Secret Virtue Makes A Number One Scholar 陰騭狀元

Ping Jing, courtesy name Dangshi, was from Xianning in Ezhou. His father was a merchant, and, when he was in the prime of life but lacking children, he was about to depart for the capital when his wife gave him several silver tablets and said: “The gentleman does not yet have a son; take these as the means to buy a concubine.” When he reached the capital, he bought a concubine, drew up a contract and paid over the money. When he asked the concubine where she came from, she shed tears but refused to speak. When he asked her more firmly, she then said her father held office, but, having suffered shortfalls in his transported goods, had sold her into concubinage as a plan to repay the losses. Grieved by this, he could not bear to touch her, and sent her back to her father, without insisting on the return of his money. When he returned, his wife asked: “Where is the concubine you bought?” He told her the whole story. His wife said: “If the gentleman uses his heart like this, why worry about lacking a son?” Several months later, his wife became pregnant. When the due date drew near, the villagers dreamt that the air was filled with drumming and trumpeting, greeting the number one scholar arriving at the Ping household. The next morning, Jing was born. Taking delight in reading, he came first (yuan) in the provincial examinations, came first (yuan) in the metropolitan examination, and achieved first place (yuan) in the overall ranking; his contemporaries called him ‘Ping Three-Yuan’.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前 2.108 (Tale 187):

陰騭狀元

馮京,字當世,鄂州咸寧人。其父商也,壯歲無子,將如京師,其妻授以白金數笏,曰:「君未有子,可以此為買妾之資。」及至京師,買一妾,立券償錢矣。問妾所自來,涕泣不肯言。固問之,乃言其父有官,因綱運欠折,鬻妾以為賠償之計。遂惻然不忍犯,遣還其父,不索其錢。及歸,妻問:「買妾安在?」具告以故。妻曰:「君用心如此,何患無子!」居數月,妻有娠。將誕,里人皆夢鼓吹喧闐迎狀元至馮家。次早,生京。喜讀書,領舉為解元,省試為省元,登第為狀元,世號為馮三元。

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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Repay Injustice, Settle A Dispute 冤報解和

[127] There was once a merchant who went to Shu (Sichuan), sharing a boat with a rich trader. One day, the boat was moored on the riverbank and all the servants went ashore, leaving the merchant alone. He wanted to steal the other’s property and seeing that the rich trader was washing his hands to one side of the deck, he went and shoved him into the river. The wealthy trader leaped back up out of the water, grasping the rail in his hands, so the other took up a knife and chopped away all five fingers; the trader sank into the river and drowned. Snatching up all of his goods, the merchant returned with great wealth.

One day, he dreamed that the wealthy trader came to his neighbour’s house, and he awoke with a start. When he sent people to check this, a baby boy had indeed been born, and he ordered that it be nurtured and raised, providing money for the child’s support. When the child was five or six, he adopted it into his own family, nurturing it personally; every day he indulged all the boy’s wishes. On reaching the age of capping (20 sui), the boy suddenly became addicted to drink and gambling, stopping at nothing in pursuit of pleasure and desire, losing uncountable piles of tens of thousands every day, and continuing like this for several years.

One day he had lost a great deal, but in the evening wanted still more money. The head of the household told him: “You have already lost a lot; keep some for the future.” His son became very angry, taking a knife and hacking at him. The older man raised his hand to ward off the blade, and his five fingers fell to the ground. His retinue managed to seize the young man, and he pleaded for his life to be spared. The older man addressed him: “In a former life you were a wealthy trader. I travelled with you on the same boat but plotted to steal your property and killed you. Having discovered in a dream that you had been reincarnated, I nurtured and raised you from childhood until you became fully grown, paying for whatever you wanted; calculated altogether, this has now returned your property to you. Now that my five fingers have also been taken, this is enough to repay the debt, minus the one human life. If I used my wealth and handed you over to the authorities, having you executed would be easy. I fear that this process of retribution for unpunished wrongs might then go on endlessly, so I now release you, sending you off with whatever property you need to establish fields and household in some other faraway prefecture, resolving once and for all this need for revenge.” The young man thanked him and departed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126-27 (Tale 221):

冤報解和

[127] 有一商人入蜀,與富商同舟。一日,艤舟江滸,從僕皆上岸,惟此商,欲圖其財,見富商在船旁盥手,遂推之於江,富商又躍起,手拏船舷,又為持刀斷其五指,遂墜江而死。席卷財物,歸成大富。一日,夢富商來其鄰家,驚覺。遣人視之,果生一男子,遂命育之,給以乳哺之資。年五六歲,收歸其家,撫之猶手,每日恣其所欲。及年冠,忽嗜飲賭博,無所不至,一從其意,日輸累萬亦不較,如是者數年。一日多敗,及晚猶欲索錢。主家語之曰:「今日已輸多了,尚有來日。」 其子忿怒,拔刃斫之,主家舉手捍禦,五指俱落,得左右人擒住,倖免不死。主語之曰:「汝前生為富商,我與同舟,圖汝財,害汝命,續夢汝託生,我撫育自少至長,恣汝所欲,總而計之,亦可以還汝財物矣。今又傷我五指,亦足以還,但所欠一命耳。以我財力置汝於官,殺之不難。又恐冤冤相報無已,今放汝去,更隨汝意財物,可遠去他郡,別置田宅,解釋冤讐。」其人感謝而去。

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).