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.

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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).

A Fake Woman Takes Wealth 假女取財

In the Baoqing era, the jiwei year (1259?),[1] Zhao Zhigan employed a female cook, and by this woman had a son, Wang Qianyi. Throughout his youth, the father dressed this son in the clothing of a daughter, piercing his earlobes and binding his feet; made up just like a woman, he studied female work in serving food and drink. Bribing an intermediary with gifts, they deceived a wealthy family and had him accepted as a kitchen maid. The rich household’s favoured concubine never [doubted] him and, having no idea that this was a boy, shared a bed with him, acting most lasciviously. When the matter became known, she was blamed and returned to her parents.

Later, he transferred to the employment of the East Gate Zhao family; Zhao noticed that [he] was somewhat attractive, and also repeatedly [50] wanted to violate him; the kitchen maid pleaded many times and did not consent. One day, when [Zhao] was drinking together with colleagues, one among their number said: “I heard recently that a boy has been got up as a kitchen maid, fooling rich households many times and defrauding them of their wealth; now I hear he has been hired again by a fellow official as a kitchen maid, and that none are aware of it.” When they stopped drinking, Zhao returned to his hall and called the kitchen maid out. Making an exploratory grope, his true form could not be hidden. Dismissed for the crime, he was sentenced to beheading and exposure in the marketplace; his parents and the intermediary were all banished and their property confiscated.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.149-50 (Tale 89):

假女取財

寶慶己未,趙制幹雇一廚娘,乃男子王千一也。蓋幼時父將男子形軀假妝女子,與之穿耳纏足,搽畫一如女子,習學女工飲食。買賂牙保,脫騙富戶,充為廚娘。富家寵妾莫[疑衍。]不知是男子,與之共寢,俱為所淫。事彰,責還父母。後轉雇與東門趙家,趙見稍有姿色,亦屢 [50] 欲犯之,而廚娘累託不從。又一日,同僚會飲,坐間有云:「聞近日有一男子粧假廚娘,累次脫騙富家財物,今聞又僱在同幕為廚娘,莫得而知之。」飲罷,趙回廳喚出廚娘,試一捫摸,形不能掩。解之制幹,斷罪斬首棄市,父母、牙保俱配籍焉。

[1] The Baoqing 寶慶 regnal era, in the rule of the Song emperor Lizong 理宗 (r. 1224-64 CE), represents 1225-28. Jiwei 己未 denotes the 56th place in the sexagenary cycle, and as such could only refer to either 1199 or 1259, neither of which falls within this period.

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).