Zhao Yun Causes Catastrophe Through Drink 趙雲因酒德禍

*Translation edited with help from Ofer Waldman – many thanks, Ofer!*

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in twenty strokes of the cane. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, who invited him to talk. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They then said: “Some months ago. Because this section respects the gentleman, I suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, but at the gentleman’s urging I suffered heavy punishment.” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, clouding his mind from dawn to dusk. After about a month, they bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads and to twist their limbs. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Thinking him quite humbled from his previous status, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Xian, who sent soldiers to search, seizing the bandit and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!”

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.15-16 (Tale 82):

趙雲因酒德禍

唐元和初,有天水趙雲,客遊鄜畤,過中部縣。縣寮有讌,吏擒一囚至,其罪不甚重,官寮願縱之。雲醉,因勸加於刑責,於是杖之二十。累月,雲出塞,行及蘆子關,道逢一人,邀之言款。日暮,延雲下道過其居,去路數里。於是命酒偶酌,既而問之曰:「君省相識否?」雲曰:「未嘗。此行實昧平昔。」乃曰:「前月。於是部值君,遭罹橫罪,與君素無讐隙,為君所勸,因被重刑。」雲遽起謝之。其人曰:「吾望子久矣,豈虞於此獲雪小恥。」乃命左右拽入一室。室有大坑,深三丈餘,中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣,推雲於中。饑食其糟,渴飲其汁,旦夕昏昏。幾一月,乃縛出之,使人蹙頞鼻額、挼捩肢體,手指、肩髀,皆改於舊,提出風中,倐然凝定,至於聲亦改。以為賤隸,為烏延驛中雜役。累歲,會其弟為御史,出按靈州獄,雲以前事密疏示之。 [16] 其弟告於觀察使李銛。由是發卒討尋,盡得姦人,而覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥,云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。

此條又見《廣記》卷二八六,題為《中部民》。

 

The tale is also found in Taiping Guangji, in a version that shows several small variations:

The Zhongbu Populace

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in a flogging. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, joking with him and using kind words. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They spoke again: “On such and such a month and day. Because this section respects the gentleman, one suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, why would the gentleman urge them on, causing me to suffer heavy punishment?” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, and in this way clouded his mind for about a month. They then bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads. His limbs twisted. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Having humbled him from his previous status, and left him brooding, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Ming, who sent soldiers to search, capturing all of the evil plotters and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!” From Du Yi Zhi.

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), vi, 286.2279:

中部民

唐元和初。有天水趙雲。客遊鄜畤。過中部縣。縣僚有燕。吏擒一囚至。其罪不甚重。官僚願縱之。雲醉。因勸加於刑。於是杖之。累月。雲出塞。行及蘆子關。道逢一人。耍之言款。日暮。延雲下道過其居。去路數里。於是命酒偶酌。既而問曰。君省相識否。雲曰。未嘗此行。實昧平昔。復曰:「前某月日。於是部值君。某遭罹橫罪。與君素無讐隙。奈何為君所勸,因被重刑。雲遽起謝之。其人曰。吾望子久矣。豈虞於此獲雪小耻。乃命左右。拽入一室。室有大坑。深三丈餘。坑中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣。推雲於中。飢食其糟。渴飲其汁。於是昏昏幾一月。乃縛出之。使人蹙頞鼻額。挼捩肢體。其手指肩髀。皆改舊形。提出風中。倐然凝定。至於聲亦改。遂以賤隸蓄之。為烏延驛中雜役。累歲。會其弟為御史。出按靈州獄。雲以前事密疏示之。其弟言於觀察使李銘。由是發卒討尋。盡得奸宄。乃覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥。云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。出獨異志

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Liu Ling’s Lack Of Restraint 劉伶狂放

Liu Ling[1] enjoyed drinking, and often undressed and went naked without screening himself; people saw this and reproved him. Ling said: “I am housed and roofed by the heavens and earth, with my room serving as trousers and underwear; if my lord has no business here, why enter my pants?” The others laughed and withdrew.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.10 (Tale 65):

劉伶狂放

劉伶好酒,常袒露不挂絲,人見而責之。伶曰:「我以天地為棟宇,屋室為裩袴,君等無事,何得入我裩袴中?」其人笑而退。

[1] On the poet Liu Ling 劉伶 (221-300 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Ling_(poet).

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)

A Snake Steals Wine And Drinks 蛇竊酒飲

Zhou Bixian was supervisor of the Panfeng wine store in Wuxi County, Changzhou. He used fragrant medicinal material to produce his yeast, bringing forth a dense fragrant cloud. The flavour of his wine was pure and clear, and it was produced in top, middle and lower qualities. When distilling the wine, he made offerings to deities, slaughtering a sheep and a pig, carrying out the rite of the three offerings in his official robes, and when this was complete sending the wine out to all levels of officials at the court. One day, at the autumn offering, the storehouse clerk came reporting that there were holes in the clay of the highest grade wine flasks. When he was taken to see, several hundred flasks were indeed quite empty. The clerks thought it strange that those chosen and cleaned as offerings to the spirits had not been affected, and nobody knew the cause of it all. A month later, laughing voices were suddenly heard in the wine store, and when they peeped in they saw a crowd of children sucking from the mouths of the wine jars; when the doors were opened they all vanished into the earth. He hastily ordered that the floor be excavated, and at a depth of three chi (about 1m), they found a huge serpent lying drunk, with several dozen smaller snakes wound around beside it, and they realized that those spoiling the wine were snakes. His heart weighed down with doubt and bewilderment, gloomy and without joy, [lacuna] within two months he had resigned and returned to his home region.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.258 (Tale 469):

蛇竊酒飲

周必先監無常州錫縣潘封酒庫,用香藥料造麯,香氣氤氳,酒味清洌,有上中下三等。酒熟祭神,刺羊刺豕,庫官展裹行三獻之禮,事畢分送朝官監司太守以下。一日秋祭,庫吏走報,謂上等酒瓶泥皆有孔,取而視之,則數百瓶皆空空如也。官吏以為怪,擇其潔者供祀神,不之顧,亦莫知所自也。越一月,忽聞酒庫有笑語聲,潛視之,則有羣小兒口吸瓶上,開門則失入地矣。急命掘地,深三尺,有巨蛇醉卧,數十小蛇旋繞其旁,始知壞酒者此蛇也。其心疑怪,鬱鬱不樂, [ ] 踰兩月以事罷歸。

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 Monkey Speaks Of Fortune And Misfortune 猴言禍福

The officials of Pingyin County, in Dongping Circuit, suffered a great many thefts of clothing and other things, and despite searching everywhere they found no trace. There was a rich household which had also lost property, and they were just sighing and giving up when a voice came from the still night air: “I stole them; I am the lord of the four chamberlains, and the things have been buried in such-and-such a place.” When they searched there they did indeed find the items, and the people marvelled greatly at this. When some people summoned it back, there arose a cloud of black wind, which immediately extinguished their lamps and fires. Immediately after, somebody clapped their hands and said “Quiet!” over and over again, and then spoke with great effect of fortune and misfortune.

One day Zhao Da, of Donghe County, invited the Lord of the Four Chamberlains to receive offerings, but Registrar Dong of Feicheng addressed Zhao Da: “What need is there to offer to him? Please make offerings to me.” Zhao said: “Whenever one gives to a deity, all the food is eaten in full.” Dong said: “How can a spirit need to eat so much? Why not leave half in the hall?” The spirit then moved and addressed Zhao and Dong: “I am going to leave.” Soon after the lost things came back. One day, someone spotted a macaque with a very long tail lying drunk among the mulberry fields in Pingyin Village, and thus realised that this was a monkey spirit. The monkey appears sporadically in Dongping Prefecture to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.253 (Tale 456):

猴言禍福

東平路平陰縣官吏,被人偷盗衣物甚多,遍索無迹。有一富戶失物,方歎息間,忽夜靜空中有云:「我偷了,我是四郎君,物見存某處。」尋之果在,人多神之。有人邀致,即有黑風一陣,急滅燈火。須臾,拍手靜稱者數四,卻言禍福甚驗。一日東河縣人趙大請四郎君祭賽,有肥城董主簿者謂趙大曰:「何須祭他,請祭我。」趙曰:「每祭神,皆食盡方已。」董云:「神如何食得許多,且留一半於堂。」神行謂趙、董曰:「我將去矣。」須臾失物至。一日,有人見一猢猻長尾,醉卧平陰村下桑田內,因知是猴精也。至今猶在東平府出沒。

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 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》

 

 

 

A Dead Woman Bewitches People 死婦迷人

In a guiyou year, Qing Yang, the Censor of Hubei, had an intense dream about his term of office. Among the populace was a woman who was somewhat attractive and killed her husband, having different ambitions for herself. Her sentence being execution and display in the marketplace, when the hour of execution arrived a young physician saw her and said: “It will be enough if I take this person as a wife; have pity! Have pity!” He then acted like he was drunk, constantly smiling and giggling at the woman. Her father asked a Buddhist priest to deal with him and certify that the city god had arrested her soul; he said in judgement: “This person killed her husband and has already been subjected to the law of the realm. If she harms people after death, then she should be subject to heavenly punishment.” How grave! Those youths who harbour evil thoughts in their presumptuousness should take this as a warning.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.242 (Tale 437):

死婦迷人

癸酉,湖北憲青陽夢炎任內,民間有一婦人,稍有姿色,戕夫而有別志。獄成棄市,臨刑時有少年醫生見云:「我得此人為妻足矣,可惜!可惜!」生自此如醉,常對此婦人嬉笑。其父請法師治之,牒城隍拘其魂,判云:「生戕其夫,已遭王法;死復害人,當置天刑。」甚矣!後生妄起邪心者,當以為戒。

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).

Ghosts Play Music 鬼動絲竹

Zhao [?]Efu was Deputy Magistrate in Tanzhou, and had been in the post for two months. One evening, returning from a drinking engagement with colleagues, at midnight he heard the sound of strings and woodwind coming from the next wall; Zhao wondered at this, and questioned his retinue, who answered: “Next door is an old residence with courtyard and garden; whenever it is rainy and overcast music and drums start up together, but it is not music of this world.” Once, not long after, Chong, one of Zhao’s deputies, had died suddenly, and when they were about to collect his coffin Chong’s corpse suddenly leapt up and sat, [?]stiffening its feet[?], and sticking out its tongue three or four cun (roughly inches), it then bit down, and blood flowing freely, suddenly fell on its back and [?]expired[?]. Outside the hall the music sounded even more clear and resonant than before. It was then they realised that these were ghosts of those dying suddenly.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.238 (Tale 429):

鬼動絲竹

趙通判[王+葛]夫倅潭州,在任兩月。一夕,同僚會飲歸,夜半聞隔牆有管絃絲竹之聲,趙怪之,問左右,乃曰:「隔牆乃是舊宅院花園,凡遇陰雨,鼓樂交作,非陽世之音樂也。」曾不踰時,趙倅一寵暴亡,臨斂棺時,寵屍忽躍起而坐,札腳,吐舌長三四寸,咬血淋漓,須臾偃逝,庭外絲竹之音響亮非常比。時乃知皆此暴亡之鬼也。

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).