Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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)

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Liu Pi Requests Divination 劉闢求卦

Soon after Liu Pi[1] of the Tang had passed the imperial examinations, he visited a diviner to confirm, by means of casting yarrow from a calabash, that he would certainly receive an official salary. The gourd released a blind pair, and when the diviner was finished, he spoke to Pi: “Twenty years from now, you will be appointed in the southwest, and it will not end well.” Pi left rolls of silk as a gift. Afterwards, he ‘threw off his commoner’s clothes’, following Secretariat Chief Wei to Xichuan and rising to serve as Imperial Censor and Superior Administrator of the Army On Campaign. After twenty years, Wei passed away, sending Pi to court to report this, requesting advancement to Dongchuan. The decree did not permit this. Pi therefore dressed in simple clothes and rode alone back to the calabash diviner. Using the yarrow, when the stalks had aligned and the divination was complete, they addressed Pi: “Twenty years ago I once made a divination for someone and received the result ‘Mishap to follow’. Now we get the same reading again; is this not the virtue of the ancients?” Pi then submitted in agreement. The calabash diviner said: “If you ask other people about this, catastrophe will reach you.” Pi did not entirely trust him. He returned to Shu, and indeed rebelled. Emperor Xianzong (r. 805-20 CE) caught him and executed him on Gao Street.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.11 (Tale 67):

劉闢求卦

唐劉闢初登第,詣卜者葫蘆生筮得一卦,以定官祿。葫蘆生雙瞽,卦成,謂闢曰:「自此二十年,祿在西南,不得善終。」闢留束素與之。其後脫褐,從韋令公西川,官至御史大夫,為行軍司馬。既二十年,韋病薨,使闢入奏,請益東川。詔未允。闢乃微服單騎,復詣葫蘆生。筮之,揲蓍成卦,謂闢曰:「吾二十年前常與一人曾卜得『無妄之隨』,今復得此卦,非曩昔賢乎?」闢即依阿唯諾。葫蘆生曰:「若審其人,禍將至矣。」闢不甚信。乃歸蜀,果叛。憲宗皇帝擒之,戮之藁街。

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] On Liu Pi 劉闢 (d. 806 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Pi_(official).

Lightning Demolishes A Diviner’s Shop 雷撤卦肆

In Longquan County there was one Minister Si, who revered spirits and deities, and was devoted to good deeds. When Gan Yuan rebuilt the Jizhou Bridge, at the north gate he painted an image of the Heavenly King. There was a scholar Hu (his given name has been forgotten), who chiseled this out of the beam and moved it, renting it to Revisor Li as a sign for his divination business, where it was used to bring in profit. Hu Si brought the matter before the authorities as a lawsuit, but the circuit officials looked around and were afraid to make enquiries. Minister Si then took up the incense burner devoted to the Heavenly King, carried it around the town, and called on the heavens to curse him. Several days after, the skies darkened bringing rain and lightning, and the diviner’s shop was demolished. The townsfolk therefore named him ‘Hu King of Heaven’.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.106 (Tale 184):

雷撤卦肆

龍泉縣有四郎,敬信神佛,好為善事。幹緣再建濟州橋,於橋之北門繪一天王像。有胡學士不顯其名,鑿其梁柱,浮搭一間,賃與李祕校作卦肆以收利。胡四經官訟之,縣道觀望不敢問。四郎輒肩天王香鑪,繞市呼天以呪之。數日後,陰雨迅雷,竟撤卦肆。邑人以胡天王號之。

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 Demon Wizard Takes Heads 妖巫斷首

When Yuan Wenyu of Taihe was transferred to take charge of the Hunan Censorate, he first waited in his home to take up the post. A scholar came to visit him with a request, and informed him: “The Censorate has a doubtful case that has gone three years without judgement, [87] and hearing that the gentleman will soon attend the censorial offices, I reverently offer humble loyalty. In Heng there is a diabolical wizard surnamed Li, who is able to decapitate people by magic. In the village there was a daughter of the Liu family who was married into the Zhangs. On the day of her marriage they encountered the demon magician and the woman ended up losing her head without the Liu family realizing. When they reached the Zhangs, her close relatives and clan gathered to lift the bride from her carriage, but they suddenly found a headless girl. They bound and dragged the matchmaker and footmen and asked to make reports to the government office. The Lius sued the Zhangs saying that the Zhangs had killed their daughter. The Zhangs sued stating that the Lius had attempted to deceive them by means of a headless woman. Those imprisoned were numerous, and those who had since died in prison numbered more than ten; neither prefecture nor province have been able to make sense of this. If the gentleman can redress this injustice, it would indeed be an act of hidden virtue.” Yuan was very pleased to hear this. When his appointment began, this case indeed still required resolution, so he secretly briefed the judicial commissioner Liu Xiren, and Xiren entrusted it to the county constable Wang Jun. The constable declared himself on sick leave, not emerging for over a month, but took his servant along to the place to make a divination. The constable was proficient in Five Element theory, and had a divine view over fortune and misfortune. The villagers all respected him, and spoke to him: “In this village is Wizard Li, who has great skill in magic; how could anyone be more expert than him?” The constable was pleased and deputed his people to make overtures to Li. Li was very pleased, and he promised him rich reward if he restrained himself. First he tested Li on his servant; Li said: “Turn your head once.” Suddenly his servant was decapitated. The constable was terrified, but Li said: “Don’t be scared, just drink.” He then spoke to the constable: “Look again,” and the servant was restored to wholeness. This continued for three days, after which the decapitated person could no longer be fixed. The constable eventually left, with an agreement to bring paper money and having exhausted the sorcerer’s magic. When the time came he returned with the troops under his command. The constable visited his house first, and got him roaring drunk. At midnight he ordered a group of his subordinates to surround the room and bind him, and then they searched and confiscated the property. There turned out to be 150 baskets of skulls, together with those of his wife and child, which were turned over to the government, and later released. The Censorate took the sorcerer and his household and executed them in the marketplace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.86-87 (Tale 150):

妖巫斷首

太和袁文焴,調湖南憲幹,待次於家。有謁士來訪,告之曰:「憲司有一疑獄不能決者三年, [87] 聞君將赴憲幕,願獻小忠。衡有妖巫李生,能以術斷人之頭。里有劉氏嫁女於張,去之日,中途而遇妖巫,女竟失首,劉氏不知也。至張,親戚族黨及環聚扶新人下車,忽見無首之女子,大駭,紐拽媒妁僕從,求白於官。劉訴張則云:張殺其女。張訴則云:劉以無首之人欺騙。繫獄者數人,前後囚死者十餘人,州郡皆不得其情。君能平反,亦是陰德。」袁聞之喜。及任,果有是獄未斷,乃以是言密告之提刑劉希仁,希仁委之縣尉王君。尉告病假,月餘不出,攜僕至其地算卜。尉精於五行,禍福如神,里人皆敬之,與之言曰:「吾里李巫,有術甚奇,何若更學之為佳!」尉欣然託其人求之於李,許以厚資,李喜,與之斂。先以其僕試之,李曰:「請回頭一覷。」則其僕無首矣。尉恐,李曰:「無恐,且飲。」又與尉言:「更一覷。」則其僕復存。蓋其法過三日,斷者不可復全矣。尉遲去,約以某日攜錢楮來盡其術。及期領卒同行,尉先過其家,飲酒極歡。中夜令羣卒圍屋就縛,搜籍其家,有髑髏百五十箇,並其妻子,悉以付官,獄遂解。憲司將妖巫一家棄刑於市。

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).

Duke Yi Lays Foundations 益公屋基

When Duke Yi of Zhou resigned as minister and returned home, he wandered field and village at leisure. One day, bringing along a diviner to look at the land more than ten li beyond Wunikeng, seeing a large area owned by a peasant family, he said: “This place is ringed by peaks and water; wouldn’t it be perfect as a pleasure garden?” Soon after this speech an elderly man and woman emerged to meet them, saying: “Last night we dreamed that a constellation achieving Buddha merit came seeking land; today the noble minister arrives; we wish to present the land as an offering.” [85] The Duke compensated them generously to build a house elsewhere. Suddenly he saw that there were three unclaimed tombs of two or three zhang in length. Those around him wished to remove them, but he said: “In life we have neighbours, and in death too. Every year we will honour them, preparing wine three times, a jar of food, and ten bundles of paper as offerings.” This was later inscribed on a wooden tablet before the hall, ensuring that his descendants continued in honour and respect; this can surely be called greatness in faith and magnanimity.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.84-85 (Tale 146):

益公屋基

周益公辭相歸,徜徉田里。日攜術者過十里外烏泥坑相地,見一農家住場曰:「此處山水環抱,將可為樂丘乎?」言未幾,翁媼出迎曰:「夜來夢見婁至德佛來尋地,今日相公來,願以地獻。」 [85] 公厚資別為造屋。忽見二、三丈許有三所無主墓,左右者欲去之,公曰:「生有鄰,死亦如之。每年拜掃,當備酒三行、飯一盂、紙十束同祭。」仍鏤榜堂前,使子孫遵守,可謂忠厚之至矣。

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).

The Kaifeng Water Monster 開封水怪

Under the Song, during the Xuanhe era (1119-25), when someone arose from their bed in front of a tea shop and wiped down the couch, they noticed something crouching beside them like a dog; looking again in the bright light of dawn, it turned out to be a dragon. The person cried out loudly and fell to the ground. A short distance from the tea shop stood a workshop for military equipment. A group of soldiers from the workshop took away the dragon and ate it, but didn’t dare to report the matter. People in the capital all drew pictures to transmit and appreciate the sight; its body was only six or seven chi in length (about 2m), as [74] they have been painted for generations: the dragon’s scales being grey-black, its head like that of a donkey, its cheeks like those of a fish, the colour of its head a true green, with a horned brow, a very long back, splitting into two segments at the end; its voice was like that of a cow. A night later, at the fifth watch (about 4am), a red cloud came from the northwest and covered dozens of circuits, reaching towards heaven, crossing into the Purple Palace and the Great Bear; looking up, the stars all seemed to be separated by red gauze. When the sun rose it split with a tearing noise, which later became very great. This happened over several following evenings, the noise growing, its shaking lasting a long time and becoming extremely strong, with red clouds spreading from the northwest for tens of thousands of circuits, two clouds of black and white passing from the northwest to the northeast, the noise continuing without end, finally stopping at dawn. Several days later, water flooded into the capital, rising to more than ten zhang (33m). Diviners said that in bingwu the omens matched those of the fall of the Northern Qi (550-77), and later the nature of this matter became extremely clear.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 129):

開封水怪

宋宣和間,開封縣前茶肆人晨起拭牀榻,睹若有大犬蹲其旁,質明視之,龍也。其人驚呼仆地。茶肆適與軍器作坊近,為作坊兵衆取而食之,不敢以聞。都人皆圖畫傳玩,身僅六七尺,若 [74] 世所繪,龍鱗蒼黑,驢首而兩頰如魚,頭色正綠,頂有角,坐極長,其際始分兩䏢,有聲如牛。越一夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道近天,犯紫宮北斗,仰視星皆若隔絳紗。方起時折裂一聲,然後大發。後數夕又作,聲益大,震且久,其發尤甚,而赤氣自西北數十萬道,中有黑白二氣自西北而由東北,其聲不絕,迨曉乃止。後數日,水犯都城,高十餘丈。占者謂丙午及北齊末占同,後事驗亦甚明也。

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).

An account of the same events is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. Dating it to the second year Xuanhe (1120), this places the incident within a series of disastrous portents, their meaning relating to the palace. The Xuanhe yishi version also, disappointingly, omits the discussion of painting traditions.

William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 41-42:

That summer, in the fifth month, a creature somewhat like a dragon appeared in front of a teashop in Kaifeng County. It was about six or seven feet long with blue black scales. It had a head like a donkey, but with fish-cheeks and a horn on top of its skull. It bellowed like an ox. As it happened, the shopkeeper was making up the beds that morning when he noticed something the size of a large dog beside him. When he looked closely, it was this dragon. He was so surprised he keeled over in fright. The teashop was situated very close to an arms manufactory, and when the wor­kers in the mill found out about the dragon they killed and ate it.

That night in the fifth watch, several score columns of crimson vapor rose to the sky in the northwest. When one looked up at the North Star, it was as if it were veiled in scarlet gauze. In the midst of it all were alternate streams of black and white vapor, from which emanated crackling sounds like thunder from time to time. Soon rain began to fall in torrents. The level of the river rose more than ten yards, seeping through the city walls and breaking down the dike on the Bian River. Although all the laborers available within the city were marshalled to help in the crisis, carrying straw and sandbags to stem the tide, they were unable to hold it back. Finally, Huizong called upon the executive of the Ministry of Revenue, Tang Lu, to take charge of the operations. In the morning, Lu went out on the river in a small dinghy to see what the flood was like so that it might be controlled. The emperor watched him from atop, a tower. When he [42] discovered it was Lu himself out on the waters, he wept. Several days later the waters leveled off and Lu went to see the emperor, who praised him highly. ‘The temples of Our ancestors are secure, thanks to your work,’ he said.

Lu responded, ‘Water is an element of the Yin class. Yin influences are ascendant and pervade even to the inner reaches of the city and palace. I pray Your Majesty will communicate directly with his ministers, sequester himself from feminine wiles and small-minded people, and heed well this warning from Heaven to make ready for the tribes.’ Huizong commended this memorial and accepted it.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period of the Great Song: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), pp. 29-30:

夏,五月,有物若龍,長六七尺,蒼鱗黑色,驢首,兩頰如魚,頭色綠,頂有角,其聲如牛,見於開封縣茶肆前。時茶肆人早起拂拭床榻,見有物若大犬蹲其傍,熟視之,乃是龍也。其人吃驚,臥倒在地。茶肆與軍器作坊相近,遂被作坊軍人得知,殺龍而食之。是夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道衝天,仰視北斗星若隔絳紗,其中有間以白黑二炁,及時有折烈聲震如雷。未幾,霪雨大作,水高十餘丈,犯都城,已破汴堤,諸內侍役夫,擔草運土障之,不能禦。徽宗詔戶部侍郎唐恪治之。即日,恪乘小舟覽水之勢,而求所以導之。上登樓遙見,問之,乃恪也,為之出涕。數日,水平,恪入對,上勞之曰:「宗廟社稷獲安,卿之功也!」唐恪因回奏:「水乃陰類。陰炁之盛,以致犯城闕。願陛下垂意於馭臣,遠女寵,去小人,備夷狄,以益謹天戒。」徽 [30] 宗嘉納之。

Skull Spirits 髑髏神怪

During the Jiaxi era (1237-41), the ten-year-old grandson of a villager suddenly vanished without trace, and could not be traced despite prayer, divination and the distribution of notices. During his search it started to rain, and when he sought temporary shelter in a doorway he suddenly heard his grandson call out the names of his ancestors, leaving him shocked and astonished. Being very familiar with his grandson’s voice, he hurried to report the matter to the local officials. When official messengers made a search they indeed found him in a cupboard. By that time he was already emaciated and haggard, having lost the appearance of life, breathing feebly and close to his end, he went to the officials and was still able to relate the whole story of his case. When he was first taken, he was treated with the greatest kindness, each of his meals always filling him right up. Day by day from then on his food was reduced, even his rice dumplings shrinking, and he was eventually left without even a pickle. Each day he was washed only with vinegar, from head to toe, and his joints and blood vessels stopped up with nails. He experienced the greatest cruelty, and at the end of his report, he finally passed away. The kidnappers confessed, and their household, with the exception of the elderly and underage, all received the death sentence.

It is widely said by people in the present generation that those concerned with fortune steal away young boys in this way, waiting for them to die and then taking their bones. Grasping their immortal and mortal souls, it is said that when placed by the ear they gain reports on affairs; these are called ‘Skull Spirits’. When Wu Yuyan was a censor in Jiangdong, he too discovered such a matter, and on investigation heard an account much like this.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.69 (Tale 120):

髑髏神怪

嘉熙年間,村民有孫年十歲,忽失不見,祈卜散榜不獲。尋討偶值雨,暫宿於門首,忽聞孫喚祖之名姓,為之駭然。認其孫之聲甚稔,急告於官,差人搜捕,果得於其家櫃中。時已枯朽,略無人形,奄奄餘息,到官猶能道其事之本末。初被竊,溫存備至,一飯必飽,自是日減一日,繼用糭子亦減,久則咸無焉。每日惟灌法醋自頂至踵,關節脈絡悉被錮釘,備極慘酷,言畢氣絕。盗者伏罪,家無老幼盡獲,置之極刑。今世言人之吉凶者,皆盗人家童男如此法,待其死後收其枯骨,掬其魂魄,謂能於耳邊報事,名「髑髏神」也。吳雨巖憲江東,亦斷一事相類,推勘其由,乃如此云。

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).