate.” They then supplied wine and a meal, laying out seats in another chamber. The shaman gathered the group of ministers, and all made prayers and offerings, and Ke ate accordingly. Shortly after, a coachman arrived driving horses. [2796] Ke then mounted a horse and returned, arriving at the shore and boarding the ship, the people of that realm never once having caught sight of him. They caught a favourable wind once more, and managed to return home. At that time He Dejian was military governor of Qingzhou, and was close to Weibo’s military governor Yang Shihou, so sent this Ke to serve Wei. He told Shihou his tale, and Fan Xuangu from Wei heard it in person and informed your servant.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2795-96:


朱梁時。青州有賈客泛海遇風。飄至一處。遠望有山川城郭。海師曰。自頃遭風者。未嘗至此。吾聞鬼國在是。得非此耶。頃之。舟至岸。因登岸。向城而去。其廬舍田畝。不殊中國。見人皆揖之。而人皆不見已。至城。有守門者。揖之。亦不應。入城。屋室人物甚殷。遂至王宮。正值大宴。君臣侍宴者數十。其衣冠器用絲竹陳設之類。多類中國。客因升殿。俯逼王坐以窺之。俄而王有疾。左右扶還。亟召巫者視之。巫至。有陽地人至此。陽氣逼人。故王病。其人偶來爾。無心為祟。以飲食車馬謝遣之。可矣。即具酒食。設座於別室。巫及其羣臣。皆來祀祝。客據按而食。俄有僕夫馭馬而至。 [2796] 客亦乘馬而歸。至岸登舟。國人竟不見己。復遇便風得歸。時賀德儉為青州節度。與魏博節度楊師厚有親。因遣此客使魏。其為師厚言之。魏人范宣古。親聞其事。為余言。出稽神錄

You Shizi 游氏子

In the northern corner of Xudu’s western district there stood the residence of General Zhao. After the patriarch’s passing, his descendants had scattered. The place then became inauspicious, and nobody dared live there. A close friend of theirs then posted a notice on the village gates, reading: ‘If someone dares reside there, they may consider it a gift.’ At the beginning of the Qianfu era (874-80 CE), there came along one You Shizi, fierce and stubborn by nature, braver and quicker than most. On seeing the notice, he said: “Your humble servant is a brave warrior. Even if there are strange demons and weird spirits, I’ll certainly control them.” It was then the height of summer, and, when night fell, he took up his sword and entered. The house was deep and silent, and the entrance hall long and broad. You Shizi laid out his mat in the courtyard, arranged his summer robe and sat. When the end of the first watch had been sounded, all was silent, and there had been no alarms. You Shizi grew weary, so he used his sword as a pillow and lay down facing the hall.

Just as the half watch was about to sound, he suddenly heard a ga-ya sound as the rear gate opened. Candles were lit in even lines, and several dozen servants sprinkled water and swept the hall, opening the high windows, stretching out the scarlet curtains and embroidered drapes, laying out seating mats and precious objects. Strange and rare fragrances wafted among the eaves and pillars. You’s heart told him that these were only minor spirits, and he did not yet feel moved to use force against them. He waited to watch them through to the finish. After a short while, they took up musical instruments, and several dozen people dressed in red and purple ascended the stairs from the eastern wing. Several dozen singers and dancers emerged from behind the hall and entered through the front. Those in the purple robes remained [2786] in front, and people in red, green and white clothing formed a second layer. A further twenty or more people talked and laughed together happily, bowing to one another and sitting down. At this strings and pipes struck up together, glasses were raised and toasts shared as the dancers moved in unison.

You Shizi wanted to charge forward and seize their ringleader. He was about to get up when he felt something pressing down between his thighs. It was cold and it was heavy, and he simply could not rise. He wanted to shout out, but his mouth trembled, unable to make a sound, so he watched the happy celebrations continue on until a loud, loud drum sounded. At this the sitting mats dispersed, the lights and fires were all doused, and all was as still as it had first been. You Shizi was bathed in sweat, his heart racing, as he crawled prostrate to the exit. Only long after reaching the gate could he speak once more. In the end nobody dared to live in the house.

From Sanshui xiaodu.

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), viii, 352.2785-86


許都城西之北陬。有趙將軍宅。主父既沒。子孫流移。其處遂凶。莫敢居者。親近乃牓於里門曰。有居得者。便相奉。乾符初。許有游氏子者。性剛悍。拳捷過人。見牓曰。僕猛士也。縱奇妖異鬼。必有以制之。時盛夏。既夕。携劍而入。室宇深邃。前庭廣袤。游氏子設簟庭中。絺綌而坐。一鼓盡。聞寂無驚。游氏子倦。乃枕劍面堂而臥。再鼓將半。忽聞軋然開後門聲。蠟炬齊列。有役夫數十。於堂中洒掃。闢前軒。張朱簾繡幕。陳筵席寶器。異香馥於簷楹。游子心謂此小魅耳。未欲迫之。將觀其終。少頃。執樂器。紆朱紫者數十輩。自東廂升階。歌舞妓數十輩自後堂出。入於前堂。紫衣者居 [2786] 前。朱綠衣白衣者次之。亦二十許人。言笑自若。揖讓而坐。於是絲竹合奏。飛觴舉白。歌舞間作。游氏子欲前突。擒其渠魁。將起。乃覺髀間為物所壓。冷且重。不能興。欲大叫。口哆而不能聲。但觀堂上歡洽。直至嚴鼓。席方散。燈火既滅。寂爾如初。游氏子駭汗心悸。匍伏而出。至里門。良久方能語。其宅後卒無敢居者。出三水小牘

Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:


唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

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):



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.

Discarding Fame and Studying the Way 棄名學道

Chen Shunqing was from Jiangnan. In order to sit the civil examinations he went to Chang’an, and spent a decade there without returning. One day, he called on a monk at the Qinglong Monastery, but, unable to meet him, he waited in the warming room, where there was an old man from Zhongnanshan who was also waiting for a monk. They sat for a long time. On the wall was a Huanyingtu map, and Shunqing searched for the Jiangnan route, sighing “If I could return from here, I would not regret being without success.” The old man said: “This is a simple thing.” He arose and snapped a leaf from the bamboo standing before the step, placed it on the Wei River, and said: “Fix your eyes on this, and you will get what you desire.” Shunqing stared hard at the Wei River, seeing violent waves and a heavy swell, and an extremely large boat; it was as if he boarded the boat, which set off at high speed, travelling to the Chanku Monastery, where he inscribed a poem, which read:

Bells sound when the night breeze grows urgent,

Tumultuous crows also [149] gather to gaze on the winter forest.

Hold now the oars in sadness and sigh,

A lone lotus flower towering like a mountain peak.

The next day, he arrived at Tongguan, and composed another poem, which read:

Bringing shame by planning to return home,

Overcoming the shame of failing to return.

When he arrived at his home, his wife and children received him with great delight. He stayed for two nights, and then said: “The examination period is pressing close; I must not stay long.” He then boarded the boat again, composing a poem of farewell to his wife:

Wine increases sorrow with each sip;

Completing a poem I mix chanting with tears.

He floated away, his family stunned and stupefied, saying that he was a ghost. He arrived suddenly at the Wei River, and hurried to the Qinglong Monastery. The monk had still not returned, and the old man of the mountain was still sitting wrapped in his coarse clothing. Shunqing said: “Can that not have been a dream?” The old man said: “You’ll understand this yourself in the coming days.” After a month had passed, his family came to visit, narrating all that had happened, reciting all of the poems he had inscribed there. Chen later achieved enlightenment, having no wish to pursue an official post, but entering Zhongnanshan, remaining as a hermit and never emerging again.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.148-49 (Tale 260):


陳舜卿,江南人。舉進士,至長安,十年不歸。一日,於青龍寺訪僧不值,憩於火閣,有終南山翁,亦俟僧。坐久之,壁間有《寰瀛圖》,舜卿尋江南路,歎曰:「得自此歸,不悔無成。」翁曰:「此易耳。」起折階前竹葉置渭水中,曰:「注目於此,則如願。」舜卿熟視,見渭水波濤洶湧,一舟甚大,怳然而登舟,其去極速,行次禪窟寺,題詩云:「霜鍾鳴時夕風急,亂鴉(「鴉」,原作「雅」,今改。)又 [149] 望寒林集。此時輟棹悲且吟,獨坐蓮華一峰立。」明日,次潼關,又作詩云:「已作羞歸計,猶勝羞不歸。」及至其家,妻子迎見甚喜。信宿,曰:「試期已逼,不可久留。」乃復登舟,作詩別妻曰:「酒至添愁飲,詩成和淚吟。」 飄然而去。家人驚愕,謂為鬼物。倏忽復至渭水,趨青龍寺,僧猶未歸,山翁猶擁褐而坐。舜卿曰:「豈非夢耶?」翁曰:「〔他日〕(據明刻本補。)自知之。」 經月,家人來訪,具述所以,題詩宛然皆在。陳後頓悟,不圖仕宦,而入終南山,隱而不出。

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 version of the same tale is found in Taiping Guangji, vol. ii, 74.462-63:

Chen Jiqing 陳季卿

Chen Jiqing’s home was in Jiangnan. He said farewell to his household for a decade and took the civil examinations, determined not to return without having succeeded. He lodged in the capital, selling books to keep himself clothed and fed and frequently visiting the monks at the Qinglong Monastery. Once it happened that the monk was elsewhere, so he rested in the warming room in order to wait for him. There was an old man from Zhongnanshan who was also waiting for a monk, sitting by the stove, and he bowed to Jiqing and beckoned him to the fire. They sat for a long time. He addressed Jiqing, saying: “It is already late afternoon. Are you not very hungry?” Jiqing said: “Starving, to be honest, but the monk is not here yet, so what can be done?” The old man untied a small bag from within his sleeve and took out about a cun (c.3.3cm) piece of medicine, simmering it in a cup of water and handing it to Jiqing, saying: “This will allay your hunger slightly.” After sipping it to the end, he was satisfied and comfortable, the suffering of hunger being washed away he felt much better. On the eastern wall there was a Huanyingtu map, and Shunqing searched for the Jiangnan route, and let out a long sigh, saying: “If I could float from the Wei River to the Yellow River, swim to the Luohe River, on to the Huai and cross to the Yangtze, I would reach my home, and I would not regret returning without achievement.” The old man laughed and said: “This is not so hard to achieve.” He ordered a novice to break a leaf from the bamboo standing in front of the step. Making a boat from the leaf, he placed it on the map, on top of the Wei River, and said: “The gentleman should fix his eyes on this boat, and he will receive that which he has been desiring, even arriving at his home, but should take care not to linger there too long.” Jiqing stared hard at it for a long time, gradually coming to feel the waves of the Wei River, as the single leaf grew large and became an extended sail. [463] Suddenly, it was as if he had boarded the boat, which set off from the Wei to the Yellow River, mooring at the Chanku Monastery, where he inscribed a poem on the southern pillar:

Bells sound when the night breeze grows urgent,

Tumultuous crows also gather to gaze on the winter forest.

Hold now the oars in sadness and sigh,

A lone lotus flower towering like a mountain peak.

The next day, he arrived at Tongguan, and disembarked. He inscribed another poem on the door of the Putongyuan to the east of the pass gates, and this read:

Crossing the Pass ashamed by failed ambition,

Myriad unfinished matters disturb my thoughts.

Downslope a horse lacks strength,

Sweeping the gate dust fills my robes.

Many schemes and plans unfulfilled,

Heart and mouth unable to agree.

Bringing shame by planning to return home,

Overcoming the shame of failing to return.

From Shandong the places he passed through were all just as he had desired. After ten days he arrived at his home, and his wife, children and brothers bowed and welcomed him at the gate. That evening he composed the poem ‘Gazing Late at the River Pavilion’, inscribing it in the study. It read:

Standing facing the river pavilion, eyes filled with sorrow,

Dedicated ten years before to distant and long-term service.

Field and garden are already scattered like floating clouds,

Home village peace swept away like flowing water.

Meeting nobody on the river other than elderly anglers,

On the banks both old friends and sandpipers are hard to find.

It is not through old age; dusk does not yet approach,

Chanting to the distant peaks and bowing the white head.

That evening he spoke to his wife: “The examination period approaches.” He stayed for two nights, and then said: “The examination period is pressing close; I must not stay long.” He then boarded the boat again, composing a poem of farewell to his wife:

Cold dew lies white in slanting moonlight,

Tonight I depart and leave my heart behind.

Wine increases sorrow with each sip;

Completing a poem I chant through tears.

The farewell song perches in the phoenix flute,

The crane laments parting on the jade zither.

In the clear night I pine for this place,

The autumn wind rippling my half blanket.

As he was about to board the boat, he left another poem for his brothers, which read:

I have planned this for a long time,

It can only be fate delaying so far.

Old friends are all distant and detached,

My own path still leading into the distance.

The north wind leaves fine flakes of snow,

These declining years are a time of clouds.

Melancholy and regret lie pure on the riverbank,

This humble self is rich in time.

After the first watch (7-9pm) he again boarded the leaf boat, floating away as his wife, children, brothers and family wept and wailed on the riverbank, saying that he must have been a ghost. The leaf boat rippled along, following his previous route and arriving at Weibin. He then hired a ride and travelled back to the Qinglong Monastery. It seemed that the monk was still sitting wrapped in his coarse clothing. Jiqing thanked him, saying: “I returned and have come back. Can that not have been a dream?” The old man laughed and said: “You’ll understand this after sixty days, but now it is late, and the monk has still not come.” The old man departed and Jiqing returned to his host. After two months had passed, his wife and children sent gold and silks and came from Jiangnan, saying that Jiqing had passed away, and they had therefore come to visit. His wife said: “You returned on such-and-such a day of such-and-such a month. That evening you composed a poem in the study. You also left two poems behind, so I came to realise that this was not a dream.”

The next spring Jiqing failed the examinations and returned to the east. Arriving at Chanku and the Guanmen Buddhist temple, he saw the two pieces he had inscribed there; the ink was still fresh. The following year Jiqing passed the examinations, but fasted and entered Zhongnanshan.

Taken from Muyiji (Esteeming the Unusual: A Record)[1]

[1] Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), ii, 74.462-63:


陳季卿者。家於江南。辭家十年。舉進士。志不能無成歸。羇棲輦下。鬻書判給衣食。常訪僧於青龍寺。遇僧他適。因息於暖閣中。以待僧還。有終南山翁。亦伺僧歸。方擁爐而坐。揖季卿就爐。坐久。謂季卿曰。日已晡矣。得無餒乎。季卿曰。實飢矣。僧且不在。為之奈何。翁乃於肘後解一小囊。出藥方寸。止煎一杯。與季卿曰。粗可療飢矣。季卿啜訖。充然暢適。飢寒之苦。洗然而愈。東壁有寰瀛圖。季卿乃尋江南路。因長歎曰。得自渭泛於河。遊於洛。泳於淮。濟于江。達于家。亦不悔無成而歸。翁笑曰。此不難致。乃命僧童折堦前一竹葉。作葉舟。置圖中渭水之上。曰。公但注目於此舟。則如公向來所願耳。然至家。愼勿久留。季卿熟視久之。稍覺渭水波浪。一葉漸大。席帆既張。 [463] 恍然若登舟。始自渭及河。維舟於禪窟蘭若。題詩於南楹云。霜鐘鳴時夕風急。亂鴉又望寒林集。此時輟棹悲且吟。獨坐蓮花一峯立。明日。次潼關。登岸。題句於關門東普通院門云。度關悲失志。萬緖亂心機。下坂馬無力。掃門塵滿衣。計謀多不就。心口自相違。已作羞歸計。還勝羞不歸。自陝東。凡所經歷。一如前願。旬余至家。妻子兄弟。拜迎於門。夕有江亭晚望詩。題于書齋云。立向江亭滿目愁。十年前事信悠悠。田園已逐浮雲散。鄉里平隨逝水流。川上莫逢諸釣叟。浦邊難得舊沙鷗。不緣齒髮未遲暮。吟對遠山堪白頭。此夕謂其妻曰。吾試期近。不可久留。即當進棹。乃吟一章別其妻云。月斜寒露白。此夕去留心。酒至添愁飲。詩成和淚吟。離歌棲鳳管。別鶴怨瑤琴。明夜相思處。秋風吹半衾。將登舟。又留一章別諸兄弟云。謀身非不早。其奈命來遲。舊友皆霄漠。此身猶路歧。北風微雪後。晚景有雲時。惆悵清江上。區區趁試期。一更後。復登葉舟。泛江而逝。兄弟妻屬。慟哭於濱。謂其鬼物矣。一葉漾漾。遵舊途至於渭濱。乃賃乘。復遊青龍寺。宛然見山翁擁褐而坐。季卿謝曰。歸則歸矣。得非夢乎。翁笑曰。後六十日方自知。而日將晚。僧尚不至。翁去。季卿還主人。後二月。季卿之妻子。賫金帛。自江南來。謂季卿厭世矣。故來訪之。妻曰。某月某日歸。是夕作詩於西齋。並留別二章。始知非夢。明年春。季卿下第東歸。至禪窟及關門蘭若。見所題兩篇。翰墨尚新。後年季卿成名。遂絕粒。入南山去。



Cui Gong Attains the Way 崔公得道

Cui Gong Attains the Way 崔公得道

In the renchen year of the Zhiyuan era (1292), Cui Gong of Qingchengshan in Guanzhou lived with old woman Cui in a thatched cottage by the mountain gate intersection and sold firewood. One day, he was going into the hills to gather firewood, when suddenly Magu (the Hemp Maiden Immortal)[1] was sitting there on a rock. He bowed to her, and the immortal asked him: “Do you desire an official post?” Cui replied: “What would I do with an official post?” She asked again: “Do you desire money?” He replied: “Too much money harms a person.” She asked again: “Do you desire magnificent clothing?” He replied: “I’m a man who sells firewood; what would I do with magnificent clothes?” She again asked: “If these three are not desired by you, what is it that you want right now?” Cui Gong laughed and said: “I need this beard to sweep the floor; that would be the best thing.” Magu stroked the beard and drew back her hand, the beard extending along with her hand, eventually growing to reach the ground. When he returned home, people thought it a marvel. Afterwards, he stopped eating, and told people’s fortunes as if he were a spirit, the entire town gathering like a wall of spectators. They each offered cloth or money as alms, but he wouldn’t accept even a single piece of copper cash. A year later, husband and wife both went into the mountains, and where they ended up nobody knows.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.148 (Tale 259):



[1] On Magu, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magu_(deity)

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 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).

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):



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).