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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Embalmed Corpses Accept Service 殯柩受役

In Jiangling Fu there was a Magistrate Shen, who, having been in office for a year, sighed out his last breath and died. His orphaned child, only just ten years old, was unable to bear the coffin to its burial place, so left it temporarily at the Water And Land Temple outside the city walls. Only after some ten years were his son and relatives able to take the coffin back to his homeland. That night in a dream he appeared to his son, saying: “While waiting for burial in this temple I have been put to use among its guardian spirits, and up to now have had no means of escape. Fortunately I can now return to my true home, my spirit and soul can begin to return to themselves, and I can find a chance of reincarnation.”

Also, in Lin’an Fu, during the Song era, a minister’s wife died in the official residence and before they were able to return for her burial, her coffin was stored in the Puji Temple outside the city walls. She suddenly appeared in a dream to her household, saying: “You who I call my family, day and night I suffer bitter service as a guardian spirit; if I gain a quick return for burial I can be spared this.” Her followers said: “You are a noble lady and forced into service? How can this be?” The lady [247] said: “In life I enjoyed titles bestowed by the realm and could only be noble, but in death I too am merely a spirit. Besides, because filth of my remains pollute this pure realm, how could I not be punished, and, serving for a while, be fortunate in this?” These two affairs, though separated by several thousand li, tally closely, and can only be seen as a warning.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.246-47 (Tale 445):

殯柩受役

江陵府有沈察推者,到任一年,感時氣而死。遺孤始十歲,未克扶柩歸葬,因權厝城外水陸寺。凡十餘年,其子與親戚始能取柩歸鄉。是夜見夢於其子曰:「我自旅殯此寺,即為伽藍神驅役,至今未得生路。幸得歸掩真宅,神魂始得自如,而轉生有期矣。」

又臨安府有宋朝時相夫人,終於相府,未獲歸葬,權厝城外普濟寺。忽見夢於其門人云:「為我語家人,日夕苦於伽藍神之役,得速歸葬,則免此矣。」門人曰:「以夫人而見役,何也?」夫 [247] 人曰:「我生享國封,不為不貴,而死亦鬼耳。況以遺骸滓穢淨界,得不獲罪,而姑役使之,亦幸矣。」二事相去數千里,符合如一,不可不以為戒也。

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).

A Toilet Spirit Bewitches People 廁鬼迷人

Outside Hangzhou’s north gate stood an abandoned outhouse. People were often found drowned in the pit beneath, but nobody knew why. One day neighbours saw several people, in immaculate clothes and hats, enter the toilet, but after a long time had elapsed none emerged; they became very anxious and bewildered by this. Another person followed them in, likewise not emerging after a long time had passed, so they then followed behind to have a look. They found the first group of people dead in the waste pool, the later arrival also lying among them, but not yet dead; they immediately rescued him. Much later, when he first recovered his speech, he said: “At dawn there was a person carrying a letter of invitation to a banquet, but I saw a high and beautiful pavilion, filled with music. I didn’t realise it was actually a toilet.” The neighbours made an official report requesting demolition, and afterwards the hauntings ceased.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.245 (Tale 443):

廁鬼迷人

杭州北關門外廁舍,常有人死屍溺於溷池,莫曉其由。一日鄰舍見數人衣冠楚楚入廁,久之不出,殊切怪之。再後又有往者,亦久不出,遂跡其後視之,則前數人死於溷池,後入者亦墮其中,但未死耳,急行拯救。久之,始能言,曰:「旦上有人持簡相招赴宴,但見亭館高潔,鼓樂喧闐,即不知為廁舍也。」鄰為告官拆除,其後祟方絕。

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)

 

Sprites and Goblins of Rongzhou 融州魍魎

On the first day of the first moon in the yiwei year of the Chunxi era (25 January, 1175), sprites and goblins were seen in the county seat of Rongshui County in Rongzhou; they cast the shadows of people, but were not human in form, being quite naked and with dishevelled hair, and they numbered in uncountable tens of thousands. [232] A servitor brought some spirit money and burnt it; the shadows eventually approached the flames. Then they scattered again in disorder, but after a little while they all disappeared. That day, at a shrine outside the city walls, fireworks suddenly rocketed from the earth straight into the sky, exploding all day and then being extinguished, leaving the whole prefecture in shock and alarm.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.231-32 (Tale 416):

融州魍魎

淳熙乙未正月旦日,魍魎見於融州融水縣治,有人之影,無人之形,裸死而披髮者無萬數。 [232] 有一手力持紙錢焚之,影竟赴火。又復散亂,有頃乃沒。是日,城外有神廟,忽煙火自地中直出衝天,經日而滅,一郡大驚。

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).