The Henggong Fish 橫公魚

In the northern wastes there is a Lake Shi, a thousand li on each side. The banks are over five zhang high (one zhang is c. 3.3m), and it is permanently frozen, thawing only for forty or fifty days in summer. There lives the Henggong Fish, seven to eight chi in length (more than 2 metres), shaped like a carp and red. In daytime they stay in the water, but at night take human form. Stabbing will not pierce them, boiling will not kill them. Only a fire of two dark plum branches will finish them off. Eating them will halt illness caused by malign influence.

From Shenyilu.

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), x, 464.3822:

北方荒中有石湖。方千里。岸深五丈餘。恒氷。唯夏至左右五六十日解耳。有橫公魚。長七八尺。形如鯉而赤。晝在水中。夜化為人。刺之不入。煮之不死。以烏梅二枚煮之則死。食之可止邪病。出神異錄

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Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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 Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

Immortals Treat Tuberculosis 仙醫瘵疾

Xianju is a Daoist hall in Jizhou. In the xinchou year of the Song Jiaxi era (1241), near the hall there lived a Li Laojia, who was somewhat warm and well-fed, and whenever a Daoist came by, he would supply them with good quality tea, nicely cooked foods and wine. His baby son suffered tuberculosis; his bones as thin as firewood; the hour of his death seemed certain. It happened that there were three Daoists in the hall, their appearance and manner showing an ancient vigour and elegance; they came and said: “Your heir should come to the hall and spend a night in the bed with us; he will then be restored.” Li said he should urgently be sent out. When night fell, two Daoists surrounded him and slept, and one Daoist covered him from above. His breath steaming like smoke from a fire, the patient felt like he was seated in a rice steamer, and was several times unable to bear it. The Daoists said: “Just restrain yourself.” This happened five or six times, but as dawn rose his spirit became clear and free, his bones and muscles beautiful and loose, and he asked for food and drink just as usual. Within ten days, he was exceptionally plump and well-formed. The Daoists urged him: “Now you must wait for two years until he can be married, otherwise the illness will return.” The Laos, husband and wife, bowed in gratitude, offering them money, cloth and silk, but they would not accept any of these, taking only fruit and three cups of drink, announcing that they would leave the hall to set off for Shaoshan in Yuanzhou. When the skies darkened towards evening, old Li [145] and the Daoists of the hall implored them to stay, but they would not accept this request, and as soon as they emerged from the gate they vanished, so it became clear that they were immortals.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.144-45 (Tale 253):

仙醫瘵疾

仙居,乃吉州道堂也。宋嘉熙辛丑年,堂近有李老家,稍溫飽,道人〔來往〕(據明刻本補。)即供以好茶,深熟者與酒。適有幼子病瘵,骨瘦如柴,死期可必。忽有堂內三道人,風貌蒼古,來曰:「令嗣能過堂同榻一宵,則可再生。」李道急遣去。入夜,兩道人夾之而睡,一道人蓋其上。其氣蒸之如火,病者如坐甑,幾不能堪。道人曰:「且忍耐。」凡若是者五六次,早起精神清爽,肌骨美暢,索飲食如常。不十日,豐悅殊異。道人囑之曰:「姑遲兩年方可娶,若早則病復來。」李老夫婦拜謝之,與以錢會布帛,一毫不受,但受果飲三杯,辭堂往袁州邵山。時天色晚矣,李老 [145] 與堂中道衆苦留之,不從所請,方出門則不見矣,乃知其仙也。

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).

Immortals Treat Sicknesses Of The Feet 仙醫足疾

The Imperial Student Xu Quan was from Wuzhou. One day, leaving his home village and hurrying by water towards Hangzhou, he rode a rice boat, seated each day atop the rice sacks with his feet folded beneath him, and nobody realized that an illness affected his feet. It happened that, one day, the boat leaked, so the boatman asked him to step onto the shore, in order to stop up the hole. When, the job being finished, he was invited back on board, the water had risen under heavy rain, and everyone bared their feet to step aboard. His fellow passengers noticed that his toes were all as short as a little toe, and asked him about it. He replied: “When I left my mother’s womb, my toes all pointed backwards. After two years had passed, it happened that a Daoist came along and insisted on looking at me, so the wet-nurse wrapped me up and took me out to show him. The Daoist ordered her to cook up a young lamb, and use the lambskin to wrap my feet overnight. The next day at dawn they were unwrapped, and it turned out that my toes all pointed forwards. On examination they were all this size and length.” He subsequently passed the imperial examinations.

[144] Duya Guiyuan was from Jinhua. At the beginning of the Song Shaoxi era (1190-94), he arrived at Longquan at Guacang, passing his days in singing praises, and, because he suffered from arthritis and both feet were stiff and spasming, he tottered along on wooden clogs, begging in the market. On the seventeenth night of the eighth month in the guichou year of the Chunyou era,[1] he was squatting by Magistrate Zhang’s back gate. It was already the third watch (11pm to 1am), and the moonlight was as bright as day. He saw a person, wearing a dark soft hat, black ribbon and white scholar’s robe, who descended from on high and, stepping forward slightly, addressed Yagui: “Why would you be here so deep in the night?” He said: “Due to illness and fatigue I cannot go anywhere.” The person selected various weeds from the roadside, rubbed them and broke them apart, then mixed them with ditchwater into a kind of pellet, which he gave to him, saying: “You should eat this.” Yagui realised that this was no ordinary person, and swallowed it without suspicion. The person then said: “Come back tomorrow night and meet me here.” They then departed. Yagui felt a stirring within his belly, becoming restless and unable to settle himself, dragging himself onto the Jichuan Bridge, leaning against the railing and dozing. After a long time he awoke and found he could stretch his feet a little, and trying to stand while holding the balustrade, his bones making chirping sounds like birdsong, he found himself able to walk. The next night he waited for the other person, but they didn’t come back. Yagui travelled around talking to people, but never found his whereabouts.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.143-44 (Tale 252):

仙醫足疾

徐上舍洤,婺州人。一日,自鄉泛舟趨杭,乘米舟,每日坐於米袋之上,惟疊足坐,人亦不知其有疾也。忽一日,舟漏,梢子請上岸,將塞舟。事畢請入時,水潦稍漲,皆跣足而入,同舟人見其足大小指皆短,從容問之,彼曰:「自出母胎,一足指皆向後。越二年,忽有道人來,必欲見,乳母抱出示之。道人命烹一小羊,用羊皮裹其足,一宿,次早掀開,則其指皆向前,但視足指有大小長短耳。」後亦登第。

[144] 杜亞歸元,金華人。宋紹熙初,到括蒼龍泉歌唱度日,因病風,兩足拘攣,木屐曳行,丐於市。淳祐癸丑八月十七夜,蹲於張通判後門,已三鼓矣,月明如晝,見一人青巾皁絛白襴衫,自最高軒下,行至其前少許,謂亞歸曰:「夜深何故在此?」曰:「病倦,去不得也。」其人於路旁采雜草,挼碎,掬溝之污水若彈然,授之曰:「汝可食此。」亞歸亦意其不凡人也,餌之不疑。其人曰:「明夜再來會我于此。」遂去。亞歸覺腹中攪戚不能自安,曳行至濟川橋上,倚柱假寐。良久,方覺其一足略能伸,試扶欄起立,骨磔磔然有聲,自此能行。次夜候之,其人不復來矣。亞歸遍以語人,後不知所在。

[1] This is 11 September 1253, but the Chunyou era (1241-53) had already finished some months before, on 30 January 1253.

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 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).

A Spirit Uses Human Speech 神作人言

In the Song era, in a county belonging to Tanzhou there was a pawnbroker called Zhang Yong, who cut down a vertical post from the shrine to a spirit to reinforce the framework of a residence. The beam was finished but not yet painted. When Zhang and his dependents entered the house to look, they would often hear somebody answering them; if they asked for tea, it would say “Tea is coming.” If they asked for wine, it would say “Wine is coming.” There was nobody to be seen, but a voice could be heard. The population said this must be the spirit of the temple who had come to take the wood and secretly occupied the house, and if they could have an official of good fortune to calm and control it, they could later gradually move in successfully.

At that time a registrar called Zhao was travelling to his post, and, before entering the government hostel, stayed there for several days, and the voice temporarily stopped. Zhang then moved into the residence, but suddenly heard someone speaking again: “You had an official intimidate me, and will undergo imprisonment and come to meet me.” After that it fell silent. More than a year had passed when Zhang was summoned by a messenger from his superior and placed in charge of a prison, where he died one day, his body turning blue-black all over. When an official was appointed to investigate this, Zhang’s servant reported: “In the early morning I brought his meal, so I cooked an eel carp and sent it to him. He had only just finished eating when he tried to lie down and he died. [221] My sister-in-law once said that eel carp heads could treat illness, so the head has been preserved.” It was demanded that the head be examined, and the fish turned out to have four eyes. From this Zhang’s family understood that this must be a haunting by the spirit of the temple, and that this had cost him his life, so they decided to drop further legal proceedings.

It is well-known that four-eyed fish can kill people.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220-21 (Tale 391):

神作人言

宋朝潭之屬縣有典押張永者,伐神廟木豎一居稍壯,構架已畢,但未粉飾。張與其眷屬入內觀看,常有人應答,如喚茶,則曰「茶來」,如索酒,則曰「酒來」,不見有人,但聞有聲。衆謂此必廟神來取木而陰據此屋,若先得官員福氣鎮壓,然後徐徐遷入為好。適有趙主簿赴任,未入官舍,先寓數日,則其聲頓失。張遂遷入屋,忽又聞有云:「你令官員嚇我,候過獄中來與你相會。」自爾寂然。越一年餘,張為上司專人追呼,置司存(上三字原作「存置司」,據明刻本改。)於獄,一日死,而遍身青黑,委官究問,則其僕供云:「早晨送飯,乃煮一鰻鯉來與押,才喫未久,求卧而死。 [221] 其嫂曾云,鰻鯉魚頭可以醫瘵,今此頭尚存。」索至看驗,魚乃四目。其眷屬自知此必廟神為祟,以戕其性命,甘願息訟。信知四目魚能殺人者也。

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 Well Spirit Shows Itself 井神現身

Wu Zhan lived near Jingxi, where there was a particularly clear and limpid spring on which the population relied. Zhan protected it with a bamboo fence, to keep out the dirt. One day, Wu was by the side of the spring when he caught a white snail and put it in an earthen jar. Whenever he came in from outside, he found food and drink already prepared in his kitchen, and he was shocked and astonished. One day he managed to peep in, and saw a woman emerge from the shell and take up a cooking knife. Wu hurried in towards her. She was unable to return to her shell, and told him truthfully: “I am a spring spirit. Because the gentleman respected and protected my source, and because it is known that the gentleman is a widower, I was commanded to prepare food for the gentleman. If the gentleman eats my food, he will attain the Way.” When her speech was finished she vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 388):

井神現身

吳湛居臨荊溪,有一泉極清澈,衆人賴之,湛為竹籬遮護,不令穢入。一日,吳於泉側得一白螺,歸置之甕中,每自外歸,則廚中飲食已辦,心大驚異。一日竊窺,乃一女子自螺中而出,手自操刀。吳急趨之,女子大窘,不容歸殼,實告吳曰:「吾乃泉神,以君敬護泉源,且知君鰥居,命〔吾〕(據明刻本補。)為君操饌。君食吾饌,當得道矣。」言訖不見。

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).