Immortal Lü Composes Fu 呂仙賦詞

The Phoenix Pavilion Bridge is thirty li north of Ancheng. One day, Immortal Lü (Lü Dongbin, 796-) sat on top of it, protecting those crossing the bridge and brewing fine tea to give to them. The immortal asked for paper and brush and wrote out a poem:

As the sun sets the sound of birdsong multiplies,

A fragrant wind fills the road and caresses the blooms.

Travellers on the way ask me to brew fresh tea,

Cleansing to leave heart and mind pure and untrammeled.

Unable to face the cares of this world,

The dreaming soul winds around the furthest corners.

The banks at Phoenix Pavilion Bridge are my home,

I am greatly absorbed by the moonlight tonight.

As he wrote these characters he flew and danced, and where he is now nobody knows.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.129-30 (Tale 225):

呂仙賦詞

鳳停橋,在安成之北三十里。一日,呂仙坐其上,守橋道人煎佳茗供之。仙索紙筆書一詞云:「落日數聲啼鳥,香風滿路吹花。道人邀我煮新茶,盪滌胸中瀟洒。世事不堪回首,夢魂猶繞天涯,鳳停橋畔即吾家。管甚月明今夜。」字畫飛舞,今不知所在。

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).

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Squeezing the Souls of Dancers and Musicians 掩魂妓樂

In Nanhai Prefecture there was one surnamed Yang, who called himself a retired scholar, and once told people: “I have skill in magic.” The prefectural chief was keen on sorcery, and was delighted to hear of the retired scholar’s arrival. He never held a banquet or a tour without first summoning the gentleman. One day, because he had to wait on the prefectural chief, the latter was holding a feast in the prefectural hall, there was a great review of dancers and musicians, but the retired scholar was unable to take part. At that time a number of other guests were also unable to join the feast, so they spoke to the scholar: “The gentleman once claimed magical skill. Today the prefectural chief is holding a great feast and the gentleman is not invited; can a magical act move him?” The scholar laughed and said: “This is extremely easy. I can summon the prefectural chief for the gentleman to bring dancers and music and pour your drinks!” He therefore ordered the provision of wine, and had the various guests get into a circle and sit. After a little while, several dozen women emerged from an empty chamber in the western corridor, jewelled and clothed in lustre and brilliance. Each carried a musical instrument, and on his order they played and began to sing and dance. Some of the guests asked where they had come from, but they all just laughed without speaking. When midnight came, the gentleman addressed the dancers, saying: “You may return.” At this they all departed downwards through the empty room in the western corridor. The [86] guests looked at each other in astonished admiration, and suspected that they were some kind of spirits or goblins. Until the next day one after another passed around the rumour, saying that the prefectural chief held a feast last night, and all the musicians fell to the ground, their eyes blinking but unable to speak, as if they’d suffered strokes. A physician was hurriedly summoned to treat them, and said: “They are in good health, but their immortal souls are being squeezed; at midnight they will be able to rise, and will not require medicine.” Indeed, when midnight came, the musicians awoke as if from sleep, and all were able to rise and stand. When the prefectural chief questioned them, the musicians all said: “We suffered deceit and followed Scholar Yang’s respectful summons; why is he not at the Prefectural Chief’s banquet?” The throng of guests marvelled at this, and questioned Scholar Yang, but he just smiled and refused to answer. They then realized that the dancers’ souls had been squeezed by Scholar Yang.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.85-86 (Tale 148):

掩魂妓樂

南海郡有楊氏,以居士自號,嘗謂人曰:「我有奇術。」郡太守好奇術,聞居士來,甚喜。每宴遊未嘗不首召居士。一日因須侍太守,太守會宴於郡齋,大閱妓樂,而居士不得預。時有數客亦皆不得預宴,因謂居士曰:「先生嘗自負有奇術,今日太守大宴,先生不得預,設一術以動之乎?」居士笑曰:「甚易耳。君試觀之,我能為君召太守處妓樂至此佐酒乎!」因命具酒,使諸客環列而坐。少頃,俄有數十婦人自西廊空室而出,裝飾華煥,各攜樂器而至,乃命奏樂,且歌且舞。客或訊其所自,皆笑而不言。至夜分,居士謂諸妓曰:「可歸矣。」於是皆入西廊下空室中去。諸 [86] 客相顧駭歎,皆疑其鬼物妖惑。至明日鬨傳曰:太守昨夕宴會,諸妓樂並皆仆地,瞬目不能言,以為卒中,急召醫人診候,醫曰:「無恙,但為人掩魂,夜分各能起,不必服藥。」果至中宵,諸妓如睡之醒,皆能起立。太守質問,諸妓皆云:「適蒙楊居士召祗應,須(「須」,疑為「頃」之誤。)緣何卻在太守筵中?」衆客為怪,詰之楊居士,居士笑而不答,方知諸妓為楊居士掩魂矣。

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 parallel tale is found in the tenth-century collection Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), and as usual this is substantially more detailed than our Huhai version:

Retired Scholar Yang 楊居士

In Hainan Prefecture there was a Scholar Yang. His given name has been forgotten. He referred to himself as Retired Scholar Yang, and often wandered around the various Nanhai prefectures, frequently lodging as a guest with other people, and it is not known where he stopped. He told people: “I have strange talents; you people are mediocre, and could never achieve such knowledge.” Afterwards he often visited the prefecture, meeting the prefectural chief, who was very inquisitive. On hearing that the scholar had arrived, he was delighted and rewarded him generously, ordering that he be brought drink. He never held a banquet without summoning the scholar, and the scholar became very conceited. One day, drunk, he offended the prefectural chief in a way the chief could not tolerate.

Later, there was a feast in the prefectural chamber, with a review of musicians and performers, but the scholar was not invited. There were several other guests who had not received summons from the prefectural chief, and they therefore spoke to the scholar: “The gentleman was once conceited about his hocus-pocus; your humble servant looked up to you for advice but you had no time for me. Meeting you one day like this is truly fortunate. Nonetheless, today we hear that the prefectural chief is holding a banquet in the prefectural chamber, but the gentleman has not been invited to join it. If the gentleman cannot change this through an act of magic, then he must not possess such strange arts.” The scholar laughed and said: “This is just the least of my skill. You gentlemen should watch me, and I will summon his dancers for you; we should bring out some drinks.” They all said they wished this to happen, so the scholar ordered that wine be brought and directed the guests to set out their mats in a circle and sit.

He next ordered a boy to close up a small chamber in the western wing. He left the door closed for a while before opening it, at which three or four beautiful people came down, decked out with a gorgeous magnificence, and came towards them bearing instruments. The scholar said: “How is your servant’s art now?” The guests all marveled at this and could not work out what was happening. He told them to sit down and indicated that the music be started. Some of the guests questioned him about his art, but he just smiled and would not answer. Eventually it grew dark and midnight came, at which the scholar told all the musicians: “You should now return.” At this they all rose and returned down through the empty western chamber. The guests looked at one another and exclaimed in admiration, but still suspected that it was a matter of demonic conjuring.

The next day, a clerk in the prefecture said: “The prefectural chief held a feast last night in the prefectural offices. [469] When the musicians were seated and arranged, they suddenly fell to the ground without explanation. In a moment, a violent storm arose, blowing away their instruments and disappearing. When midnight came, the players all awoke, and their instruments returned to their former places. When the prefectural chief questioned the musicians, they all said that it had gone dark and they had been unable to see anything. In the end they could not work out what had caused it, and the guests were all greatly shocked and therefore everyone talked about the matter. Someone told the prefectural chief, who gasped with astonishment and sent for him. He did not dare stay in the prefecture. This all took place at the beginning of the Kaicheng era (836-41 CE). This was taken from Xuanshi zhi 宣室志.[1]

楊居士

海南(明鈔本海南作南海。)郡有楊居士。亡其名。以居士自目。往往遊南海枝郡。常寄食於人。亦不知其所止。謂人曰。我有奇術。汝輩庸人。固不得而識矣。後常至郡。會太守好奇者。聞居士來。甚喜。且厚其禮。命飲之。每宴遊。未嘗不首召居士。居士亦以此自負。一日使酒忤太守。太守不能容。後又會宴於郡室。閱妓樂。而居士不得預。時有數客。亦不在太守召中。因謂居士曰。先生嘗自負有奇術。某向者仰望之不暇。一日遇先生於此。誠幸矣。雖然。今聞太守大宴客於郡齋。而先生不得預其間。即不能設一奇術以動之乎。必先生果無奇術耶。居士笑曰。此末術耳。君試觀我。我為君召其妓。可以佐酒。皆曰。願為之。居士因命具酒。使諸客環席而坐。又命小童閉西廡空室。久之乃啟之。有三四美人自廡下來。裝飾華煥。擕樂而至。居士曰。某之術何如。諸客人大異之。殆不可測。乃命列坐。奏樂且歌。客或訊其術。居士但笑而不答。時昏晦。至夜分。居士謂諸妓曰。可歸矣。于是皆起。入西廡下空室中。客相目駭歎。然尚疑其鬼物妖惑。明日。有郡中吏曰。太守昨夕宴郡閤。 [469] 妓樂列坐。無何皆仆地。瞬息暴風起。飄其樂器而去。迨至夜分。諸妓方寤。樂器亦歸于舊所。太守質問衆妓。皆云黑無所見。竟不窮其由。諸客皆大驚。因盡以事對。或告於太守。太守歎異。即謝而遣之。不敢留于郡中。時開成初也。出《宣室志》

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, 75.468-69

[1] This is a ten-juan collection by Zhang Du 張讀, who passed his civil service examination in 852 CE. See Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 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); Fletcher Coleman, ‘On the Role of Religion in Tang Tales: An Introduction to Zhang Du’s Xuanshi zhi’ (2013), Asian Languages & Civilizations Graduate Theses & Dissertations, 9 (https://scholar.colorado.edu/asia_gradetds/9, accessed 23/04/18).

A Corpse Dances 死屍鼓舞

In Hedong there was a villager whose wife had died recently and had not yet been prepared for her coffin. When night fell, his family suddenly became aware of a sound like music approaching slowly; when it reached the hall, her corpse began to move. A little layer, the music seemed to enter the roof of the hall, and her body then rose and danced. As the melody gradually moved away, the corpse turned and pirouetted out through the gates, following the as it departed. Her family were shocked and terrified, but the night was moonless and they did not dare pursue her. That same night the villager had just returned and, realising what had happened, took up a staff and followed her to a grove of tombs, and after about five or six li, again heard the music coming from a cypress grove. Drawing near to the trees, there was the glimmer of a fire, and the corpse was dancing next to it. The villager grasped his staff and beat the corpse until it fell on the ground. The music stopped, too, and he then returned, bearing the body in his back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.241 (Tale 435):

死屍鼓舞

河東有一村民,妻新死未殮。日暮,其家忽覺有樂聲漸近,至庭宇,屍亦微動。少焉,樂聲入房,如在梁棟間,屍遂起舞。樂聲漸出,屍倒旋出門,隨樂聲而去。其家驚懼,時月黑不敢尋逐。將夜,村民方歸,知之,乃持杖逐至一墓林,約五六里,復聞樂聲在一柏林上,及近樹之下,有火熒然,屍方舞矣。村民持杖擊屍倒地,樂聲亦住,遂負屍而返。

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).