An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).

Guo Pu’s Multifaceted Wisdom 郭璞多智

The horse on which the Eastern Jin Marshal Zhao Gu was riding died suddenly, and the general let out a melancholy sigh. A guest arrived, and the clerks did not dare to inform him. Guo Pu[1] came to his gate, and announced: “I can save this horse.” The general thus summoned him for an audience. Pu ordered that thirty people should all hold long poles, and go east for thirty li, reaching a grave mound and a forest attached to an altar to the god of the land. They then dispersed and beat the area, at which they captured an ape-like beast, which they then carried back. When it came before the horse, the beast sniffed at it, and the horse arose as if to leap up. To this day macaques are placed in stables, for this very reason.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.18 (Tale 87):

郭璞多智

東晉大將軍趙固所乘馬暴卒,將軍悲惋。客至,吏不敢通。郭璞造門,語曰:「余能活此馬。」將軍遽召見。璞令三十人悉持長竿,東行三十里,遇丘陵社林,即散擊,俄頃擒一獸如猿。持歸。至馬前,獸以鼻吸馬,馬起躍如。至今以獮猴置馬厩,此其義也。

[1] On the polymath Guo Pu 郭璞 (276-324 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guo_Pu.

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)

Yuan Ke’s Wife 園客妻

Yuan Ke’s wife was a goddess. Yuan Ke was from Jiyin; graceful in appearance and virtuous, many people in his district wished to give their daughters to him in marriage, but he would never wed. He often planted multi-coloured fragrant herbs, storing them for several decades and then taking their seeds. Suddenly, there were multi-coloured moths gathered on his plants. Ke gathered them and laid them on a sheet, where they bore silkworms. When the silkworms emerged, there was a woman who came and helped Ke to raise them, also feeding them with the fragrant herbs. When the silkworms were fully grown, they obtained 130 cocoons. Each cocoon was the size of an urn, and each cocoon took six or seven days to spin. When the spinning was complete, the woman and Yuan Ke departed together. Jiyin has a silkworm shrine to this day.

Taken from Nüxianzhuan.

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, 59.363

園客妻

園客妻,神女也。園客者,濟陰人也,美姿貌而良,邑人多欲以女妻之,客終不娶。常種五色香草,積數十年,服食其實。忽有五色蛾集香草上。客收而薦之以布。生華蠶焉。至蠶出時,有一女自來助客養蠶,亦以香草飼之。蠶壯,得繭百三十枚。繭大如甕,每一繭,繰六七日乃盡。繰訖,此女與園客俱去,濟陰今有華蠶祠焉。出女仙傳

Heng’e Flees To The Moon 姮娥奔月

Yi[1] was baking magic medicine, and, when it was finished, his wife Heng’e[2] stole and ate it, then fled into the moon.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 29):

姮娥奔月

羿燒仙藥,藥成。其妻姮娥竊而食之,遂奔入月中。

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)

[1] Also known as Hou Yi 后羿, this is a mythical archer, who performed the feat of shooting down multiple suns threatening to scorch the earth. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hou_Yi. For the story of Erkhii Mergen, a Mongolian parallel to this tale, see https://h2g2.com/entry/A580079.

[2] On Heng’e, or Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang%27e.

Immortal Lü Brings Enlightenment 呂仙教化

During the Song Jingding era (1260-64), the family of Qian Yan, guard commander for Shaowu, had a shop selling incense and spirit money, and often gave alms to mendicant monks, always contributing one copper dangsanqian (‘worth three’) coin, and never skimping, showing weariness or forgetting. One day, as they rose at dawn to open the shop, there was a religious holding a palm-leaf fan who came to the gate to receive alms. He happened to meet Yan’s wife, who, being angry owing to an unrelated matter, and showing this in words and expression, threw two dangsanqian coins onto the fan, from which they then fell on the floor. The religious trampled them underfoot, without even a turn of the head, and departed as if floating on air. When Yan himself emerged to pick up the coins, they were bonded to the cobblestone, and even using all his strength he was quite unable to shift them. The onlookers were shocked and marveled at this, and hurried to find the religious, who had vanished without a trace. When they scooped out the cobble using a pickaxe, a poem was found inscribed on the back:

The Master’s great vow spans the cosmos,

Until today it has encountered no boundary.

Intending with special purpose to return once more,

Pity the lady Yan whose character hampers immortals.

The cobblestone is now in the city god’s temple and can be inspected.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.129 (Tale 224):

呂仙教化

宋景定年間,邵武軍衛(「衛」,明抄本作「衙」。)前殷家香紙店,常供雲水道人,每緣(「緣」明刻本、明抄本作「員」。)奉銅當三錢一个,未嘗少倦忽。一日,早起開店,有道人持椶扇,登門結緣,適逢殷家婦人以他事遷怒,形於辭色,連以兩枚當三錢擲在椶扇中,遂流於地。道人以足踐之,更不回顧,飄然而去。殷自出拾起元錢,則固結於磚上,用力亦不能動矣。觀者駭異,急尋訪道人,已杳然不見。復將鋤頭連磚穵出,見磚背有詩曰:「先生大願度三千,直到如今不得緣。得得此來還有意,可憐殷氏骨難仙。」今此石砌在城隍廟中,可考。

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 Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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 Snake Steals Wine And Drinks 蛇竊酒飲

Zhou Bixian was supervisor of the Panfeng wine store in Wuxi County, Changzhou. He used fragrant medicinal material to produce his yeast, bringing forth a dense fragrant cloud. The flavour of his wine was pure and clear, and it was produced in top, middle and lower qualities. When distilling the wine, he made offerings to deities, slaughtering a sheep and a pig, carrying out the rite of the three offerings in his official robes, and when this was complete sending the wine out to all levels of officials at the court. One day, at the autumn offering, the storehouse clerk came reporting that there were holes in the clay of the highest grade wine flasks. When he was taken to see, several hundred flasks were indeed quite empty. The clerks thought it strange that those chosen and cleaned as offerings to the spirits had not been affected, and nobody knew the cause of it all. A month later, laughing voices were suddenly heard in the wine store, and when they peeped in they saw a crowd of children sucking from the mouths of the wine jars; when the doors were opened they all vanished into the earth. He hastily ordered that the floor be excavated, and at a depth of three chi (about 1m), they found a huge serpent lying drunk, with several dozen smaller snakes wound around beside it, and they realized that those spoiling the wine were snakes. His heart weighed down with doubt and bewilderment, gloomy and without joy, [lacuna] within two months he had resigned and returned to his home region.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.258 (Tale 469):

蛇竊酒飲

周必先監無常州錫縣潘封酒庫,用香藥料造麯,香氣氤氳,酒味清洌,有上中下三等。酒熟祭神,刺羊刺豕,庫官展裹行三獻之禮,事畢分送朝官監司太守以下。一日秋祭,庫吏走報,謂上等酒瓶泥皆有孔,取而視之,則數百瓶皆空空如也。官吏以為怪,擇其潔者供祀神,不之顧,亦莫知所自也。越一月,忽聞酒庫有笑語聲,潛視之,則有羣小兒口吸瓶上,開門則失入地矣。急命掘地,深三尺,有巨蛇醉卧,數十小蛇旋繞其旁,始知壞酒者此蛇也。其心疑怪,鬱鬱不樂, [ ] 踰兩月以事罷歸。

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).