Wang Hu 王胡

Wang Hu lived under [Liu] Song rule (420-79 CE), and was from Chang’an. His paternal uncle had been dead some years when, in the twenty-third year of the Yuanjia era (446 CE), he suddenly reappeared and returned to the family home. He demanded Hu improve his conduct, in which there were defects, family affairs having been neglected. He punished Hu with five strokes of the cane. Passersby people in the neighbourhood heard both their conversation and the noise of the beating. They could also see the welts left by the cane, but could not see the manifestation, which appeared only to Hu himself. His uncle told Hu: “I did not deserve death. The tomb passage waits for my number to appear on the register of spirits. Today there will be a great gathering of officials and troops, and I fear that the village may come to harm, so I do not set out.” Hu could also make out a crowd of spirits in noise and disorder beyond the village boundary.

Presently his uncle said goodbye and departed, telling him: “I will come on the seventh day of the seventh month. This will be short visit, and I wish to take you along the roads of the nether world, to make you understand the consequences of virtue and of evil. There is no need to be extravagant in laying out offerings; tea and cakes will suffice.”

When the day came, he did indeed return. He told Hu’s family: “I’m now taking Hu to see the sights. When the trip is complete he will return. There is no reason for alarm.” Hu then felt tired and laid on his bed, then became quite still, as if he were quite dead. His uncle then took Hu deep into the mountain ranges, where they observed the various spirits and demons. Finally, they reached the highest peaks, and the various spirits spoke to Hu, and also laid out food. The produce and flavours were not so different from those in the world of the living, but the ginger was especially fresh and delicious. Hu yearned for this, and was about to return when those around him laughed and told him: “You should stay and eat this. You won’t get far anyway.”

Hu saw a further place, a vast and beautiful building, with gorgeous canopies and elegant bamboo mats. There were [2565] two young monks living in it, and when Hu arrived they laid out a great spread of fruit, betel nuts and other produce. Hu spent a long time travelling, and saw all the conequences of virtue and vice, both sweet and bitter. He then said his farewells to return, and his uncle told him: “You now understand the need to cultivate virtue. When you return home seek the white-foot āranya temple; these people are ascetics of the highest order, and you should afford them respect as your teachers.” These priests of Chang’an had white feet, and so were known to people at that time as the white-foot āranya.[1] They were shown great respect by Wei Lu, with Prince Lu revering them as his teachers.[2]

Hu followed these instructions, travelling to study at Gaoshan with a young monk. Amid the crowds, however, he suddenly caught sight of those two monks. Hu was greatly shocked, and went to speak to them, asking when they had arrived. The two monks replied: “We poor clerics belong to this very temple. We are not aware of any prior acquaintance with the gentleman.” Hu again described their meeting in the high mountains, but the assembled monks told him: “The gentleman is simply mistaken. How could that have taken place?” When the next day dawned, however, the two monks had departed without saying farewell. Hu thus informed the gathered Buddhist monks about the whole matter, and his meeting with the two monks on Gaoshan. The crowd were all astonished, and sent people to seek the pair of monks, but their location remains unknown.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2564-65:

王胡

宋王胡者。長安人也。叔死數載。元嘉二十三年。忽形見還家。責胡以修謹有缺。家事不理。罰胡五杖。傍人及鄰里。並聞其語及杖聲。又見杖瘢。而不見其形。唯胡獨得親接。叔謂胡曰。吾不應死。神道須吾筭諸鬼錄。今大從吏兵。恐驚損鄉里。故不將進耳。胡亦大見衆鬼紛鬧于村外。俄而辭去曰。吾來年七月七日。當復暫還。欲將汝行。遊歷幽途。使知罪福之報也。不須費設。若意不已。止可茶食耳。至期果還。語胡家人云。吾今將胡遊觀。觀畢當還。不足憂也。胡即頓臥牀上。泯然如盡。叔於是將胡遍觀群山。備觀鬼怪。末至嵩高山。諸鬼道胡。並有饌設。其品味不異世中。唯姜甚脆美。胡懷之將還。左右人笑云。止可此食。不得將遠也。胡又見一處。屋宇華曠。帳筵精美。有 [2565] 二少僧居焉。胡造之。二僧為設雜果梹榔等。胡遊歷久之。備見罪福苦樂之報。及辭歸。叔謂曰。汝即已知善之當修。返家尋白足阿練。此人戒行精高。可師事也。長安道人足白。故時人謂為白足阿練也。甚為魏虜所敬。虜王事為師。胡即奉此訓。遂與嵩山上年少僧者遊學。衆中忽見二僧。胡大驚。與敘乖闊。問何時來此。二僧云。貧道本住此寺。往日不意與君相識。胡復說嵩高之遇。衆僧云。君謬耳。豈有此耶。至明日。二僧不辭而去。胡乃具告諸沙門。敘說往日嵩山所見。衆咸驚怪。即追求二僧。不知所在。


[1] Sanskrit Āranya (hermitage, monastery) is transliterated in Chinese here as Alian 阿練, and elsewhere as Lanre/lanruo 蘭若 or Elianre/Alianruo 阿練若.

[2] This Wei Lu 魏虜 is not yet identified. Needs more work!

Shen Jizhi 沈寂之

Shen Jizhi was from Wuxing. During the Yuanjia era (424-53 CE), a spirit spoke and laughed at him suddenly out of the empty air, then continued to manifest, sometimes singing and sometimes weeping, and become especially exuberant at nighttime. Jizhi had a hearse, and the spirit pulled its traces alongside him and damaged it. Jizhi also had a great knife, which it hid in a deep pot. There was a large mirror, and that too was picked up and placed in a vessel.

From Yiyuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2564:

沈寂之

吳興沈寂之。以元嘉中。忽有鬼于空中語笑。或歌或哭。至夜偏盛。寂之有靈車。鬼共牽走。車為壞。寂之有長刀。乃以置甕中。有大鏡。亦攝以納器中。出異苑

Xu Daorao 徐道饒

In the tenth year of the Yuanjia era (433 CE), Xu Daorao suddenly saw a spirit, which told him it was one of his ancestors. At that time it was winter, and the weather was fine and clear. He had previously gathered rice and placed it beneath the roof, and the spirit told him: “You should lay out your rice to dry tomorrow. Afterwards there will be great rains.” Although the skies had not yet cleared, Rao followed this advice, and the spirit also assisted with the hand-cart. Later on, there was indeed continuous heavy rain. When it was visible to people, the spirit resembled a rhesus monkey. Rao requested talismans from a priest and suspended them at doors and windows. The spirit then gave a great laugh, and said: “You want to stop me with that? I can come and go via the dog flap!” Despite having said this, it no longer entered the house. After several days had passed, it sighed and said: “Your uncle Xu Bao is coming; I should not be seen by him.” The next day he did indeed arrive, and from then the strange events ceased.

From Yiyuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2562-63:

Xu Daorao 徐道饒

[2563] 徐道饒。以元嘉十年。忽見一鬼。自言是其先人。于時冬日。天氣清朗。先積稻屋下。云。汝明日可曝穀。天方大雨。未有晴時。饒從其教。鬼亦助輦。後果霖雨。時有見者。形如獼猴。饒就道士請符。懸著窗戶。鬼便大笑。欲以此斷我。我自能從狗竇中入。雖則此語。而不復進。經數日。歎云。徐叔寶來。吾不宜見之。后日果至。於是遂絕。出異苑

Xie Lingyun 謝靈運

In the fifth year Yuanjia (428 CE), Xie Lingyun[1] suddenly saw Xie Hui (390-426 CE).[2] Carrying his head in his hands, he came and sat by Lingyun’s bed, blood flowing and splashing around him and onto the marten-fur robe he was wearing, even flowing to fill a small casket. When Lingyun went to Linchuan Prefecture, huge worms suddenly appeared in his rice. Soon after he was executed.

From Yiyuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2562:

謝靈運

謝靈運以元嘉五年。忽見謝晦。手提其頭。來坐別牀。血流淋落。不可忍視。又所服貂裘。血淹滿篋。及為臨川郡。飯中欻有大蟲。遂被誅。出異苑


[1] Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385-433 CE), a highly regarded poet, was executed after becoming enmeshed in intrigues at the Liu Song court. His biography is found at Songshu, 617.1743-79.

[2] This is Xie Hui 謝晦 (courtesy name Xuanming 宣明, 390-426 CE), a senior general and highly regarded strategist implicated in revolt and rebellion against the Liu Song and eventually defeated and executed in 426 CE. His biography is found at Songshu, 414.1347-61. This tale is clearly an omen of doom.

Xie Hui 謝晦

When Xie Hui[1] (390-426 CE) was in Xingzhou, a bright red spirit, three chi tall (about one metre) appeared by the corner of a wall and approached him. In its hand it held a copper tray, and this was full of blood. When Hui got hold of this, it turned out to be a paper tray. In an instant, the spirit disappeared.

From Yiyuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2561-62:

謝晦

[2562] 謝晦在荊州。壁角間有一赤鬼。長可三尺。來至其前。手擎銅盤。滿中是血。晦得乃紙盤。須臾而沒。出異苑


[1] This is Xie Hui 謝晦 (courtesy name Xuanming 宣明, 390-426 CE), a senior general and highly regarded strategist implicated in revolt and rebellion against the Liu Song and eventually defeated and executed in 426 CE. His biography is found at Songshu, 414.1347-61. This tale is clearly an omen of doom.

A Secretary 給使

Quite recently someone took on a junior secretary. Over a long period the secretary repeatedly sought to return home, but without success. Some time later, this same clerk was sleeping beneath a south-facing window, when his employer noticed a woman in the doorway. Aged fifty or sixty, she was large and plump, and walked with some difficulty. As the clerk was sleeping, his covers had slipped off, and when the woman reached his bedside, she picked up the blanket and covered him again. She turned and went out through the door, but when the clerk turned on his side the cover slipped again, and the woman again put it back as it had been. The employer thought this very strange, and asked his clerk the following day why he had been so keen to return home. The clerk told him: “My mother is ill.” He asked again about her appearance and age, and all were just as he had seen, the only difference being that he said she was thin. Questioned again about her trouble, he replied: “A swelling sickness.” At this he gave the clerk leave to return. He set off, but on reaching home he was told that his mother had already been buried. It turned out that the fat shape he witnessed was a result of the swelling illness.

From Youminglu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2561:

給使

近世有人得一小給使。頻求還家未遂。後日久。此吏在南窗下眠。此人見門中有一婦人。年五六十。肥大。行步艱難。吏眠失覆。婦人至牀邊。取被以覆之。回復出門去。吏轉側衣落。婦人復如初。此人心怪。明問吏。以何事求歸。吏云。母病。次問狀貌及年。皆為所見。唯云形瘦不同。又問母何患。答云。病腫。而即與吏假。使出。便得家信云。母喪。追什所見之肥。乃是其腫狀也。出幽明錄

A Fuyang Native 富陽人

At the beginning of the Song Yuanjia era (424-53 CE), a native of Fuyang surnamed Wang set up a crab-catching weir in an empty ditch. At dawn he went to look at it, and saw the end of a wooden casket, more than two chi (60cm) long, which had split the trap. The crabs had all escaped. He mended the weir, removing the casket and placing it on the bank. When he went to check on it the next day, he found the casket back in the weir, which was ruined in the same way. Wang mended the weir once more. When he went to look again, what he saw was the same as when he had started. Wang suspected that this piece of wood was a supernatural entity. He therefore put it in his crabbing basket, tied this to his carrying pole and returned. He said to himself: “When I get back I should chop this up and burn it.” Three li short of the house he heard a sudden movement, and turned his head to find that the wood had transformed into a thing with a human face, monkey body, one hand and one single foot. Addressing Wang, it said: “By nature I am very fond of crabs, so I entered the water and destroyed your crabbing weir. We have both already suffered greatly, and I hope the gentleman can forgive me, opening the basket and letting me out. I am a mountain spirit, and we should help one another; I could spread your weir wide and wait for your crabs.” Wang replied: “You bully and abuse people, but that changes now. Your crimes require a death sentence.” The thing turned and stamped, begging to be released, and asked over and over what Wang’s given and family names might be. Wang turned his head but refused to answer. As they came closer to the house, the thing said: “So you won’t release me, and you won’t tell me your name. There’s nothing for it but to await execution.” When Wang arrived at home, he kindled a fire and burned the thing. Afterwards all was still and there was no more strangeness.

Local customs call such things ‘mountain elves’,[1] and report that, if they know a person’s family and given names, they can cause harm to that person. They thus ask with great persistence, in order to cause injury and to free themselves.

From Shuyiji.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 323.2560:

富陽人

宋元嘉初。富陽人姓王。于窮瀆中作蟹籪。旦往視。見一材頭。長二尺許。在籪裂開。蟹出都盡。乃修治籪。出材岸上。明往看之。見材復在籪中。敗如前。王又治籪。再往視。所見如初。王疑此材妖異。乃取納蟹籠中。繫擔頭歸。云。至家當破燃之。未之家三里。聞中倅動。轉顧。見向材頭變成一物。人面猴身。一手一足。語王曰。我性嗜蟹。此寔入水破若蟹籪。相負已多。望君見恕。開籠出我。我是山神。當相佑助。使全籪大待蟹。王曰。汝犯暴人。前後非一。罪自應死。此物轉頓。請乞放。又頻問君姓名為何。王回顧不應答。去家轉近。物曰。既不放我。又不告我姓名。當復何計。但應就死耳。王至家。熾火焚之。後寂無復異。土俗謂之山魈。云。知人姓名。則能中傷人。所以勤問。正欲害人自免。出述異記


[1] This term is shanxiao 山魈.

Duke Cao’s Ship 曹公船

In the mouth of the Ruxu there lies a great ship, capsized amid the river, and only visible when the water level falls. The elders say that this was Duke Cao’s boat.[1] Fishermen often spend the night alongside it, mooring their vessels to the hulk. They frequently hear the sound of singing, accompanied by reed organs and bamboo flutes, and smell extraordinary perfumes. If they do manage to sleep, they dream that people warn them off, saying: “Do not approach the official singers.”

Tradition has it that a ship bearing Duke Cao’s singers overturned at that place. It remains there to this day.


From Guanggujinwuxingji.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 322.2553:

曹公船

濡須口有大船。船覆在水中。水小時便出見。長老云。是曹公船。常有漁人夜宿其旁。以船繫之。但聞竽笛絃歌之音。又香氣非常。漁人始得眠。夢人驅遣云。勿近官妓。傳云。曹公載妓船覆于此。至今在焉。出廣古今五行記


[1] Duke Cao 曹公 here refers to the poet, general and ruler Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220 CE), made notorious as an villainous usurper in the Three Kingdoms.

Lü Shun 呂順

[2552] When Lü Shun had prepared his wife for burial, he wished to marry a younger paternal cousin of hers. He therefore prepared three tombs, but each fell into disrepair and not one was completed. One day Shun was lying down during the daytime when he saw his wife coming to him. She got into bed with him, her body as cold as ice. Shun spoke of the differences between living and dead, and sent her away. His wife later also saw her younger relative, and told her, angrily: “How many males are there under heaven? Yet you and I have to share a husband. He may not be able to finish those tombs. I will do it.” Presently both husband and wife passed away.

From Youminglu.

(uncertain translation)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 322.2551-52:

呂順

[2552] 呂順喪婦。要娶妻之從妹。因作三墓。構累垂就。輒無成。一日順晝臥。見其婦來就同寢。體冷如冰。順以死生之隔。語使去。後婦又見其妹。怒曰。天下男子復何限。汝乃與我共一婿。作冢不成。我使然也。俄而夫婦俱殪。出幽明錄

Yuan Qi 袁乞

[2555] Yuan Qi was from Wuxing. Soon before his wife died, she took Qi’s hand and asked: “When I die, will the gentleman remarry?” Qie replied: “I could not bear to.” Later, however, when he did take another wife, he saw his wife appear in broad daylight and say: “The gentleman swore an oath. How can you abandon your word?” She then took up a knife and cut his private parts, although not to the point of killing him. In terms of the human order he was eternally lost.

From Yiyuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 322.2554-55:

袁乞

[2555] 吳興袁乞。妻臨亡。把乞手云。我死。君再婚否。乞曰。不忍。後遂更娶。白日見其婦語云。君先結誓。何為負言。因以刀割陰。雖不致死。〈死字原闕。據明鈔本補。〉人理永廢也。出異苑