Painting Connecting To Spirits 繪畫通神

Zhang Sengyou of the Liang was skilled at drawing, and served as prefectural chief of Wuxing. Whenever Emperor Wu (464-549 CE) thought of one of his vassal princes, he would order Sengyou to go and draw their portrait, which was like a double of the subject’s face. Once, while in the Tianhuang Monastery in Jiangling, he painted the Buddha, Confucius and the Ten Sages, and the emperor asked: “Why draw these in a Buddhist temple?” He replied: “Some day this will benefit them.” Later, when Zhou burned out the Buddhists, in order to construct a Confucian hall, this alone was saved from the flames. Moreover, when he painted four dragons at the Jiangling Anle Monastery, he did not dot their eyes. People questioned this, and he replied: “If dotted they will fly off.” The crowd thought he was joking, and insisted he dot them. In an instant they heard a thunderclap, and two dragons climbed the clouds and soared upwards; only the two without the eye-dots remained behind. This is painting that connects to spirits.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.14 (Tale 76):

繪畫通神

梁張僧繇善畫,為吴興太守。武帝每思諸王在外藩者,即令僧繇乘傳往寫其貌,如對其面。嘗於江陵天皇寺畫佛并仲尼及十哲,帝曰:「釋門之內畫此,何也?」對曰:「異日賴之。」至後周焚滅佛教,以此殿有儒聖,獨不焚之。又於金陵安樂寺畫四龍,不點睛。人問之,答曰:「點則飛去。」衆人以為虛誕,固請點之。頃刻雷霆,二龍乘雲騰上;其二不點者猶在。畫之通神若此。

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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Yan Gen’s Concubine 嚴根妾

During the reign of Zhang Gui (254-314 CE) of the Former Liang, a concubine belonging to Yan Gen, Governor of Fuhan, gave birth. In the same night she bore a daughter, a dragon and a falcon.[1]

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 22 (上1.3)

嚴根妾

前梁張軌時,枹罕令嚴根妾產,同夕產一女、一龍、一鷙。

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] The Jinshu 晉書 (Book of the Jin) mentions this same incident, dating it to the fifth month of the fifth year Yongjia (3 June to 2 July, 311 CE; under the Western Jin), and reporting a response, linking such anomalous births to military chaos. See Jinshu 29.909:

五年五月,枹罕令嚴根妓產一龍,一女,一鵝。京房易傳曰:「人生他物,非人所見者,皆為天下大兵。」是時,帝承惠皇之後,四海沸騰,尋而陷於平陽,為逆胡所害,此其徵也。

Four Immortals Play Chess 四仙弈棋

There was once somebody called Ba, from Qiong, his surname has not been recorded. He had a tangerine tree, and after the frost came all of the tangerines had been gathered, save for two big ones, each as large as a wide-bellied pot. Ba then ordered that they twist off the tangerines and weigh them, just like the usual ones. When cut open, each contained two elderly men, beard and eyebrows hoary white, flesh and bodies bright red, and both sets were playing chess, their bodies a little over a chi (33cm) in height, talking and laughing as if nothing had happened. When their games were finished, one old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me.” Another old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me; it will come back to me later, at the thatched hall at Qingcheng.” (This is a celebrated Daoist mountain site in Sichuan) Yet another old man spoke up: “Master Wang is always like this; waiting and getting nothing. Playing in the tangerine is no worse than on Shangshan, but you can’t have more than one stem for each tangerine.” One of the old men said: “Your servant is hungry and empty; he needs a dragon root fruit to eat.” Then from his sleeve he removed a grass root, about an inch across, its shape curving sinuously like a dragon, and, millimetre by millimetre and with great care, pared it away fully. When he had finished eating, he spat it out in a gush of water, and it transformed into a dragon. The four old men mounted it together, and wings flapping beneath their feet ascended into the clouds. Briefly and suddenly came wind, rain, darkness and light, and none knew where they had gone.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.132 (Tale 230):

四仙弈棋

有巴邛人,不記姓。有橘,霜後諸橘盡收,餘二大橘如三四斗盎,巴人即令拳橘輕重,亦如常橘。割開,每橘有二老叟,鬚眉皤然,肌體紅明,皆相對象戲,身尺餘,談笑自若。但與決賭訖,一叟曰:「君輸我。」一叟曰:「君輸我,後日於青城草堂還我耳。」又一叟曰:「王先生許來,竟待不得,橘中之樂不減商山,但不得二根同蒂(上四字,明抄本作「深根固蒂」。)於橘中耳。」一叟曰:「僕飢虛矣,須龍根脯食之。」即於袖中抽出一草根,方圓徑寸,形狀宛轉如龍,毫釐周悉,因削復滿。食訖,以水噀之,化為一龍,四叟共乘之,足下泄泄雲起。須臾,風雨晦明,不知所在。

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 Lord of Profound Heaven Manifests 玄帝現像

Wang Daozhi was known as Lay Scholar Free of Knowledge, and lived to the west of Anfu. In his household were collected eighteen of the very finest statues of arhats, and every month he had monks perform rites and make offerings to them. They had a plum blossom [129] that fruited in its porcelain vase, and people thought this an auspicious sign. One day, his family fell ill, and he dreamed that two scrolls were offered before the arhats, saying: “You should go north in person, and ask the Profound Emperor to provide healing.” The following day, a monk came to the gate and asked: “Why do you not attend the immortal?” He replied: “I have no image.” The monk said: “You should invite an artist.” An image of the emperor then appeared on the table, face like a full moon, black robes and golden armour, feet treading on turtles and serpents, five generals to his right and left, holding knives, grasping banners held erect and surrounded by streamers. Known as the Five Dragons, their might and grandeur was far beyond that which one might usually see. When the image was finished it was traced by hand and then vanished. The illness was then cured, and his household treasured the icon.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.128-29 (Tale 223):

玄帝現像

王道之,號無識居士,住安福之西。其家蓄十八羅漢像最精妙,月月命僧禮而供之。有梅花 [129] 結實於甆瓶,人以為瑞。一日,其家病作,羅漢前兩軸獻夢云: 「待自去北方,請玄帝來救治。」明日,一僧登門曰:「如何不奉真聖?」答曰:「無像。」僧曰:「可邀畫匠(「匠」原作「像」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)來。」就桌上現(此處原衍「像」字,據明刻本、明抄本刪。)出帝像,面如滿月,皁袍金甲,足踏龜蛇,左右五將,持刀執纛樹幡,號五龍,猛烈雄偉,非尋常所有者。描訖,像隨手而沒。後病癒,其家寶藏之。

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 Spring Contains A Pig-Dragon 泉有豬龍

By the side of a road in Qingshen County within Meizhou there is a small Buddha Hall, commonly known as the Buddha of the Sow Mother. When Su Dongpo (1037-1101) asked the local people about this, they said: “A century ago a sow prostrated herself there, and transformed into a spring with two carp; she was a pig-dragon. People petitioned the sow to grant them motherhood, and erected a Buddha Hall over it, hence the name.” The spring emerged upwards from rock, its depth not reaching two chi (about 66cm), but even in severe droughts it never stopped running. People could never see the carp, however. One day Dongpo told this to his wife’s brother Wang Yuan, but Yuan thought it absurd and preposterous. Unable to settle Yuan’s doubts, he went together with Yuan to pray at the spring, where the latter said: “Grant, if this is not all nonsense, another glimpse of the fish.” Before long the two carp emerged once again. Yuan was terrified, bowing over and over again and requesting forgiveness for his misdeed, and then departing.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.266 (Tale 483):

泉有豬龍

眉州青神縣道側有小佛堂,俗謂豬母佛。蘇東坡問之土人,曰:「百年前有牝豬伏於此,化為泉,有二鯉魚在泉中,蓋豬龍也。人請牝豬為母,而立佛堂其上,故以名之。」泉出石上,深不及二尺,大旱不竭,而鯉莫有見者。一日東坡以其事告妻兄王愿,愿疑之妄誕,不平其疑,與愿俱至井禱之泉上曰:「予若不妄言,魚當復見。」已而二鯉復出,愿大驚,再拜謝罪而去。

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 Well Contains A White Dragon 井有白龍

When Su Dongpo (1037-1101) arrived to the east of Hainan City, he came across a pair of wells, sited very close to one another, and having savoured their differences, named them the Paired Wells, their water flowing from the stones of a cliff. Dongpo drank their waters and was surprised by [266] them, saying: “I seek a white dragon but have not yet seen it; now I know that it dwells in these waters!” His travelling companion was surprised by this question, and asked about its motivation, saying: “The white dragon will emerge from among us; please wait a moment.” Presently they saw a tail like a silver serpent sprout from his back, and the water clouding as mist and vapour rolled across its surface; raising his head like the finest chopsticks [?], he swam away. Later, the prefectural commander Zhang Zixiu had a convent built atop the well, calling it Remembering Those Afar, with a pavilion named Water Drawn From Afar.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.265-66 (Tale 482):

井有白龍

蘇東坡至海南城東,見有雙井,相去咫尺,而味兩般,號雙井,水源出巖石中。東坡酌水異 [266] 之,曰:「吾尋白龍不見,今知居此水中乎!」同遊者怪問其故,曰:「白龍當為我出,請徐待之。」俄見其脊尾如生銀蛇,忽水渾有雲氣浮水面,舉首如插工筯,乃泳而去。後有郡守張子修為造庵井上,號思遠,亭名泂酌。

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 Dragon Spits A Precious Pearl 龍吐寶珠

Yangli Cliff was fifteen li from Nanxiong City, and there were two crags, the upper containing a dragon pool and the lower the Qilin Temple. When a harvest was affected by drought, the prefectural commander prayed for rain. One day clouds and mists arose together, and the eldest resident climbed the crag to look at them. A dragon spat out a pearl, as big as a hen’s egg, with a tiny dragon moving around within. The prefectural commander placed this in a box, wrapped in yellow cloth, and kept it in the area garrison post. Afterwards a prefectural commander stole it as he returned home, but as he arrived beneath the ridge there arose high wind, lightning and rain. The commander was terrified, and immediately sent people to return it to its original place. After the chaos of war during the bingzi year of the Zhiyuan era (1276), it was no longer in existence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.265 (Tale 481):

龍吐寶珠

楊歷巖距南雄城十五里,有二巖,上有龍潭,下有祈林寺。歲旱,郡守禱而雨。一日雲霧雜襲,父宿登巖視之,龍吐一珠,大如雞子,中有小龍動躍,郡守以匣載,以黃袱裹之,留鎮此鄉。後有郡守私竊而歸者,至於嶺下,遂烈風雷雨。守驚,徑差人送還本處。至元丙子大兵,後不存矣。

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).