Painting Connecting To Spirits 繪畫通神

Zhang Sengyou of the Liang was skilled at drawing, and served as prefectural chief of Wuxing. Whenever Emperor Wu (464-549 CE) thought of one of his vassal princes, he would order Sengyou to go and draw their portrait, which was like a double of the subject’s face. Once, while in the Tianhuang Monastery in Jiangling, he painted the Buddha, Confucius and the Ten Sages, and the emperor asked: “Why draw these in a Buddhist temple?” He replied: “Some day this will benefit them.” Later, when Zhou burned out the Buddhists, in order to construct a Confucian hall, this alone was saved from the flames. Moreover, when he painted four dragons at the Jiangling Anle Monastery, he did not dot their eyes. People questioned this, and he replied: “If dotted they will fly off.” The crowd thought he was joking, and insisted he dot them. In an instant they heard a thunderclap, and two dragons climbed the clouds and soared upwards; only the two without the eye-dots remained behind. This is painting that connects to spirits.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.14 (Tale 76):

繪畫通神

梁張僧繇善畫,為吴興太守。武帝每思諸王在外藩者,即令僧繇乘傳往寫其貌,如對其面。嘗於江陵天皇寺畫佛并仲尼及十哲,帝曰:「釋門之內畫此,何也?」對曰:「異日賴之。」至後周焚滅佛教,以此殿有儒聖,獨不焚之。又於金陵安樂寺畫四龍,不點睛。人問之,答曰:「點則飛去。」衆人以為虛誕,固請點之。頃刻雷霆,二龍乘雲騰上;其二不點者猶在。畫之通神若此。

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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Xingwen Beats A Scholar 興文杖士

When Li, a county governor of Nanchang, moved the Confucius hall to the south of the county, he lifted the statue of the master but was quite unable to move it, and many of his subordinates also tried but had the same problem. There was a scholar who spoke from beside him, saying: “The gentleman should be called Zhongni” (This is another name for Confucius, but seems to be a pun, as a different zhong 重 can mean ‘heavy’, and this ni can mean ‘stop’ or ‘prevent’). Warden Li grew angry, and rebuked him with a stern countenance. When night came, in a dream the scholar was suddenly taken by two yellow-robed people to a place where in a side-room a horizontal board read ‘Xingwen’. After a little while a person sat down there and said: “You claim to be a scholar, reading the books of past sages; how can you make jokes and slight the ancient master?” He ordered the attendants to punish him with twenty strokes of the stave, and ordered that he be removed from the Confucian classicists. When he awoke he was feeble-minded, and could not recognise a single character.

Those among the present generation who treat the sagely words as jokes should indeed treat this as a warning.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.221 (Tale 392):

興文杖士

南昌李知縣遷先聖殿於縣南,舁夫子像而不能動,縱(「縱」原作「從」,據明刻本改。)人多亦如之。有一士在側曰:「夫是謂仲尼。」李宰怒,正色責之。至夜,士人忽夢被二黃衣使攝至一所,有小殿廡,扁額曰「興文」。少頃一人坐中,曰:「汝為士人,讀先聖之書,豈當戲言侮慢先聖!」命左右決杖二十,勒罷為儒。及覺如癡,自後不識一字。今世之人好引聖語之言為戲,亦當以為戒。

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).