Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)

事姑不孝

邢州李生母,年老目盲,李生事之至孝。每出外,慮其妻金氏侍奉有闕,必再三囑付之而後往。金氏不聽夫語,不盡禮,母甚埋怨,金氏憤之。恰值燒餅欲進母,傍有小兒阿糞,金氏乃以麵裹糞為餅餡以進,母食既半,覺臭穢不可食,遂留以待兒歸。李生歸,見其以穢物食母,持杖擊之,金氏奔走,尋邏不見。忽有人報云:「昨日奔入關王廟中。」李生入廟,見一狗伏於案下,睜目不敢親近。遂呼金氏父母來看,此狗流涕自稱曰:「我不合以穢物奉姑不孝,忽入廟中化為狗矣!」數日而卒。

昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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)

[1] On this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

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The Shaoyang Cowherd 韶陽牧牛人

In Shaoyang there was a cowherd, and one morning a cow licked his arm, leaving it brilliant white in colour. This delighted him, so he stripped off and told the cow to lick him everywhere, becoming white all over. Within several days the cowherd died of a sudden illness. His family felt hate over the matter, killing the cow, and summoning the entire village to eat it together. Those who ate numbered several dozen in all, and they all died in a single evening.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 28):

韶陽牧牛人

韶陽有一人牧牛,一旦,牛舐其臂,而色皎白。此人樂之,即袒其體,令牛遍舐,皆白。其人數日間暴卒。其家恨,殺此牛,召村社同食之。凡食者數十人,一夕同卒。

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)

Riding A Raft, Reaching The Heavenly Crossing 乘槎至天津

Hai Ruo[1] lived on an island in the sea, and every year on the eighth month a raft floated past on the currents. This continued for years without fail. Someone provisioned a raft and set off, arriving at a place where they saw a person watering cattle in a river. There was also a weaving woman,[2] and when they asked her what place it was, her cattle-watering father spoke: “You should go back and ask Yan Junping of Shu;[3] he ought to know.” The person returned and called on Junping. Junping said: “On such-and-such a day, month and year, a comet crossed into the Big Dipper and Altair. Having calculated the dates, it must have been you.” The person then realized that, floating with the current, their raft had reached the Heavenly Crossing.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 2):

乘槎至天津

海若居海島,每至八月即有流槎過。如是,累年不失期。其人齎糧槎而往,及至一處,見有人飲牛於河,又見織女,問其處,飲牛之父曰:「可歸問蜀嚴君平,當知之。」其人歸,詣君平。君平曰:「某年月日,有客星犯斗牛,計時,即汝也。」其人乃知隨流槎至天津。

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] Hai Ruo 海若 is a spirit of the sea. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B5%B7%E8%8B%A5/9723235.

[2] This ‘weaving woman’ signifies Vega, brightest star in the Lyra constellation.

[3] Yan Junping 嚴君平 (86 BCE -10CE) was a famous Daoist scholar from Sichuan. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%B8%A5%E5%90%9B%E5%B9%B3.

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.

The Kaifeng Water Monster 開封水怪

Under the Song, during the Xuanhe era (1119-25), when someone arose from their bed in front of a tea shop and wiped down the couch, they noticed something crouching beside them like a dog; looking again in the bright light of dawn, it turned out to be a dragon. The person cried out loudly and fell to the ground. A short distance from the tea shop stood a workshop for military equipment. A group of soldiers from the workshop took away the dragon and ate it, but didn’t dare to report the matter. People in the capital all drew pictures to transmit and appreciate the sight; its body was only six or seven chi in length (about 2m), as [74] they have been painted for generations: the dragon’s scales being grey-black, its head like that of a donkey, its cheeks like those of a fish, the colour of its head a true green, with a horned brow, a very long back, splitting into two segments at the end; its voice was like that of a cow. A night later, at the fifth watch (about 4am), a red cloud came from the northwest and covered dozens of circuits, reaching towards heaven, crossing into the Purple Palace and the Great Bear; looking up, the stars all seemed to be separated by red gauze. When the sun rose it split with a tearing noise, which later became very great. This happened over several following evenings, the noise growing, its shaking lasting a long time and becoming extremely strong, with red clouds spreading from the northwest for tens of thousands of circuits, two clouds of black and white passing from the northwest to the northeast, the noise continuing without end, finally stopping at dawn. Several days later, water flooded into the capital, rising to more than ten zhang (33m). Diviners said that in bingwu the omens matched those of the fall of the Northern Qi (550-77), and later the nature of this matter became extremely clear.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 129):

開封水怪

宋宣和間,開封縣前茶肆人晨起拭牀榻,睹若有大犬蹲其旁,質明視之,龍也。其人驚呼仆地。茶肆適與軍器作坊近,為作坊兵衆取而食之,不敢以聞。都人皆圖畫傳玩,身僅六七尺,若 [74] 世所繪,龍鱗蒼黑,驢首而兩頰如魚,頭色正綠,頂有角,坐極長,其際始分兩䏢,有聲如牛。越一夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道近天,犯紫宮北斗,仰視星皆若隔絳紗。方起時折裂一聲,然後大發。後數夕又作,聲益大,震且久,其發尤甚,而赤氣自西北數十萬道,中有黑白二氣自西北而由東北,其聲不絕,迨曉乃止。後數日,水犯都城,高十餘丈。占者謂丙午及北齊末占同,後事驗亦甚明也。

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 account of the same events is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. Dating it to the second year Xuanhe (1120), this places the incident within a series of disastrous portents, their meaning relating to the palace. The Xuanhe yishi version also, disappointingly, omits the discussion of painting traditions.

William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 41-42:

That summer, in the fifth month, a creature somewhat like a dragon appeared in front of a teashop in Kaifeng County. It was about six or seven feet long with blue black scales. It had a head like a donkey, but with fish-cheeks and a horn on top of its skull. It bellowed like an ox. As it happened, the shopkeeper was making up the beds that morning when he noticed something the size of a large dog beside him. When he looked closely, it was this dragon. He was so surprised he keeled over in fright. The teashop was situated very close to an arms manufactory, and when the wor­kers in the mill found out about the dragon they killed and ate it.

That night in the fifth watch, several score columns of crimson vapor rose to the sky in the northwest. When one looked up at the North Star, it was as if it were veiled in scarlet gauze. In the midst of it all were alternate streams of black and white vapor, from which emanated crackling sounds like thunder from time to time. Soon rain began to fall in torrents. The level of the river rose more than ten yards, seeping through the city walls and breaking down the dike on the Bian River. Although all the laborers available within the city were marshalled to help in the crisis, carrying straw and sandbags to stem the tide, they were unable to hold it back. Finally, Huizong called upon the executive of the Ministry of Revenue, Tang Lu, to take charge of the operations. In the morning, Lu went out on the river in a small dinghy to see what the flood was like so that it might be controlled. The emperor watched him from atop, a tower. When he [42] discovered it was Lu himself out on the waters, he wept. Several days later the waters leveled off and Lu went to see the emperor, who praised him highly. ‘The temples of Our ancestors are secure, thanks to your work,’ he said.

Lu responded, ‘Water is an element of the Yin class. Yin influences are ascendant and pervade even to the inner reaches of the city and palace. I pray Your Majesty will communicate directly with his ministers, sequester himself from feminine wiles and small-minded people, and heed well this warning from Heaven to make ready for the tribes.’ Huizong commended this memorial and accepted it.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period of the Great Song: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), pp. 29-30:

夏,五月,有物若龍,長六七尺,蒼鱗黑色,驢首,兩頰如魚,頭色綠,頂有角,其聲如牛,見於開封縣茶肆前。時茶肆人早起拂拭床榻,見有物若大犬蹲其傍,熟視之,乃是龍也。其人吃驚,臥倒在地。茶肆與軍器作坊相近,遂被作坊軍人得知,殺龍而食之。是夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道衝天,仰視北斗星若隔絳紗,其中有間以白黑二炁,及時有折烈聲震如雷。未幾,霪雨大作,水高十餘丈,犯都城,已破汴堤,諸內侍役夫,擔草運土障之,不能禦。徽宗詔戶部侍郎唐恪治之。即日,恪乘小舟覽水之勢,而求所以導之。上登樓遙見,問之,乃恪也,為之出涕。數日,水平,恪入對,上勞之曰:「宗廟社稷獲安,卿之功也!」唐恪因回奏:「水乃陰類。陰炁之盛,以致犯城闕。願陛下垂意於馭臣,遠女寵,去小人,備夷狄,以益謹天戒。」徽 [30] 宗嘉納之。

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).