Human-Flesh Wontons 人肉餛飩

In the gengyin year of the Shaoding era (1230), the grain in the areas belonging to Ruizhou in Jiangxi ripened empty, and there was hunger and famine among the populace. Troublemakers in the affected region slaughtered cattle for market, but recklessly sold human flesh mixed and stuffed into it. The starved populace gathered ‘like spokes at a hub’, and it sold out with great speed; of what was left behind the beef was the majority. Therefore the people all looked to find the truth; they were arrested and taken to the government office, where they confessed one by one. When the officials thought about [73] the hubbub and chaos they made, they secretly decided they didn’t dare to impose the mandatory death penalty. On the basis of their confession, and as a person’s body does not contain much meat – there is only a little more than one-and-a-half strings of coins in weight that can be sliced off the buttocks and legs. Taking so many bodies, how can this be borne?

In the Jiading era (1208-24), the gengzi year,[1] Lin’an suffered a great drought, and the harvest failed. By the Liushui Bridge outside the city walls there were similarly deceitful types who killed people and picked off their flesh to make wonton, baozi dumplings and the like. In the spring of the xinchou year (either 1181 or 1241), this became especially serious; among the meat was skin tattooed with a recognisable pattern, although nobody dared to say so. All who bought meat had first to ask, “Is this polished-rice-pork? Or is it rice-husk-pork?” ‘Polished-rice-pork’ was human flesh; ‘rice-husk-pork’ was true pork. This matter later became the beginning of the Liu (i.e., Song) decline.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 127):

人肉餛飩

紹定庚寅,江西瑞州管下禾稼秀而不實,民間飢荒。屬地頑民屠牛為市,浪賣人肉雜而為餡,飢民輻輳,發賣盛行,而牛肉多有存者。以故人皆物色得實,緝捕到官,一一招伏。官司慮 [73] 此聲旁達,暗行予決,不敢明正典刑。據其供吐,人之一身苦無多肉,僅有臀腿亂削之餘有淨肉一緡半重。所得寧幾,何忍哉!

嘉定庚子,臨安大旱,歲飢。城外溜水橋亦騙死人剔其肉為餛飩包子之屬。辛丑春尤甚,其中間有花繡之皮,稍可辨認,人無敢言。凡買肉者必先問:「買米猪?買糠猪?」米猪則人肉也,糠猪則真猪也,後因劉自事始敗。

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] This is an impossible date: the 37th cyclical year should be either 1240 or 1180; neither fit the regnal era specified.

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Reincarnated for Revenge Against A Foe 託生報讐

In the west of Luling City lived Peng Tu, who often set off at the fifth watch (just before dawn) to buy pigs below the Ten Li Temple. In the darkness he suddenly caught sight of the gatekeeper from the Zhao residence of Zhengbing Ridge, walking along with a sharp knife. A dozen or so steps further, he suddenly heard a shout from among the fields, and on approaching for a closer look, found a dead body. Looking around he spied the light of a house in the distance; Tu thought to himself: “Tomorrow that house with the firelight must surely be implicated.” The next day, those in authority made in investigation, and indeed implicated the house where the lamp shone. That person was imprisoned, faced unbearable hardship, and confessed falsely; the officials recommended execution and public exposure. Peng Tu saw them just before the sentence was carried out, and said to himself: “This person is dying unjustly.” That night he dreamed that the person said: “This matter is known only to you: I will be reincarnated in your household, to repay this enmity.” After a year had passed, Peng Tu had a child, who was exceptionally clever and cunning. When he was twelve, he was wielding the butcher’s knife himself and making sales, when the gatekeeper from the Zhao residence came unexpectedly to buy meat. Due to a petty argument, the son took up his knife and killed him. Peng Tu thought about this, and concluded that it proved his dream to be true. When he took his son to the government office to confess, this coincided with the enthronement of Duzong (in 1264), and, under the general amnesty for the change of regnal era, his life was spared. After another year, he fell ill and died. Peng Tu wept for him for a long time, but dreamed that his son spoke to him: “I was originally born in your house to take revenge on an enemy. Having taken revenge on my foe, it was best to pass away; do not mourn further.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi,  前2.124 (Tale 217):

託生報讐

廬陵城西有彭屠,常以五更初往十里廟下買豬,暗中忽望見正丙岡趙宅門子攜尖刀以行,更十數步,忽聞田中叫聲,近前視之,則已殺死一人矣。遠望見有一家燈光,屠心思曰:「明日必累火光人家。」次日,官司檢驗,果然累及燈光之家。其人入獄,不勝苦楚,遂誣服,官議棄市。彭屠見其臨刑,私謂心曰:「此人枉死。」夜夢其人云:「此事隻有君知,吾當託生汝家,以報此讐。」越一年,彭屠生一子,慧黠異常,年十二,自操刀賣肉,忽趙宅門子來買肉,因小爭,揮刀殺之。彭屠心思,向者之夢驗矣。當其子出官招承,會度宗登極,大赦改元,免死。又一年病死。彭屠哭之哀,夢其子謝云:「吾生汝家,本為報讐。讐既報矣,吾可死矣,毋痛哀也。」

 

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).

Repentance for Killing Eels 殺鱔悔悟

Long ago a person named Wang something had an eating house and was a very skilled cook, specialising in killing eels. A Buddhist priest arrived at the restaurant and bought a bowl of eel for ten copper cash. When it arrived, he pressed his hands together and prostrated himself in greeting, and did not eat but left instead. This happened for several days. Shopkeeper Wang thought this strange and questioned him, at which the priest said: “You have mastered the preparation of eel but not yet attained the way, and therefore I do not eat. I will come again tomorrow; if you can sell a bowl of perfectly straight eel, I will repay double your money without hesitation.” Wang so-and-so said: “How can one make it straight?” The priest said: “You need to hold the eel with your hands, [99] right up until the stock boils, and then you can make them straight.” Wang laughed and said: “Won’t that hurt my hands?” The priest said: “Your two hands will know pain; what of the tens of thousands of eels’ lives?” Wang so-and-so then achieved a sudden enlightenment, abandoning his livelihood and never again opening his shop. Restricting himself to a vegetarian diet and chanting the name of the Buddha, he lived little more than a month before passing away.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.98-99 (tale 168):

殺鱔悔悟

昔有食店王某,善於庖饌,專殺鱔魚。有一道人至店,以銅錢十文買鱔一碗。及至,則合掌頂禮,不食而去。如是數日。王店怪而問之,道人曰:「你修事鱔魚尚未得法,所以不食。我明日再來,你賣一碗條直鱔魚,倍還你錢不妨。」王某曰:「何策得其條直?」道人曰:「你須以手握鱔, [99] 致之沸湯,即能條直。」王笑曰:「如手痛何?」道人曰:「爾雙手知痛,況鱔魚數萬命乎?」王某即頓悟,捨業不復開店,持素念佛,不逾月而亡。

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 Slaughterer of Oxen Changes His Work 屠牛改業

In Shuinan, in Longquan County, there was a Zhao Taibao, who was accustomed to slaughtering oxen to gather profit in the market. He once bought three oxen, one of which was already boiled. One night, before dawn had broken, he had a nightmare, and, making a bellowing sound, passed a full day unable to awake; desperately calling out, a physician used medicine to relieve his distress and he finally awoke the following dawn. His family questioned him as to the cause, and he replied: “I happened to see one of my oxen suddenly speak with a human voice, its speeches being ‘I am your father’ and ‘I am your grandfather.’ Before long, the two oxen both took on human form, and I looked hard at them and they were indeed my grandfather and father.” He cried out piteously and earnestly, frightened and newly enlightened, and then handed over generous rent for the two oxen, feeding them with water and hay. From then on he changed his work and never slaughtered another ox.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.96 (Tale 165):

屠牛改業

龍泉邑之水南,有趙太保,居嘗屠牛以網市利。嘗買三牛,已烹其一。一夕,天未明,忽魘,作聲哮吼,經一日不醒,急呼醫者用藥救療,迄旦方醒。家人詢問其故,答曰:「適見所有之牛忽作人語,其一曰:『我爾父也。』其一曰:『我爾祖也。』須臾,二牛皆人形,熟視之,則真吾祖與父也。」哀號懇切,驚駭而覺,即以二牛付之莊佃,飽以水草。自後改業,不復宰牛。

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).

Warnings Against Eating Beef 戒食牛肉

During the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), a Director-General Sun was assigned to Shaozhou. On reaching the river he climbed into a boat, but was blown around by a great gale, finally arriving at a place with a huge mountain. He did not recognise the place, but a navigable path led across the peak. Sun strolled off up the mountain, and saw that there was a large gate. Examining this in the distance, behind the gate were corridors, wings and chambers like those of a government office. The gate guards stopped him, saying: “This is where the sin and merit of the human world is investigated and compared; what business brings you here?” Sun reported to them how he been appointed to Shaozhou and how his boat had encountered the gale, and wished to enter the hall and have a look; the guards led him inside. Stepping in the door he saw a large hall, with superiors sitting in large numbers and extremely strict guards in the lower hall. To the side of the hall was a door, with different guards, all of whom had the fanged faces of spirits, and they would not let him enter. The guards said: “That is the jail. All those who kill cattle and eat their flesh are imprisoned there.” Sun’s uncle had, in life, enjoyed eating beef, so he gave them his family and personal name and asked about him. The guards said: “He’s there. It was once said that your uncle had eaten seven hundred jin (one jin is about 500g) of beef, an unpardonable crime.” Sun earnestly begged the guard to lead him to the chief clerk so he could plead for his uncle. The clerk said: “Your uncle ate seven hundred jin of cow flesh, so his karmic sins are extremely heavy. Moreover, you too have taken pleasure in eating beef; the authorities of the nether world are limiting your lifespan, too; you will only accrue one term of office at Shaozhou.” Sun pleaded once again, now in order to save himself, and after a long time the clerk said: “If, when you take up your post at Shaozhou, you can command a halt to the slaughter of cattle, leading five hundred households to stop eating beef, your uncle will be allowed life in human heaven, and your lifespan will be extended.” Gentleman Sun accepted this command and left, descending the mountain and, on launching his boat, looked back, but the mountain could not be seen. On arriving at his post, his first action was to prohibit the slaughter of cattle; he also travelled widely urging people not to eat beef. More than half a year later, one night his uncle reported to him in a dream: “The governor says that you have prevented the slaughter of cattle, extending many lives, and have also urged seven hundred households to stop eating beef. Your merit is extremely great and the deities praise you. I have achieved life in human heaven, and your lifespan will also be extended.”

 

Sheng Zhao of Qinglongzhen had held a hundred banquets in all, having always to kill and butcher a cow; cooking with skill he ate without restraint. One day, someone knocked on his door; when Sheng Zhao opened it himself and went out to look, he saw a servant bringing him a bamboo slip. He opened it to look, finding writing in large characters: “The Six Domestic Animals are all the work of previous lives (in the reincarnatory process); the ox alone faces bitter toil. If one looks at those meeting a violent end, [98] they are all eaters of beef.” He read it three times, by which time the person who gave it to him had vanished. Sheng Zhao was shocked and alarmed, and from then on abstained from eating beef.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.97-98 (tale 166):

戒食牛肉

至元年間,有孫總管韶州任,江次登舟,為大風飄揚至一所,有巨山,莫知何地,有山徑可行。孫信步登山,見有大門,望之,門內廊廡廳舍如官府狀。守門者止之,曰:「考較人間罪福去處,爾何事至此?」孫以赴韶州任舟行遇風告之,並欲入廳舍遊觀,守者引進。入門見一大殿,有主者廣坐,殿下侍衛甚嚴。殿旁有一門,另有守者,皆狼牙鬼面,不許進。守者曰:「此獄也。陽世殺牛食肉者,皆囚於此。」孫之舅在世亦好食牛肉,並以姓名問之。守者曰:「有之。曾聞汝舅食牛肉七百斤,罪不可宥。」孫力禱守者,託之引見主吏禱之,吏曰:「爾舅食牛肉七百斤,罪業至重,況爾亦喜食牛肉,陰司亦減爾壽算,隻滿韶州一任矣。」孫再禱以求救之由,吏良久曰:「汝到任若能禁殺牛命,善誘五百家不食牛肉,爾舅得生人天,亦延爾壽。」孫公領命而離,下山即登舟,回視亦失山矣。及到任,首以宰牛為禁,並廣行勸人不食牛肉。踰半年,夜夢舅報曰:「主者云爾禁殺牛,延命亦多,曾勸到七百家不食牛肉,功德浩大,神明交讚。我得生天,汝亦延壽矣。」

秀州青龍鎮盛肇,凡百筵會,必殺牛取肉,巧作庖饌,恣啖為樂。一日,有扣門者,盛肇自啟門出視,見一蒼頭授以青簡,展而視之,乃大字書云:「六畜皆前業,惟牛最苦辛。但看橫死者, [98] 盡是食牛人。」讀之三過,人與簡俱亡。盛肇驚駭,自是戒食牛肉。

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 Dead Servant Sells Geese 死僕賣鵝

The Li household of Anqing Fu had a servant named Hu Baiwu, who had died several years ago. One day, setting off for the capital, Li saw someone in the street resembling him, at which he exclaimed and questioned the seller. He said: “Your humble servant is actually a ghost; not originally fated to die yet, my ethereal soul could not submit to authority, and has no option but to drift through the mortal world.” Questioned about the things he sold, he said: “These are items from this (mortal) world; every day I bring the travelling pedlar’s stall, and the money I use is also of this world.” Questioned as to his accommodation, he said: “At night I rest at the roadside, on a butcher’s board, where the guards on patrol don’t see me; those trading like this are very many, and are of course ghosts.”

It can therefore be seen that mixed among the floating population (huhai) are ghostly people; even grasping their fingers and pointing none would see this truly.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.240 (Tale 433):

死僕賣鵝

安慶府李家有僕胡百五,已死數年。一日如京,於街上見賣炙鵝者似之,呼而問。曰:「某實鬼也,本未當死,魂無歸附,未免混凡。」詰其所賣之物,曰:「即世間物,每日就鋪家行販來,所用之錢即世間錢也。」詰其止宿之地,曰:「夜則泊於街旁肉案上,巡更軍吏皆不得見,經紀買賣如某輩甚多,固鬼也。」 以是見湖海之內,人鬼混淆,持指示數人,皆不識耳。

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)