Wu Xiang 吳祥

The Han-era clerk of Zhuji County, Wu Xiang, feared exhaustion in official service. He thus fled to hide in a remote mountain area. On his journey he came across a stream. It was getting close to dusk, but he saw a young girl, extremely beautiful and wearing multi-coloured garments. She said: “I live alone, without village or district, with only an old woman, only a dozen or so steps from here.” When Xiang heard this he was very pleased, so set off following her. They had travelled a li or more when they reached her home. Her family were extremely poor, but prepared food for Xiang. He finished by the first watch (7-9pm), at which he heard an old woman call out: “Sister Zhang?” The girl answered: “Yes?” Xiang asked who it had been, and she replied: “A lonely old woman back along the road.” The two slept together until dawn, and Xiang set off at the cock’s crow. The two had fallen in love, and the young woman gave him a purple scarf. Xiang bound it as a kerchief and set off back to the place of their meeting the previous day. When he came to cross the stream, however, the water was rushing violently, and too deep to wade. He thus returned to the girl’s home, but found nothing as it had been the previous night, with only a tomb remaining.

From Fayuanzhulin.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 317.2505:

吳祥

漢諸暨縣吏吳祥者。憚役委頓。將投竄深山。行至一溪。日欲暮。見年少女子。彩衣甚美。云。我一身獨居。又無鄉里。唯有一孤嫗。相去十餘步耳。祥聞甚悅。便即隨去。行一里餘。即至女家。家甚貧陋。為祥設食。至一更竟。聞一嫗喚云。張姑子。女應曰。諾。祥問是誰。答云。向所道孤嫗也。二人共寢至曉。雞鳴祥去。二情相戀。女以紫巾贈祥。祥以布手巾報。行至昨夜所遇處。過溪。其夜水暴溢。深不可涉。乃回向女家。都不見昨處。但有一冢耳。出法苑珠林

Wang Fan 王樊

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that, at dawn, when that person returned, they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said. From Duyizhi.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 317.2507:

王樊

敦煌實錄云。王樊卒。有盜開其冢。見樊與人樗蒲。以酒賜盜者。盜者惶怖。飲之。見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神人至城門。自云。我王樊之使。今有發冢者。以酒墨其脣訖。旦至。可以驗而擒之。盜即入城。城門者乃縛詰之。如神所言。出獨異志

The Zhonghua shuju edition of Du yi zhi presents a very slightly different version of the story:

Wang Fan’s Tomb 王樊冢

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that, at dawn, when that person returned, they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8 (Tale 61):

王樊冢

《燉煌實錄》云:王樊卒,有盗開其冢,見王樊與人樗蒲,以酒賜盗者,盗者惶怖飲之,見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神至城門,自言是王樊使,今有人發冢,以酒墨其唇,但至,可以驗而擒之。盗既入城,城門者乃縛詰之,如神言。

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)

Master Ren Of Wu 吳任生

Master Ren, from Wu Prefecture, was skilled at spotting spirits, and his cottage was on Dongtingshan. He often looked like a young boy, and, according to the custom of Wu and Chu, none knew his birthdate. During the Baoli era (825-26 CE), there was a youth, surnamed Yang, the son of a Qiankunshan military officer, who was living apart in Wu Prefecture. He would often, of a daytime, meet a few people of a similar age and go boating together.

When they went to the Huqiu Temple, Master Ren was in the boat with them. Their talk touched on spirits and deities, and Master Yang said: “People and spirits leave different traces. Because spirits have died they cannot be seen.” Master Ren laughed: “Spirits are extremely numerous. People are just unable to recognise them. Only I can pick them out.” They turned to look at a woman, dressed in dark robes, holding a small boy and walking along the bank. The Master pointed and said: “This is a spirit. The thing she is embracing is nothing more than the ethereal soul of an infant.” Yang said: “But then how can you tell that she is a spirit?” The Master replied: “So the gentleman thinks I’m all talk?” He then called out in a stern voice: “You are a spirit. Have you stolen the child of a living person?” When the woman heard this she was terrified, and started to hurry back the way she had come. Before she had taken more than a few dozen steps, she vanished. Master Yang was both impressed and astonished.

When evening came, they returned. Several dozen li from the city walls there was a house on the riverbank, with mats laid out for a feast. There was a sorceress, who encouraged them to take seats at her left, and libations were made to the deities. Master Yang and Master Ren both asked her about this, and the sorceress told them: “Today a villager’s baby died of a sudden illness, but now it has revived so we are holding a banquet in gratitude.” They then ordered that the child be brought out for them to see, and it was indeed the infant that the woman had been carrying. The guests were all amazed and alarmed at this, and thanked Master Ren, saying: “The gentleman is truly an adept of the Way; we had no idea!”

From Xuanshizhi.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 347.2746:

吳任生

吳郡任生者。善視鬼。廬於洞庭山。貌常若童兒。吳楚之俗。莫能究其甲子。寶曆中。有前崑山尉楊氏子。僑居吳郡。常一日。里中三數輩。相與泛舟。俱遊虎丘寺。時任生在舟中。且語及鬼神事。楊生曰。人鬼殊迹。故鬼卒不可見矣。任生笑曰。鬼甚多。人不能識耳。我獨識之。然顧一婦人。衣青衣。擁豎兒。步於岸。生指語曰。此鬼也。其擁者乃嬰兒之〈之原作也。據明鈔本改。〉生魂耳。楊曰。然則何以辨其鬼耶。生曰。君第觀我與語。即厲聲呼曰。爾鬼也。竊生人之子乎。其婦人聞而驚懾。遂疾廻去。步未十數。遽亡見矣。楊生且歎且異。及晚還。去郭數里。岸傍一家。陳筵席。有女巫。鼓舞於其左。乃醮神也。楊生與任生俱問之。巫曰。今日里中人有嬰兒暴卒。今則寤矣。故設筵以謝。遂命出嬰兒以視。則真婦人所擁者。諸客驚歎之。謝任生曰。先生真道術者。吾不得而知也。出宣室志

A Guangling Clerk 廣陵吏人

A clerk from Guangling, surnamed Zhao, was sleeping alone in a chamber through the summer heat. Around midnight, he suddenly saw a tall person in a yellow robe enter via the door, followed by seven much smaller people, also wearing yellow. The stranger muttered to himself: “Looked everywhere without result, and now here, eh?” He shouted at him to get up, and said: “This can now be carried out.” One of the yellow-robed people stepped forwards and said: “This life is not yet finished, and we cannot just take it away. It would be better to make a record of this.” The taller person then reached inside his robe and brought out a seal. They made a seal impression on his left arm and departed. When dawn came he inspected it. The seal stuck closely to his skin, and its characters were like the ancient seal script. The lower character was shi 識 ‘knowledge’, the right looked like xian 仙 ‘immortal’, the left like ji 記 ‘record’, but the one above that could not be read. It is not known how Zhao ended up.

From Jishenlu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), viii, 353.2800:

廣陵吏人

廣陵吏姓趙。當暑。獨寢一室。中夜。忽見大黃衣人自門而入。從小黃衣七人。謂己曰。處處尋不得。乃在此耶。叱起之。曰。可以行矣。一黃衣前曰。天年未盡。未可遽行。宜有以記之可也。大人即探懷。出一印。印其左臂而去。及明視之。印文著肉。字若古篆。識其下。右若仙字。左若記字。其上不可識。趙後不知所終。出稽神錄

A Qingzhou Traveller 青州客

During the Later Liang (907-23 CE), a traveller from Qingzhou encountered a gale while crossing the sea. Blown to a very distant place, when he looked into the distance he could make out mountains and rivers and a walled city. A veteran sailor told him: “We have been seized by the wind. I have never been here before, but have heard that the realm of the spirits is in these parts. Could this be it?” After a little while, their boat reached land, so he climbed onto the shore and set off towards the settlement. The houses and residences, fields and plots showed no difference from those of the Middle Realm. Whenever he saw people he bowed to them, but none of those people seemed to notice him. When he reached the town walls, there was a custodian at the gates. When bowed to, he likewise failed to respond. He entered the town, and all of the buildings and people were very dark in colour. When he reached the royal palace, a great banquet was taking place, with several dozen of the monarch’s attendants waiting on the feast. Their robes, hats, utensils, musical instruments and furnishings were diverse, but all of Chinese styles. Ke therefore ascended the hall, and approached close to the king’s seat in order to catch a glimpse of him. Suddenly, however, the king fell ill. His retinue held him up and withdrew him from the room, urgently summoning a shaman to make an examination. When the shaman arrived, he declared: “Someone has arrived from a yang region. Their yang energy presses on the people, and this is the cause of the monarch’s illness. They came here inadvertently, without intending to haunt us. They should be sent away thankfully, with food, drink, carts and horses. This is appropriate.” They then supplied wine and a meal, laying out seats in another chamber. The shaman gathered the group of ministers, and all made prayers and offerings, and Ke ate accordingly. Shortly after, a coachman arrived driving horses. [2796] Ke then mounted a horse and returned, arriving at the shore and boarding the ship, the people of that realm never once having caught sight of him. They caught a favourable wind once more, and managed to return home. At that time He Dejian was military governor of Qingzhou, and was close to Weibo’s military governor Yang Shihou, so sent this Ke to serve Wei. He told Shihou his tale, and Fan Xuangu from Wei heard it in person and informed your servant.

From Jishenlu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), viii, 353.2795-96:

青州客

朱梁時。青州有賈客泛海遇風。飄至一處。遠望有山川城郭。海師曰。自頃遭風者。未嘗至此。吾聞鬼國在是。得非此耶。頃之。舟至岸。因登岸。向城而去。其廬舍田畝。不殊中國。見人皆揖之。而人皆不見已。至城。有守門者。揖之。亦不應。入城。屋室人物甚殷。遂至王宮。正值大宴。君臣侍宴者數十。其衣冠器用絲竹陳設之類。多類中國。客因升殿。俯逼王坐以窺之。俄而王有疾。左右扶還。亟召巫者視之。巫至。有陽地人至此。陽氣逼人。故王病。其人偶來爾。無心為祟。以飲食車馬謝遣之。可矣。即具酒食。設座於別室。巫及其羣臣。皆來祀祝。客據按而食。俄有僕夫馭馬而至。 [2796] 客亦乘馬而歸。至岸登舟。國人竟不見己。復遇便風得歸。時賀德儉為青州節度。與魏博節度楊師厚有親。因遣此客使魏。其為師厚言之。魏人范宣古。親聞其事。為余言。出稽神錄

A Disobedient Horse in Jizhou 濟州逆馬

At the beginning of the Zhenghe era (1111-18), a horse belonging to a villager in Jizhou gave birth to a foal. After seven days, it was just as big as its mother. On its forehead was a single eye, with two eyeballs; its nose had a snout like that of a dragon. Around its snout and on its hooves were markings like those of a tiger. In colour it was bright red, and from both of its forelegs arose fleshy flames. One evening, it ate its own mother, leaving not the slightest trace of skin or bone, and escaped into the fields. The populace feared that it might cause trouble, so gathered several dozen people to pursue and kill it. A painter living nearby painted it to show people. This beast can indeed be numbered among the ungrateful children!

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 volumes (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), iv, 丁, 7.592:

濟州逆馬

政和初,濟州村民家馬生駒,七日,大與母等,額上一目,中有二晴,鼻吻如龍,吻邊與蹄上斑文如虎,色正赤,兩膊皆起肉焰。一夕,食其母,皮骨無遺,逸出田間。民慮其為患,集數十人追殺之。近邸畫工圖其形以示人,蓋獸中梟獍也。

Good Omens 瑞應

The nine-tailed fox is a mystical animal. In terms of appearance, it is red in colour and has four feet and nine tails. It emerged from the Realm of the Green Mound.[1] Its cry is like that of a baby. Eating it will prevent a person from encountering noxious or demonic energies; it also serves a kind of poison.[2]

From Ruiyingbian.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), ix, 447.3652:

瑞應

九尾狐者。神獸也。其狀赤色。四足九尾。出青丘之國。音如嬰兒。食者令人不逢妖邪之氣。及蠱毒之類。出瑞應編

[1] Qingqiu 青丘 was regarded as a place in the far east, beyond the seas.

[2] In this context the choice of the title ruiying 瑞應, which usually refers to auspicious portents resulting from virtuous rule, is a little confusing.

Voles 田鼠

In the renxu 壬戌 year of the Zhengda 正大 era,[1] the peasant population of Beishan 北山, in Neixiang 內鄉 (in present-day Henan province) reported that voles were eating their grain. The rodents were as big as rabbits, gathering in their tens and hundreds, and wherever they passed grain and millet simply vanished. When hunting households shot at them they took many heads, some of which weighed more than ten jin 斤, the colour of their coats being like that of otters. Rodents of such size have never before been seen.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.16:

田鼠

正大壬戌,內鄉北山農民告田鼠食稼,鼠大如兔,十百為羣,所過禾稼為空。獵戶射得數頭,有重十餘斤者,毛色似水獺。未嘗聞如此大鼠也。

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)

[1] This is confusing. The Zhengda era declared by the Jin 金 polity ran from 1224 to 1234 CE. It does not seem to have included a renxu year; the first renxu year would have been in 1262.

Taixuan Nü 太玄女

The Taixuannü, surname Zhuan, personal name He, lost her father as a child. Mother and child lived together for some time, and all said they would not survive long. Their sadness became worry. She often said: “The life of a human, once lost, cannot be restored. Moreover, I have heard that this span of life is limited, and life cannot be extended without perfecting the Way.” She then went to call on a sagely teacher, purifying her heart, seeking the Way and achieving the *wangzi* techniques. After practicing this for several years, she was then able to enter water without getting wet. At times of deep cold and snow, she could climb the ice in an unlined robe showing no change in countenance, warm in body and able to go on for several days. Moreover she was able to visit government offices, palace chambers, city markets and private residences in many other places. Not thinking this strange, pointing at them they would shift from their previous location. Doors and gates bearing locks would open upon her gesture; pointed at, mountains would crumble, pointed at, trees would fall; pointed at again, all of these would be restored. Taking disciples travelling through the mountains, when the sun set, she struck the rock with her staff, and opened up a door. Entering, there were chambers with beds, curtains and canopies, with food, provisions and wine as if this were normal. Even were she to travel ten thousand li, her whereabouts would often be like this. She could order small items to grow suddenly to the size of a house, and big things to shrink suddenly down to be like a hair or grain. Sometimes she would spit fire to cover the heavens, and sigh to extinguish it. She was also able to sit among flames, her clothes and shoes never scorching. Within a short period, she would change into an old man, change into a small child, change into a carthorse; there was no transformation she could not achieve. She practiced the thirty-six arts with complete dedication, bringing people back to life, and saving innumerable folk. It is not known from where her food or clothing came, and none achieved her powers. Her colour reduced ever more, but the hair on her temples was raven-black. Suddenly, in broad daylight, she ascended to heaven and departed.

From Nüxianzhuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), ii, 59.363

太玄女

太玄女,姓顓,名和,少喪父。或相其母子,皆曰不壽。惻然以為憂。常曰:「人之處世,一失不可復生。況聞壽限之促,非修道不可以延生也。」遂行訪明師,洗心求道,得王子之術。行之累年,遂能入水不濡。盛雪寒時,單衣冰上,而顏色不變,身體溫煖,可至積日。又能徙官府宮殿城市屋宅於他處,視之無異,指之即失其所在,門戶櫝櫃有關鑰者,指之即開,指山山摧,指樹樹拆,更指之,即復如故。將弟子行山間,日暮,以杖叩石,即開門戶。入其中,屋宇床褥幃帳,廩供酒食如常。雖行萬里,所在常爾。能令小物忽大如屋,大物忽小如毫芒。或吐火張天,噓之即滅。又能坐炎火之中,衣履不燃。須臾之間,或化老翁,或為小兒,或為車馬,無所不為。行三十六術甚效,起死廻生,救人無數。不知其何所服食,亦無得其術者。顏色益少,鬢髮如鴉。忽白日昇天而去。出女仙傳

The Commander of Huaixi 淮西軍將

At the end of the Yuanhe period (806-20 CE), there was a commander of Huaixi, who was sent to Bianzhou, and stopped at a courier station on the way. Late at night, when he was reaching deep sleep, he suddenly awoke to find something pressing heavily onto him. The general, well-trained and strong, leapt up in alarm and began to wrestle with it, after which the unidentified thing withdrew, and the general succeeded in wresting a leather bag from its hand. The ghost begged and implored with great bitterness from the darkness, so the commander addressed it: “If you tell me what it is, I will give it back.” The spirit said, after a long time, “This is a bag of surplus qi.” The commander then picked up a brick and struck out with it, at which the voice was silenced. The bag held several sheng (these are about a litre each), its contents were deep red in colour, and looked like lotus-root fibres; when carried in daylight it cast no shadow.

Taken from Youyang zazu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 345.2733:

淮西軍將

元和末,有淮西軍將,使於汴州,止驛中。夜久,眠將熟,忽覺一物壓己,軍將素健,驚起,與之角力,其物遂退,因奪得手中革囊。鬼闇中哀祈甚苦,軍將謂曰:「汝語我物名,我當相還。」鬼良久曰:「此蓄氣袋耳。」軍將乃舉甓擊之,語遂絕。其囊可盛數升,絳色,如藕絲,攜於日中無影。出《酉陽雜俎》