Yang Xinglian’s Wooden Puppet 楊行廉木偶

Yang Xinglian of Shu was meticulous and ingenious, and once carved wood into a monk, which extended its hand in the Yizhou market and begged for coins. When it its hands were filled with fifty coins, it would lean and pour them into a jar, saying the word “give alms”.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 55):

楊行廉木偶

蜀人楊行廉精巧,嘗刻木為僧,於益州市引手乞錢。錢滿五十於手,則自傾寫下瓶,口言「布施」字。

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)

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Four Immortals Play Chess 四仙弈棋

There was once somebody called Ba, from Qiong, his surname has not been recorded. He had a tangerine tree, and after the frost came all of the tangerines had been gathered, save for two big ones, each as large as a wide-bellied pot. Ba then ordered that they twist off the tangerines and weigh them, just like the usual ones. When cut open, each contained two elderly men, beard and eyebrows hoary white, flesh and bodies bright red, and both sets were playing chess, their bodies a little over a chi (33cm) in height, talking and laughing as if nothing had happened. When their games were finished, one old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me.” Another old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me; it will come back to me later, at the thatched hall at Qingcheng.” (This is a celebrated Daoist mountain site in Sichuan) Yet another old man spoke up: “Master Wang is always like this; waiting and getting nothing. Playing in the tangerine is no worse than on Shangshan, but you can’t have more than one stem for each tangerine.” One of the old men said: “Your servant is hungry and empty; he needs a dragon root fruit to eat.” Then from his sleeve he removed a grass root, about an inch across, its shape curving sinuously like a dragon, and, millimetre by millimetre and with great care, pared it away fully. When he had finished eating, he spat it out in a gush of water, and it transformed into a dragon. The four old men mounted it together, and wings flapping beneath their feet ascended into the clouds. Briefly and suddenly came wind, rain, darkness and light, and none knew where they had gone.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.132 (Tale 230):

四仙弈棋

有巴邛人,不記姓。有橘,霜後諸橘盡收,餘二大橘如三四斗盎,巴人即令拳橘輕重,亦如常橘。割開,每橘有二老叟,鬚眉皤然,肌體紅明,皆相對象戲,身尺餘,談笑自若。但與決賭訖,一叟曰:「君輸我。」一叟曰:「君輸我,後日於青城草堂還我耳。」又一叟曰:「王先生許來,竟待不得,橘中之樂不減商山,但不得二根同蒂(上四字,明抄本作「深根固蒂」。)於橘中耳。」一叟曰:「僕飢虛矣,須龍根脯食之。」即於袖中抽出一草根,方圓徑寸,形狀宛轉如龍,毫釐周悉,因削復滿。食訖,以水噀之,化為一龍,四叟共乘之,足下泄泄雲起。須臾,風雨晦明,不知所在。

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 Clam Reveals Its Power 蛤蜊顯聖

When Chancellor Shi attained power, the governor of the capital selected a tray of clams as an offering. That night the gentleman saw a gleam of light emerging from one clam among the others in the tray. Picking up and examining it, he realized it was quite unlike the others, and when struck it would not crack open. The gentleman suspected that it was a marvel, so placed it on a table, burned incense and prayed to it. Presently the clam cracked open of its own accord, revealing two people, their faces and eyebrows dignified and handsome, bodies and physiques extremely beautiful, hair in buns, hair tasseled and ornamented, wearing lotus-flower shoes, just like those statues people in this world devote to the servants of the Buddha. The gentleman then had a temple grotto carved from various fragrant woods, and to calm their spirits added ornamentation of gold and jade, until the brightness dazzled the eye. He ordered the gathered monks to take them into the Buddhist monastery and attend to them. It is not known how all of this finished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 485):

蛤蜊顯聖

史丞相當國,京尹選大蛤蜊一盤以獻。是夜公見盤中一蛤蜊有光,取而視之,獨異其他,劈而不裂。公疑異之,取而致几上,焚香祝之。俄頃蛤自裂開,中有二人,形眉端秀,體格悉備,螺髻纓絡,足履蓮花,與人世所事佛像一般。公遂以諸香木刻成巖殿,以安其神,加以金玉為飾,光耀奪目,令衆僧送入佛寺安奉,後不知所終。

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).

A Stone Turtle is Able to Walk 石龜能行

By the side of the Chuzhou government office was an ancient stone stele, recording someone’s good governance, even their courtesy name having been rubbed away over the years. Beneath the stele was a stone turtle, which emerged to roam about every night. The government clerks marvelled at this, making offerings to it in search of blessings and fortune, and it never failed to provide results. Due to this prayers to it never ceased for a single day, and it was named ‘Great King Transcendant Turtle’. Eventually a new prefectural chief took over, and, believing it to be a demon, not only would not make offerings, but even had it thrown in the river. The residence was then without calm or peace, but the clerks and populace lifted it back out and made offerings, thus restoring their good fortune. They later encountered a supernatural being who recognised that the turtle was indeed a demon, and smashed it, after which the uncanny events ceased.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.264 (Tale 478):

石龜能行

處州設廳側有一石古碑,亦不知紀載何人善政,字亦漫滅。碑之下有石龜,每夜出遊。官吏奇之,祭以邀福,無不驗者。由是禱祈無寧日,名之曰靈龜大王。續有太守來,以為怪,非惟不祭,且投之水。居不遑安,吏民再扶起而祭之,因此獲福。後遇異人,知其為怪,碎之,而怪方息。

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 Temple Spirit Seizes A Fan 廟鬼奪人扇

Before Fan Zhi, Duke of Lu (911-964 CE), became influential, he was seated in a teahouse in Fengqiu, holding a fan on which was inscribed ‘The heat of summer drives out corrupt officials; a pure breeze brings back the departed.’ A strange and ugly figure suddenly appeared before him and bowed, saying: “How can the injustice of corrupt government end like the summer heat? Someday the gentleman will have to think deeply about this matter.” It then picked up the fan and departed. The gentleman was left sorrowful and unable to fathom the matter. Several days after, he passed a temple and saw a short spirit figure made of earth and wood – looking just like the strange and ugly person from the teahouse – holding his fan in its hands; the gentleman was astonished by this. Afterwards, on attaining a position of power, his first action was to consult on settling the [226] unified code of punishment.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.225-26 (Tale 402):

廟鬼奪人扇

范魯公質未顯時,坐封丘茶肆,手持扇,偶題「大暑去酷吏,清風來故人。」忽有一怪陋人前揖曰:「世之酷吏冤抑何止如大暑,公他日當深究此弊。」因攜其扇而去。公憫然莫測。後數日,過一廟,見一土木短鬼,狀貌酷類茶肆中者,扇亦在其手中,公心異焉。後致大用,首建議詳定 [226] 刑統。

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 Clay Mendicant Buys Chestnuts 泥行者買栗

The Sizhou Buddha of Longquan’s Wugou Hall was very powerful. Every day at dusk there was a mendicant who would take up the begging bowl and monk’s staff, walking and singing in the town, saying that the sects had become one text; nobody knew to which monastery he belonged. One night it happened that, at chestnut roasting store at the end of the Jichuan Bridge, a single lamp still burned, and the mendicant held up his bold and bought chestnuts. Following him on tiptoe, he was seen returning to the Buddhist temple, at which those people said: “The temple has only one monk; where did this mendicant come from?” The next day they went to look, and saw that there were several chestnuts in the alms bowl held by the carved wood mendicant, and then they understood. This secret being revealed, he never again went out.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.225 (Tale 401):

泥行者買栗

龍泉無垢院泗州佛甚靈,每黃昏時,有行者將鉢盂錫杖,行歌於市,曰家化一文,人莫知其為何寺之行者。忽一夜,濟川橋頭有炒栗鋪賣,孤燈猶存,行者持鉢買栗。躡其後追之,見歸無垢,其人曰:「院只一僧,安有此行者?」次早往觀,見木乂行者鉢盂中有栗數枚,方知之。此機一泄,不復出矣。

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).

A Ghost Helps Fell Trees 鬼助伐木

A carpenter, Li Jian, once went alone into the mountains to cut timber to build a house. One day at noon he saw a person, tall in stature and ugly in appearance, and seemingly engraved all over, suddenly appearing before him. Li was about to chop down a tree, and the other also took up and used an axe; when asked his name, he called himself “Dr Hua.” Li’s heart leapt with fear, believing him to be a mountain goblin, and staring round couldn’t see anyone else, so yelled out several times to the spirits about his plight. The other leapt up and, excited, said:  “You suspect me, which makes it hard to help you.” Uttering a long, loud cry, it climbed a tree and departed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.238 (Tale 430):

鬼助伐木

木匠李監,嘗為人入山造木料架屋。一日午,見一人身長而貌醜,遍體雕質,(「質」,明刻本作「青」。)突如其前。李方伐木,彼亦用斤,問其姓名,則自稱曰「花博士」。李心驚悸,以為山之精怪,旁顧無人,即呼所事之神數聲。其人躍然而興曰:「爾既疑我,難以為助。」長嘯攀樹而去。

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).