There was a newly deceased ghost, manifesting in weak, emaciated and fatigued state, that suddenly saw a friend from its living days, who had died some twenty years before, and was plump and strong. They asked after one another: “My friend, we’ve come to this?” and then he said: “I’m starving! My friend must know how everything works, so should favour me with some advice.” His friend the spirit said: “This is extremely simple, but requires the scaring of mortal folk. They must be very scared. Then they will grant my friend sustenance.” The new ghost set off and entered at the east end of a large village. There a family was making vīrya zeal offerings to the Buddha. In the western wing was a millstone, so the ghost shoved at the stone like a human grinding. The head of the household told his juniors: “The Buddha pities our family in its poverty, so ordered a spirit to turn the grindstone.” They thus brought a cartload of grain to give to him. That evening, he ground several hu, wore himself out and left.
He then scolded his ghost friend: “How could a friend be so deceitful? Nonetheless, I’ll go back; it must work now.” He followed a family into the western end of the hall. The family was venerating the Dao. Beside the door was a rice-hulling pestle. The ghost climbed onto it and started operating it like a person would. The people said: “Yesterday a spirit helped some people. Today it has returned to assist us. We should bring some unhusked rice to give to it, and send a servant girl with a winnowing fan.” By the evening, the spirit was exhausted, and hadn’t gained any sustenance. The spirit returned at sunset, and said, indignant: “We’re related by marriage; can anything be more important? How could you be so deceitful? I’ve helped two people, and haven’t got even a bowlful to eat!” His friend the spirit replied: “You’ve suffered bad luck, that’s all. These two households were worshiping the Buddha and serving the Dao; their emotions would be hard to stir. You should now seek a family of commoners and do some mischief. That can’t fail.”
The spirit set off again, finding a house with a bamboo pole in the doorway. He entered and found a group of women eating together before the window. In the courtyard was a white dog, so he picked it up and made it travel through thin air. The family were greatly shocked at seeing this, saying that such strangeness had never happened there before. A diviner told them: “A visiting spirit is seeking sustenance. You should kill the dog and lay out fruit and wine with food. Make offerings to it in the courtyard and you will be rid of it.” The family followed this advice, and the spirit thus received a lot of food. The ghost then continued to make mischief, just as his friend had taught.
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), vii, 321.2544: