A Soul Beheads People 斬人魂魄

Nie Feng, the Marshal of Weibo, had a daughter, aged just ten and known as Yinniang. Suddenly one day she was stolen away by a beggar; her father and mother did not know where she had gone, and could only weep in grief and sigh as they thought of her. After five years, a nun suddenly escorted Yinniang back, telling Feng: “Her education has been completed.”

After this speech, the nun could no longer be found, and, both shocked and excited, mother and father asked about these studies, and Yinniang said: “I was taken to a rocky cave, given a pill of medicine to take, and then ordered to take up a precious sword. They taught me through practice of the art of stabbing. One year later, I was stabbing apes and monkeys like a flying insect, stabbing tigers and leopards like nothing at all. After three years, I gradually grew able to soar upwards and stab hawks and falcons. After four years, I was taken to the capital; whenever they pointed out a person, they would tot up their life’s sins and transgressions, and when they said ‘Bring me their head!’ I should answer and arrive with the head. From that day I went to the capital and took heads, placing them in a big sack and returning, when they used a medicine to make them disappear like water. After five years they suddenly said: ‘The grand official such-and-such has already built up a long list of crimes, duping the emperor and deceiving the populace, injuring and killing the loyal and virtuous; he has already caused extreme harm to the realm! This night we bring his head.’

Yinniang received her instructions and set off, hiding on the roofbeam of the great official’s chamber, and after a while returning grasping his head, at which the nun said furiously, ‘How can you be so late?’ Yinniang bowed again, and (explained that) she had seen before her a loveable child playing; she waited before making the stroke. The nun shouted at her: ‘Having met such people, first cut them off from those they love, then finish them.’ Yinniang bowed again in thanks, and the nun said: ‘Your technique is now complete, you may return.’ Then I got to come back.” Her father and mother were quite astounded when they heard this, but feared that they might never reclaim her, and dared not control her actions.

Afterwards, when this was laid out as an explanation, the case of Commander Deng was especially strange. Ah! I have heard of generations of such swashbuckling swords, but despite their gentle female natures she could wield a blade and take the heads of the evil. If this is not a matter of magical techniques, what else can it be? The superior man’s answer is: “That which Yinniang studied could not have been taught by a normal person; such a student must be both clever and skilled in such magic. To decide to take the heads from those of vile conduct wherever they exist, that is the orthodoxy of a single school. Alas! Those occupying high positions and amassing great wealth, doing evil without remorse and attracting the ire of others, they should certainly fear Yinniang’s action. The nun warned me, saying: ‘First cut them off from those they love, and then finish them.’ When the evil live childless in the world, they should fear the poison they leave flowing behind them; this is truly terrifying.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.90-91 (Tale 155):

斬人魂魄

魏博大將聶鋒,有女方十歲,名隱娘。忽一日為乞丐竊去,父母不知其所向,但日夜悲泣歎思而已。後五年,尼忽送隱娘還,告鋒曰:「教已成矣。」言訖失尼所在。父母且驚且喜,乃詢所學之事,隱娘云:「攜我至一岩洞中,與我藥一粒服之,便令持一寶劍,教之以習擊刺之法。一年後,刺猨猱如飛蟲,刺虎豹如無物。三年,漸能飛騰以刺鷹隼。四年,拏我於都市中,每指其人,則必數其平生所作過惡之事,曰:『為我取其首來!』某應聲而首已至矣。自此日往都市中刺人之首,置於大囊中而歸,即時以藥消之為水。後五年忽曰:『大官某人者罪已貫盈,欺君罔民,殘賊忠良,為國之害故已甚矣!今夜為我取其首來。』隱娘承命而往,伏於大官居室之梁上,移刻方持其首至,尼大怒曰:『何太晚如是?』隱娘再拜,為見前人戲弄一兒可愛,未欲下手,尼叱之曰:『已後遇此輩,先斷其所愛,然後決之。』隱娘拜謝,尼曰:『汝術方成,可歸!』遂得還人。」父母聞其語甚怪,但畏懼而終不可得,亦不敢禁其所為。後至陳許,鄧帥之事尤更怪異。噫!吾聞劍俠世有之矣,然以女子柔弱之質而能持刃以決凶人之首,非以有神術所資,惡能是哉?君子曰:「隱娘之所學,非常人所能教也,學之既精而又善用其術,世有險詖邪惡者輒決去其首,亦一家之正也。嗟乎!據重位厚祿造惡不悛以結人怨者,不可不畏隱娘之事也。及尼之戒曰:『預先斷其所愛,然後決之。』以姦凶之人絕嗣於世,尚恐餘毒流及於後,深可懼也。」

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).

This is a transmission of a distinct version of a well-known tale, treated rather differently in the Taiping guangji:

Nie Yinniang 聶隱娘

Nie Yinniang lived during the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805), and was the daughter of Nie Feng, Marshal of Weibo. When she was ten sui, a nun came begging for food at Feng’s residence, and on seeing Yinniang was delighted by her, and said: “I would ask the guard commander [1457] and beg to take this girl away to train.” Feng was very angry, and rebuked the nun. The nun said: “No matter what strongbox the general may lock her up in, she will be stolen away.” When night came, Yinniang did indeed go missing. Feng was terribly shocked, ordering people to search and hunt, but not even a shadow or a whisper was ever found. Her father and mother always thought of her, but could only cry vain tears.

Five years later, the nun brought Yinniang back. She informed Feng: “Her education is now complete; you may take her back.” The nun was suddenly nowhere to be seen. The household was at once consumed with sadness and joy. When asked what she had learned, she said: “To start with, reading sutras and reciting incantations. Nothing else.” Feng didn’t believe this, and questioned her earnestly. Yinniang said: “If I tell the truth I fear you won’t believe it. What should I do?” Feng said: “Nevertheless, tell the truth.”

She said: “When Yinniang was first taken by the nun, we travelled I don’t know how many li. Dawn came. We arrived at a huge cave in a deep hollow, dozens of paces across, without human inhabitants but with many apes and monkeys, and grown about with pine and creepers. There were already two girls there, also about ten sui, and both very clever, elegant, beautiful and able go without eating. They could soar and run up and down the cliffs like a monkey climbing a tree, without the slightest trip or stumble. The nun gave me a pellet of medicine. I was also ordered to take up a precious sword. It was about two chi (c. 66cm) long, sharp enough to slice a hair, and pursue the two girls; I gradually felt my body grow as light as the wind. When one year had passed, I could prick the apes and gibbons, and in a hundred attempts I would not miss even once. Later I pricked tigers and leopards, and could take their heads and bring them back. After three years I could fly, pricking the falcons and hawks, never missing even one. The sword blade had gradually worn down to five cun (c. 16cm). When I flew to take the birds, they remained quite unaware. After four years, the two girls stayed behind in the cave, and I was taken to the capital, I don’t know exactly where. A person would be pointed out, his crimes numbered one by one, and say: ‘prick him for me and bring his head, without letting anyone know. Settle your gall, it will be as easy as taking the birds.’ I had a horn-handled blade, three cun wide. So I cut people down in the city in broad daylight, and nobody could tell. I put the heads in a sack and returned to my superior’s residence, where they were a special medicine turned them to water. After five years, I was told: ‘Such-and-such is a criminal minister, killing such a number of people without reason. Tonight you should enter his chamber and bring his head. I cracked his doorframe with my dagger, faced no obstacles, and lay on a crossbeam. When night came I returned with his head. The nun said, furious: ‘Why do you come so late?’ Your servant said: ‘I saw him playing with a loveable child, and had not the heart to kill it.’ The nun rebuked me: ‘First cut them off from those they love, then finish them.’ Your servant bowed in gratitude. The nun said: ‘I will open the back of your head to hide your dagger. No harm will come to you. When needed you can draw it out.’ She then said: ‘Your technique is now complete. You should return home.’ Then she escorted me back. She said that only after twenty years will we see one another again.”

As Feng heard this he became quite terrified, and when night fell she disappeared without trace, appearing again with the dawn. Feng did not dare to question this, and therefore could no longer love her as deeply as he once had. It happened that a young mirror-polisher came to their gate, and his daughter said: “This man should be my husband.” When she told her father, he did not dare object, so married them. This husband, though able to polish mirrors, had no other abilities, so her father supplied them generously with food and clothing, setting up a home for them outside his residence. Some years later, her father died. The Commander of Wei knew something of her [1458] marvels, so provided gold and cloth as one of his retinue. Things continued like this for several more years.

During the Yuanhe era (806-21), the Commander of Wei came into conflict with Liu Changyi, Military Commissioner for Chenxu, and sent Yinniang to collect his head. So the woman set out for Xu. Liu had abilities in numerology, and already knew of her coming. He summoned an officer of his guard, and ordered him to arrive north of the walls at dawn, and await a husband and wife on a white and a black donkey. As they reached the gate, a magpie would call in front of the husband, who would take up a catapult, shoot, and miss. The wife would then pluck up the catapult, and shoot the magpie dead with a single pellet. Bowing, he should say that Liu wished to see them and that he had been sent to receive them after their travels. The officer followed these orders, and greeted them. Yinniang and her husband said: “Governor Liu must truly be a divine; how else could he identify us? We wish to meet Lord Liu.” Liu received them. Yinniang and her husband bowed and said: “We should bear ten thousand deaths for opposing the Governor.” Liu said: “Not at all. We all serve our masters; that is the way of things. Wei and Xu are no longer so different; we wish you to stay here, and not feel any suspicion.” Yinniang thanked him: “The Governor lacks a retinue; we wish to reside here and join it, serving the gentleman’s divine wisdom.” She knew therefore that the Commander of Wei could not reach Liu. Liu asked what she needed, and she replied: “Just two hundred cash per day will suffice.” He accepted this request. The two donkeys suddenly vanished, and although Liu sent people to search for them, none could work out where they had gone. Afterwards, two paper donkeys, one white and one black, were found hidden in a cloth bag.

More than a month had passed when she reported to Liu: “They do not yet know that we are remaining here, and so will certainly send others to carry on the task. Tonight I request to cut off some of my hair and leave it before the Commander of Wei’s pillow, to announce that I will not be returning.” Liu permitted this. At the fourth watch (1-3am), she returned, and said: “The message is delivered, but the next night he will certainly send Spirit Boy to kill your servant, and to take the head from his rebellious subordinate. I will do my utmost to kill him; please do not be alarmed.” Liu was tolerant and magnanimous, and showed no sign of fear. That night, they lit the candles, and, after midnight, he saw two banners, one red and one white, fluttering and flying and trading blows above and across the four corners of his bed. After a long time of this he saw a person tumble, as if from thin air, his head detached from his body. Yinniang emerged too, saying: “Spirit Boy is dead.” She dragged the corpse into the hall, and used medicine to transform it into water; not even a hair remained. Yinniang then said: “The next night he will certainly send Cunning Hands Empty Boy to take over. Empty Boy’s skills are such that no human can see his actions, and no spirit can follow his tracks; he is able to join the void and enter the darkness; he is skilled in dissolving form and extinguishing shadow. Yinniang’s skills do not even touch the edge of his; here we rely on the Governor’s fortune. Nonetheless, wrap your neck in jade from Khotan, and bind your body in bedclothes. Yinniang will transform into a tiny midge, hiding inside your intestines, waiting and listening. There is no other way.” Liu did as she said. When the third watch (11pm-1am) came, his eyes were closed but he was not yet asleep, so he heard a clattering around his neck; the sound was loud and clear. Yinniang then leapt from Liu’s mouth, and congratulated him, saying: “The governor is not to worry. This one is like a prize falcon; if one stoop misses, he flies far away, ashamed at having missed. He will not return for a second, and will be a thousand li from here.” Looking at the jade afterwards, he found a dagger mark of several [1459] fen in depth. After this Liu treated her ever more generously.

From the eighth year of the Yuanhe era (813CE), Liu left Xu to go to court, and Yinniang said: “I leave this place to seek exceptional people among the peaks and rivers, but I beg you give a modest living to my husband.” Liu arranged this, and afterwards she vanished, nobody knows where to. When Liu died at his post, Yinniang saddled her donkey and went to the capital, weeping over his coffin before departing. During the Kaicheng era (836-41), Changyi’s son Zong was appointed governor of Lingzhou, and was travelling through Shu on the cliff roads when he encountered Yinniang, looking just as she had used to, very pleased to see him, and riding on her white donkey. She addressed him: “The gentleman faces a great catastrophe, and is not suited to remaining here.” She brought out a grain of medicine, and ordered him to take it. She said: “You must leave office urgently, within a year; only them will you escape this misfortune. My medicine’s effect only offers protection for one year.” Not entirely convinced, Zong gave her coloured silks. Yinniang would not accept anything, but drank heavily with him, and then departed. After a year, Zong had not quit his post, and he indeed died in Lingzhou. After that, none saw Yinniang again.

Taken from the Chuanqi 傳奇.[1]

Another translation of this story is found at Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang (trans), Tang Dynasty Stories (Beijing: Panda Books, 1986), pp. 112-17, under the title ‘The General’s Daughter’. A version of the Taiping guangji telling, focussing, if anything, even more strongly on the latter half of the narrative, was filmed by the Taiwanese director Hou Xiaoxian 侯孝賢 as The Assassin (Cike Nie Yinniang 刺客聶隱娘, 2015), winning him the Best Director Award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. On this film, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Assassin_(2015_film)

https://variety.com/2015/film/features/hou-hsiao-hsien-the-assassin-taiwan-director-1201620922/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_assassin_2015/

See also Altenburger, Roland, The Sword or the Needle: The Female Knight-errant (xia) in Traditional Chinese Narrative, Worlds of East Asia, XV (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009) for a thorough discussion of Nie Yinniang’s representation and framing.

[1] Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), iv, 194.1456-59:

聶隱娘者,唐貞元中,魏博大將聶鋒之女也。年方十歲,有尼乞食于鋒舍,見隱娘悅之。云:「問押衙 [1457] 乞取此女教。」鋒大怒,叱尼。尼曰:「任押衙鐵櫃中盛,亦須偷去矣。」及夜,果失隱娘所向。鋒大驚駭,令人搜尋,曾無影響。父母每思之,相對涕泣而已。後五年,尼送隱娘歸。告鋒曰:「教已成矣,子却領取。」尼歘亦不見。一家悲喜。問其所學,曰:「初但讀經念呪。餘無他也。」鋒不信,懇詰。隱娘曰:「真說又恐不信,如何。」鋒曰:「但真說之。」曰:「隱娘初被尼挈,不知行幾里。及明。至大石穴之嵌空數十步,寂無居人,猿狖極多,松蘿益邃。已有二女,亦各十歲,皆聰明婉麗不食。能於峭壁上飛走,若捷猱登木,無有蹶失。尼與我藥一粒。兼令長執寶劒一口。長二尺許,鋒利,吹毛令剸,逐二女攀緣,漸覺身輕如風。一年後,刺猿狖。百無一失。後刺虎豹,皆決其首而歸。三年後能飛,使刺鷹隼,無不中。劒之刃漸減五寸。飛禽遇之,不知其來也。至四年,留二女守穴,挈我於都市,不知何處也。指其人者,一一數其過曰:為我刺其首來,無使知覺。定其膽,若飛鳥之容易也。受以羊角匕首,刀廣三寸。遂白日刺其人於都市,人莫能見。以首入囊,返主人舍,以藥化之為水。五年,又曰:某大僚有罪,無故害人若干。夜可入其室,決其首來。又攜匕首入室,度其門隙,無有障礙,伏之梁上。至瞑,持得其首而歸。尼大怒曰:何太晚如是。某云:見前人戲弄一兒可愛,未忍便下手。尼叱曰:己後遇此輩。先斷其所愛,然後決之。某拜謝。尼曰:吾為汝開腦後藏匕首,而無所傷。用即抽之,曰:汝術已成,可歸家。遂送還。云後二十年,方可一見。」鋒聞語甚懼,後遇夜即失蹤,及明而返。鋒已不敢詰之,因茲亦不甚憐愛。忽值磨鏡少年及門,女曰:「此人可與我為夫。」白父,父不敢不從,遂嫁之。其夫但能淬鏡。餘無他能。父乃給衣食甚豐,外室而居。數年後,父卒。魏帥稍知其 [1458] 異,遂以金帛署為左右吏。如此又數年。至元和間,魏帥與陳許節度使劉昌裔不協,使隱娘賊其首。引娘辭帥之許。劉能神筭,已知其來。召衙將,令來日早至城北,候一丈夫一女子,各跨白黑衛。至門,遇有鵲前噪夫,夫以弓彈之,不中,妻奪夫彈,一丸而斃鵲者。揖之云:吾欲相見,故遠相祗迎也。衙將受約束,遇之。隱娘夫妻曰:「劉僕射果神人,不然者,何以洞吾也,願見劉公。」劉勞之。隱娘夫妻拜曰:「合負僕射萬死。」劉曰:「不然,各親其主,人之常事。魏今與許何異,顧請留此,勿相疑也。」隱娘謝曰:「僕射左右無人,願舍彼而就此,服公神明也。」知魏帥之不及劉。劉問其所須,曰:「每日只要錢二百文足矣。」乃依所請。忽不見二衛所之,劉使人尋之。不知所向。後潛收布囊中,見二紙衛,一黑一白。後月餘。白劉曰:「彼未知住,必使人繼至。今宵請剪髮,繫之以紅綃,送于魏帥枕前。以表不廻。」劉聽之。至四更却返曰:「送其信了,後夜必使精精兒來殺某,及賊僕射之首。此時亦萬計殺之,乞不憂耳。」劉豁達大度,亦無畏色。是夜明燭,半宵之後,果有二幡子一紅一白。飄飄然如相擊于牀四隅。良久。見一人自(「自」字原闕,據明鈔本補。)空而踣,身首異處。隱娘亦出曰:「精精兒已斃。」拽出于堂之下,以藥化為水,毛髮不存矣。隱娘曰:「後夜當使妙手空空兒繼至。空空兒之神術,人莫能窺其用,鬼莫得躡其蹤。能從空虛之入冥,善無形而滅影。」隱娘之藝,故不能造其境,此即繫僕射之福耳。但以于闐玉周其頸,擁以衾,隱娘當化為蠛蠓,潛入僕射腸中聽伺。其餘無逃避處。劉如言。至三更,瞑目未熟。果聞項上鏗然。聲甚厲。隱娘自劉口中躍出。賀曰:「僕射無患矣。」此人如俊鶻,一搏不中,即翩然遠逝,耻其不中。纔未逾一更,已千里矣。後視其玉,果有匕首劃處,痕逾數 [1459] 分。自此劉轉厚禮之。自元和八年,劉自許入覲,隱娘不願從焉。云:「自此尋山水,訪至人,但乞一虛給與其夫。」劉如約。後漸不知所之。及劉薨于統軍,隱娘亦鞭驢而一至京師,柩前慟哭而去。開成年,昌裔子縱除陵州刺史,至蜀棧道,遇隱娘,貌若當時,甚喜相見,依前跨白衛如故。語縱曰:「郎君大災,不合適此。」出藥一粒,令縱吞之。云來年火急拋官歸洛,方脫此禍。吾藥力只保一年患耳。縱亦不甚信,遺其繒綵,隱娘一無所受,但沉醉而去。後一年,縱不休官,果卒于陵州。自此無復有人見隱娘矣。出《傳奇》

 

 

 

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Lu Ban Builds A Stone Bridge 魯般造石橋

To the south of Zhaozhou city there is a stone bridge, which was constructed by Lu Ban (c.507–444 BCE), and is extremely robust, that is to say from ancient times until today is quite without later rebuilding. It happened that the prefecture had a spirit surnamed Zhang. Passing the bridge while riding on a donkey, Zhang laughed and said: “This stone of this bridge is strong and sound; if I cross can it survive without shaking?” He then mounted the bridge, and the structure swayed as if it would collapse. Lu Ban stood beneath it and steadied the structure with his hands, returning it to its former sturdiness. To this day traces of the hooves, tail and head of the donkey ridden by Zhang are visible atop the bridge, and prints of Lu Ban’s hands can be seen below. This has been passed down from ancient times, but others have not recorded it in writing, so it is set down here.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.218 (tale 387)

魯般造石橋

趙州城南有石橋一座,乃魯般所造,極堅固,意謂古今無第二手矣。忽其州有神姓張,騎驢而過橋,張神笑曰:「(明刻本此處多「人言」二字。)此橋石堅而柱壯,如我過能無震動乎?」於是登橋,而橋搖動若傾狀。魯般在下以兩手托定,而堅壯如故。至今橋上則有張神所乘驢之頭尾及四足痕,橋下則有魯般兩手痕。此古老相傳,他文未載,故及之。

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).

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。

Strange Events in Xuanhe (1119-25) 宣和怪事

During the Zhenghe era (1111-18) in the reign of the Song emperor Huizong (1100-25), a thing as big as a sitting-mat appeared at night in the imperial bedroom. Whenever it emerged this was preceded by a sound as if the room were being torn apart. It would then manifest, more than a zhang (3.33m) across, shaped somewhat like a turtle, making a clanging noise as it moved, but, shrouded in a dark mist, it could not be seen clearly. A bloody miasma spread around it to all four directions, and weapons had no effect against it. Further, it sometimes changed into human form, or that of a donkey, and could speak with a human voice. Many times it appeared in residences for the palace staff, and once appeared within the inner halls. Despite occultist scholars repeatedly banning it remained unaffected. Later on people grew accustomed to the presence, and felt no great fear.

In the fourth year of the Xuanhe era (1122), Jin people captured the Central Capital, and the Song sent the Imperial Preceptor Tong Guan (1054-1126) to lead the army against them. At that time a white halo ringed the sun and every night streams of meteors crossed the Heavenly Ford and the Herdsman, jumping the Milky Way, the Big Dipper and Altair and hurtling together into the south.

When the armies engaged, there was a huge earthquake in Xiongzhou, and a horse grew two horns of four chi (a chi is about 33.cm), and grew huge. The imperial guard presented this to the throne, and it was thought to be a horse-dragon.

In the first moon of the sixth year (19 January to 16 February, 1124), an earthquake shook the eastern capital, and later another earthquake was felt in Sanhe; sounds of quaking came from the gate of the imperial palace’s central chamber. In Hedong and Shanyou this was especially pronounced, and in the Lanzhou region trees and plants on the various mountains were swallowed by the earth, while wheat seedlings sown in the valleys rose upon the peaks.[1]

In the eighth moon of the seventh year (31 August to 28 September, 1125), a vegetable seller, on reaching the Xuande Gate, suddenly became confused and returned, pointing his finger at the gate and saying: “You have ruined our country! Our Supreme Ancestor the Shenzong Emperor set us on the way; we can still change back to that.” Soldiers on patrol seized him and locked him in the Kaifeng jail; none understood his speech, and within a single evening he had died in prison.[2]

One day, as the emperor entered the Xuanhe Hall, the ground caved in.[3] On the first day of the first moon a statue of a deity in the Jingling Palace was seen to shed tears. Clerks on duty in the imperial ancestral temple heard the sound of weeping, and on inspection found blood emerging from the bricks, seeping out again when it was swept away; all of this continued over several days.[4]

On Wansui Peak a group of foxes were seen to toast one another; it was ordered that they be beaten, but they [57] scattered. A fox emerged from a prison in the northeast and entered the palace precincts, seating itself on the imperial divan.[5]

In the twelfth moon (27 December, 1125 to 24 January, 1126), the Grand Secretary Wu Min submitted a memorial to the throne: “The capital has heard that enemies are making a great incursion and people’s sensibilities are shaken. Some want to flee, some want to mount a defence, some want to rebel over it; if these three types have to coexist within the country, the realm must be destroyed. Your servant has often prayed in the ancestral temple, and received a dream, but does not dare to report its content.” The emperor said: “Do not fear this.” Min said: “Your servant has often dreamed of a river, to its north, a coil-haired golden-bodied Buddha, its length reaching the borders of heaven. To the south of the water, a jade figure with an iron-hooped fish basket, called Mengzi by the people. To the south of Mengzi is a body of water, and to the south of that a mountain slope, and your servant was on that, people called it ‘Taishang Mountain’. Your servant once said to himself: “That to the north of the water is Hebei, that to the south Henan. The Buddha represents the Jin, and the Taishang Your Majesty, but it is not clear what Mengzi means. Some among the Central Secretariat have instructed your servant: ‘This Mengzi represents the imperial eldest son.’” There was thus a consultation on establishing the crown prince.

In the eleventh moon, offerings were made in the southern suburbs, and when the ceremony was complete the emperor descended from the altar and received a report from the frontier. When the imperial progress reached the Duancheng Hall of the Jiao Palace the dawn light was not yet clear. The various officials came forward to make their congratulations but suddenly heard the hoot of an owl from the roof of the hall, as if making its obeisances; those who heard it were shocked. No more than a month later, the emperor abdicated and suddenly went south. The following year, the city fell, the realm was humiliated, and this all took place in the Duancheng Hall.

Anon., , Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.56-57 (Tale 99):

宣和怪事

宋徽宗朝政和年間,有物大如席,夜見寢殿上。每出則先若裂屋摧倒聲,然後現形,廣丈餘,狀髣髴如龜,行動硜硜有聲,黑氣蒙蒙,不大了了。氣之所及,腥血四灑,兵刃皆不能施。又或變為人、為驢形,得人語聲則作矣。多在掖庭宮人所居之地,亦嘗及內殿。雖方士屢禁,自若,後習為常,人亦不大怖。宣和四年,金人陷中京,宋遣太師童貫出師,是時白虹貫日,連夕有流星犯天津、河鼓,越天漢、斗牛,皆向南奔曳。及用兵,雄州地大震,馬生角長二尺四,皆出距。貫以進御,以為龍馬。六年正月,東都地震,後三河又震,宮中殿門震動作聲。河東、陝右尤甚,蘭州地及諸山草木悉没入地,山下麥苗乃在山上。七年八月,有賣菜夫至宣德門,忽迷歸,向門戟手指而言曰:「汝壞吾社稷矣!太祖神宗皇帝使我來道,尚宜速改也。」邏卒捕下開封獄,一夕已省,不知所云,特於獄中盡之。一日帝御宣和殿,地陷。朔旦見景靈宮神像有淚,吏守太廟者聞哭聲,即之,乃神宗廟室有塼出血,隨掃又出,數日方止。萬歲山上羣狐杯酌對飲,敕拍之,皆 [57] 散。有一狐自艮獄來,入宮禁,於御榻而坐。十二月,給事中吳敏奏曰:「今京師聞虜人大入,人情震動,有欲出走者,有欲守者,有欲因而返者,以三種人共守一國,國必破。臣常私禱於宗廟,得之夢寐,不敢奏陳。」上曰:「無妨。」敏曰: 「臣常夢水之北,螺髻金身之佛,其長際天。水之南,鐵籠罩一玉像,人謂之孟子。孟子之南又一水,水南有山陂陁,而臣在其間,人曰『太上山』。臣嘗私解之曰:『水北河北也,南者江南也,佛者金人,太上陛下也,但不曉所謂孟子。有中書舍人席益諭臣曰:『孟子者,元子也。』」遂定立太子之議。十一月祀南郊,禮畢,降壇而得邊報。及上御郊宮之端誠殿,時天未明,百辟方稱賀,忽有鴟鴞嗚於殿屋之上,若贊拜聲,聞者駭之。未踰月,內禪,俄而南幸。明年城陷,國家被辱,皆在端誠殿焉。

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).

[1] A parallel account is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), p. 101:

In the intercalary month, there was an earthquake in the capital, and the buildings of the palace complex shook and rumbled audibly. Trees and vegetation on the mountains in both Shaanxi and Lanzhou sank into the earth. Cultivated crops which had once grown below the mountains now grew atop them. The court sent Huang Qianshan to handle the situation; but he returned with nothing but misleading reports and never revealed the true state of affairs to his superiors.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), p. 79:

閏月,京師地震,宮中殿門皆搖動有聲。又陝西、蘭州諸山草木皆沒入地中;其黍苗在山下者,又生於山上。朝廷遣黃潛善按視,潛善歸謂訛傳,不以實聞於上。

[2] A parallel account is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 102-3:

In the eighth month, a produce vendor from the eastern suburbs of the [103] capital suddenly appeared at the Gate of Virtue Proclaimed and threw a fit. He dropped his carrying pole and hacked at the gate with his hands, crying, “Emperors Taizu and Shenzong bade me come here. The Eighth Son’s pride and extravagance are bringing the nation to ruin. There’s still time for him to change his ways, however, if he does so quickly. Otherwise, his regrets will be too late!” The guard arrested him and took him off to the city jail. He came to his senses later that evening. He was interrogated time and time again, yet he had no recollection of what he had said. He was secretly executed in the prison.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), p. 80:

八月,有都城東門外賣菜夫突入宣德門下,忽若迷罔,將菜擔拋棄,向門戟手而言曰:「太祖皇帝、神宗皇帝使我來到。八郎驕奢喪國,尚宜速改也!不爾,悔無及矣!」邏卒捕其人赴開封府獄。一夕,其人方甦,再三詢問,竟不知向所言者。密於獄中殺之。

[3] Another parallel account, dated to the twelfth moon of the first year Chonghe (roughly February-March 1119) is found in Xuanhe yishi. Hennessey, Proclaiming Harmony, p. 40:

In the twelfth month, the emperor installed Wang Fu and other holders of the Secret Seal in the palace. On the day when he went to the Palace of Proclaiming Harmony, the ground there caved in.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi, p. 28:

十二月,御殿度王黼等祕籙。徽宗一日御宣和殿,地陷。

[4] A parallel account is found in Xuanhe yishi. Hennessey, Proclaiming Harmony, p. 103:

On the fifteenth day of the first month in that year, tears appeared on the statue of the first emperor in the Temple of Refulgent Spirits. The temple watchmen said they often heard weeping within the temple. One day, blood began to seep through the bricks in the changing room of Emperor Shenzong. As soon as it was wiped away, more would appear. This went on continuously for several days. Cai Jing and his cronies were so concerned with flattery and sycophancy that when they heard about this strange phenomenon they were too timid to tell the emperor about it, and his arrogant and prodigal behaviour grew worse.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi, pp. 28-29:

宣和元年,正月朔旦,朝見景靈喀,見聖祖神像有淚。守廟官吏聞之廟內常有哭聲。一日,神宗皇帝廟室便殿,有甎出血,隨掃又出,數日方止。是時蔡京等方事諛佞,有此異事,皆 [29] 不敢聞奏於上。而徽宗驕奢之行愈肆矣。

[5] Another parallel is found in Xuanhe yishi. Hennessey, Proclaiming Harmony, p. 103:

At about that time, a pack of foxes from Longevity Mountain settled into the palace and had a drinking party. Soldiers were sent to drive the foxes out, but they temporized and would not go. In the ninth month, foxes from Upright Hill entered the inner palace and sat on the throne. The majordomo of the palace sent the attendant Zhang Shan to drive them out, but he procrastinated and would not go. Huizong knew in his heart this was not a very auspicious sign. But Cai You twisted the argument around and said that it was because the Fox King wanted blood that these things had happened. So an edict was issued ordering the destruction of the Fox King’s temple.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi, pp. 80-81:

是時萬歲山羣狐於宮殿間陳設器皿對飲,遣兵士逐之,徬徨不去。九月,有狐自艮岳山 [81] 直入中禁,據御榻而坐;殿帥遣殿司張山逐之,徘徊不去。徽宗心知其為不祥之徵,而蔡攸曲為邪說,稱艮岳有狐王求血食乃爾。遂下詔毀狐王廟。

 

A Woman Transformed into a Tanuki and a Donkey 婦變貍驢

Old Woman Zhang, resident under Feicheng County in Jiningfu, her husband having died young, lived together with her son Zhang Lü’er. By day she watched over baskets of spun hemp, by night she transformed into a raccoon dog, going everywhere to steal and eat small children from people’s homes.[1] Those lost numbered eighteen or nineteen. One day she also turned into a white donkey, eating someone’s wheat seedlings, but was caught by the owner of the wheat, chained by the neck and dragged to a millstone, where she was given a severe thrashing. Finally released she was able to return, moaning and groaning, and lie down, at which her son questioned her, and she related all and was beaten to death by the people; this is truly something to marvel at.

[1] This character is presently used to refer to the tanuki, a prominent trickster animal in Japanese folk culture, but seems more likely to refer to a cat of some sort. On the tanuki, see Adrian Burton, “The Transformations of Tanuki-San” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10 (2012): 224. Present-day populations seem expected to be broadly omnivorous, their living prey limited to smaller animals. Research on the mandibles of extinct raccoon dog subspecies suggests that their diet may have varied greatly in the past (but the researchers don’t mention human babies). See Masakazu Asahara and Masanaru Takai, “Estimation of Diet in Extinct Raccoon Dog Species by the Molar Ratio Method”, Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 98 (2017): 292-99. As noted by by Barend Ter Haar, the story is also related to the child-eating elderly female cannibal or were-animal ‘Auntie Old Tiger’ story, a tale comparable to Hansel and Gretel. See Barend J. ter Haar, Telling Stories: Witchcraft and Scapegoating in Chinese History, Sinica Leidensia, LXXI (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 54-91.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.230 (Tale 413):

婦變貍驢

濟寧府肥城縣管下張婆兒,夫早歿,與子張驢兒同活。此人日則守筐緝麻,夜則變作貍,徧去偷喫人家小孩兒。所失者十有八九。一日又變作白驢,食人麥苗,被麥主捉獲,鎖項拽磨,極其鞭打。既放得歸,呻吟而卧,其子問之,具以狀告,被人打死,甚可怪也。

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).