Taking A Pill And Catching Fire 服丹自焚

Zhu, known as Dingguan, served as Palace Superintendent at the end of the Zhenghe era (1111-18). He was twenty-eight at the time, and entertained himself with food and wine. One day, received a sudden summons to the inner palace, and the emperor (Huizong, 1100-25) addressed him: “We have recently gained an extraordinary person, able to produce cinnabar pills, which if taken increase longevity. We have observed the long smelting process, and a year having passed they are finished, coloured like the finest gold; my minister will try them.” Dingguan leapt for joy as he humbly accepted [104] the decree, then took the medicine. Immediately after swallowing, he felt a great agitation within his chest. Soon after, smoke began to pour from his mouth. Urgently carried out, he was already beyond help. After he had been laid out, a knocking sound was heard from the coffin, and nobody could work out what caused it. Before long, flames emerged from within, and within the blink of an eye it was completely ablaze, and the chamber was gutted. The Kaifeng authorities rushed to the scene, but the fire spread to burn more than a hundred households, leaving only skeletons among the ashes. This is truly something to marvel at.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103-4 (Tale 179):

服丹自焚

主稱定觀者,政和末為殿中監,時年二十八,酒食自娛。一日,忽宣召入禁中,上云:「朕近得一異人,能製丹砂,服之可以長生。久視煉冶,經歲而成,色如紫金,卿為試之。」定觀欣躍拜 [104] 命,即取服之。才下咽,覺胸中煩躁之甚。俄頃,煙從〔口〕(據元刻本補。)中出。急扶歸,已不救。既殮之後,但聞棺中剝啄之聲,莫測所以。已而,火出其內,頃刻之間,遂成烈焰,室廬盡焚。開封府急救之,延燒數百餘家,但得枯骨於餘燼,深可怪也。

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).

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Deceit and Cheating Reap Retribution 欺誑獲報

In the government offices of Taiqing in Bozhou there was a Daoist, whose bearing and appearance was greatly lauded. He always carried a small oven, cooking up pills below the hall of Laozi to sell. When a multitude had gathered, he would always point to the image of Laozi and boast: “I am now his master.” The gathering were somewhat dazzled by him, and all without exception wanted more of his medicines. One day he had just pointed to the image when flames suddenly emerged from the oven, flying into his body. Before long the fire had caught him up completely, and the five bodily components were all burnt. The crowd soaked him with water, but the more they poured the more he burned; he leapt up with a cry, unable to bear his suffering. After a long time, he lay prostrate before the Laozi image, as if awaiting his punishment; when he was spotted he was already dead.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.95 (Tale 162):

欺誑獲報

亳州太清官有一道人,氣貌甚揚,每攜一小鑪、於老君殿下煆藥而賣。衆方集,必指老君像大言曰:「我乃彼之師也。」衆頗惑之,莫不皆欲多得其藥。一日方指像大言,忽火自鑪出,飛入其身,須臾焰發,五體俱燒。衆皆以水沃之,愈沃愈熾,號呼跳躍,不勝其苦。良久,面老君像俯伏如待罪狀,視之則已死矣。

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.