Zhou Yuanshu 周元樞

Zhou Yuanshu was from Suiyang, and served as Secretary-General to Pinglu, residing in the official dwelling at Linzi. One night, when he was about to go to bed, he suddenly heard the sounds of a great many horses and heavy baggage carts. Knocking on his door he sent someone out, who reported: “Li Sikong waits to call on you.” Yuanshu thought through the people he knew, but this was not among them. He therefore concluded: ‘He must be somebody from my home region I do not yet know.’ He then went out to see the guest, invited him to be seated, and asked politely where he had come from. The reply came: “I come to make my home at this very place, and have not yet anywhere to stop, so seek to dwell in this residence.” Yuanshu was shocked, and asked: “Why come here?” He replied: “This is our former home.” Yuanshu said to him: “I came here on an official post, and the house has long been passed down as a government residence. When did the gentleman live here?” The other replied: “I lived here once in the Kaihuang era under the Sui.” (i.e., 581-601 CE) Yuanshu said: “In that case, must not the gentleman surely be a spirit?” He said: “Yes, indeed. The regional officials have permitted me to establish a shrine here, and therefore ask the gentleman simply to move on.” Yuanshu could not agree, and said: “People ought not to mix with spirits. Can it really be that I am about to die, and the gentleman can therefore bully me? Even if that is so, there are no grounds for handing over this residence to the gentleman. Even were I to die, I should still make my case against the gentleman.” He therefore summoned his wife and children, and told them: “I am going to die. Place plenty of paper and brushes in my coffin, as I am going to engage in a disputation with the gentleman Li.” They provided wine to drink, and the pair made several hundred toasts, their speech growing ever more stern. The visitor seemed about to depart, but stayed back, and, after a long time had passed, a servant came and spoke: “A message for the lady from Sikong. Secretary Zhou is emotionless. How can one dispute with such a person? He invites catastrophe.” At this the visitor then said farewell and departed. They showed him to the door, and he then suddenly vanished. Yuanshu remained in good health.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2796:

周元樞

周元樞者。睢陽人。為平盧掌書記。寄居臨淄官舍。一夕將寢。忽有車馬輜重甚衆。扣門使報曰。李司空候謁。元樞念親知輩皆無此人。因自思。必鄉曲之舊。吾不及知矣。即出見之。延坐。請問其所從來。曰。吾亦新家至此。未有所止。求居此宅矣。元樞驚曰。何至是。對曰。此吾之舊宅也。元樞曰。吾從官至此。相傳云。書寄之公署也。君何時居此。曰。隋開皇中嘗居之。元樞曰。若爾。君定是鬼耶。曰。然。地府許我立廟於此。故請君移去爾。元樞不可。曰。人不當與鬼相接。豈吾將死。故君得凌我耶。雖然。理不當以此宅授君。吾雖死。必與君訟。因召妻子曰。我死。必多置紙筆於棺中。將與李君對訟。即具酒與之飲。相酬數百盃。詞色愈厲。客將去。復留之。良久。一蒼頭來云。夫人傳語司空。周書記木石人也。安可與之論難。自取困哉。客於是辭謝而去。送之出門。倏忽不見。元樞竟無恙。出稽神錄