A Girl With Two Heads And Four Arms 兩頭四臂女

During Emperor Ling’s reign (168-89 CE), a girl was born in Luoyang with two heads and four arms.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 52):

兩頭四臂女

靈帝時,洛陽女子生時兩頭四臂。

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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Mulan Joins The Army 木蘭從軍

Long ago there was a young woman called Mulan, who replaced her father on campaign and bore armour and weaponry for thirteen years, her fellow soldiers having no idea that she was actually a girl.[1]

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 54):

古有女木蘭者,代其父從征,身備戎裝凡十三年,同伙之卒不知其是女兒。

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] For a fascinating and beautifully illustrated version of the Mulan story, see https://chinesebooksforyoungreaders.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/i-am-mulan/.

 

The Birth Of Dongfang Shuo 東方朔出生

The wife of Zhang Shaoping, née Tian, lived alone as a widow for several years after Shaoping’s death, but suddenly one night dreamed that a person came down from heaven and pressed on her belly, due to which she became pregnant. She therefore said: “Pregnant without a husband; if people hear of this they will abandon me.” She migrated to find a new place to the east. At the new moon of the fifth month, she gave birth to a son. Because she was living in the east, she called him Dongfang Shuo[1] (‘New Moon of the East’). Some say that he was the spirit of Jupiter, multi-talented and boundlessly erudite.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 44):

東方朔出生

張少平妻田氏,少平卒後,累年寡居,忽夢一人自天而下,壓其腹,因而懷孕。乃曰:「無夫而孕,人聞棄我也。」徙於代,依東方。五月朔旦,生一子。以其居代東方,名之東方朔。或言歲星精,多能,無不該博。

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 the Han-era scholar Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (c. 160 – c. 93 BCE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dongfang_Shuo. He is also credited with the compilation of the Shenyijing 神異經 – see https://huhaixinwen.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/li-ziangs-strange-encounter-%E6%9D%8E%E5%AD%90%E6%98%82%E5%A5%87%E9%81%87/

Zhao Wei 趙未

Zhao Wei of the Jin, when he was eight sui in age, grew prodigiously in a single night, his body reaching eight chi (c. 2.4m), and whiskers covering his entire chin. Three days later he died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 25)

趙未

晉趙未,年八歲,一夕異長,身長八尺,髭鬚滿頷。三日而死。

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)

The Celestial Master Executes A Serpent 天師誅蛇

In Dongyang County, in Wuzhou, there was a Guo Langzhong, whose family depended on and lived among the mountains. The crags and rocks were steep and dangerous, the trees and forests deep and thick, and there were often great serpents that became demons that people were unable to deal with. Guo had a daughter, sixteen sui in age and of great beauty, who suddenly vanished and could not be found. Her parents suspected she had been deluded by a ghost, and thought about her endlessly, morning and night, sending people to offer incense and a letter to Longhushan, to call on and request help from the Guanmiao Celestial Master. The master intended to set off the next day, and that night dreamed that the school’s founder spoke to him: “You should not go; I will sort this out myself.” Suddenly, one day, there was a person of religion who arrived at the Guo household, and calling on him asked: “What matter disturbs your family?” Guo replied with the matter of his missing daughter. The person of religion said: “I have the power of the Way; you should send people after me to seek her.” They then sent people following after him, and on reaching the hills behind the house [163] he ordered the people to close their eyes, listen for his cry, and then open their eyes. When the cry came, they opened their eyes to see flames erupt from the hillside, with a great serpent burning among them, and the girl standing before it. On questioning, it emerged that the serpent had become a bewitching spirit. The demon then died. The religious then gave the girl an amulet to wear, and she regained her former peace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.162-63 (Tale 282):

天師誅蛇

婺州東陽縣有郭郎中,家依山而居,山石險峻,樹林深密,常有大蛇為妖,人所不能治。郭有一女年十六歲,容貌甚麗,忽尋不見。父母疑為祟所惑,朝夕思慕不已,遣人齎香信詣龍虎山,迎請觀妙天師救治。師欲翌日起(「起」,明刻本、明抄本作「啟」。)行,是夜(「夜」作「以」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)夢祖師云:「汝毋往,吾將自治之。」忽一日,有〔道〕(據明刻本、明抄本補。)人到郭家,謁問之曰:「爾家中有何憂事?」郭以失女事對。道人曰:「我有道法,爾當遣人隨我尋之。」遂遣人隨去,至屋後 [163] 山中,令其人閉目,謂聞喝聲即開。及喝一聲,開目見山中火發,焚一大蛇於中,女立于前。詢之,乃此蛇為魅。其怪遂絕。道人乃給符與女服,獲安如故。

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).

Discarding Fame and Studying the Way 棄名學道

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):

棄名學道

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

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。

出慕異記

 

A Woman Eats Fuling Fungus 女食茯苓

In Changqiushan, in Pujiang County, Qiongzhou, there was a woman surnamed Yang, who lived by the riverside. Her father went to the market, bought two carp and returned, ordering his daughter to boil and wash them. The woman did not [140] kill them, but released them in the water as a joke, doing this lightheartedly and then wandering off.

Her mother and father wanting to whip her, the girl then fled into Changqiushan’s Daoist temple, depending on a lay Daoist, obediently providing him with fuel and water. Whenever the Daoist sent her to carry water, she would stay away a long time and not return, and one of the other female servants feared she might have a lover outside, and therefore pressured and questioned her, until she said: “When I lower the well-bucket, an infant grabs the rope and rises; we play a while, and then it drops back into the well; there is nothing other than that.” The Daoist said: “You should take a cloth sack and bag it.” The girl did as he said, and when she took the bag to the temple and opened it to look, they found a lump of fuling fungus, placing it in the rice steamer and cooking it. The Daoist had crossed the river in response to an invitation, but the water had risen and he had not yet returned. The girl having noticed that the steamer smelled extremely delicious, then took and ate some, and as the day drew on eventually ate it all.

It happened that the Heavenly Emperor’s envoy summoned her, and in broad daylight she became an immortal and departed. When her home village informed the county, the county registrar Wei Wang went into the mountains to make a detailed investigation. A small piece of fungus was left over, so he also took and ate this, subsequently also departing as an immortal. The registrar was then placed among twenty-four heavenly masters who provide governance.

As I see it the immortals are extremely numerous, and, as they cannot all be laid out here, I record this to show to people in the future.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.139-40 (Tale 246):

女食茯苓

邛州蒲江縣長秋山,有女子姓楊,濱江而住。其父入市,買二鯉歸,令女子烹洗。其女不 [140] 殺,放水中戲,悠然而逝。父母欲箠之,此女遂奔入長秋山一道觀,依火居道士,供柴水之奉。道士每日使之擔水,忽去久不歸,道婆恐其有外慕,因苦問之,乃云:「於弔水時,有一嬰孩扶繩而上,同嬉一時,又投井中,非有他也。」道士云:「可將布袋袋之。」其女子如其言,袋至宮中開看,乃是一塊茯苓,置之飯甑蒸熟。道士適渡江赴請,水漲未歸,其女子聞其蒸熟甚香,遂取食之,日久食盡,忽天帝差使者召之,白日仙去。其鄉村申縣,縣委王主簿入山體究,止餘茯苓一小塊,簿亦取而食之,竟仙去。主簿,乃天師排定二十四治之一者。吾觀神仙者甚多,皆不載此,因錄之,以示來者。

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).