Instigating Lawsuits 教唆詞訟

The father of Wen Guangzan, from youth to old age, was tangled in successive lawsuits every single year. When he asked Master Tan Xiangshan about karmic causes, he replied: “Your father was a writer of suits and complaints in a previous life; this is the retribution ordered for him.” Guangzan implored him for salvation with a prayer session. The Master instructed him to make shackles by sticking paper to lengths of bamboo and ordered him to first imprison himself, and after three days express his repentance. Should those among the present generation who instigate lawsuits be forgiven so simply? This should be taken as a warning, and they should wake up to this truth.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103 (Tale 177):

教唆詞訟

文光讚父,自少至老,每歲獄訟連緜。以宿因問曇相禪師,曰:「汝父前生本寫詞狀人,故令反受其報。」光讚懇求禳度。師教以紙黏竹簟為桎梏,令先自囚,三日後為懺悔。今之世有教唆興訟者,寧免乎此?姑錄為戒,宜猛省焉。

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).

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Rice and Dried Meat Filled Lung 米脯灌肺

In Hangzhou there was once a seller of filled lung soup. Each day when night fell he shouldered his carrying-pole and set off into the street, walking his rounds in harmony and peace. One evening, a scholar of the National University, arriving extremely drunk by the head of his pole, suddenly threw up in the pot. The seller, not daring to say anything, extinguished his lamp and entered a small alley, wiping off the extra material, and then came back out. Seeing that the vomit still included grains of rice, he stuck on a new straw marker, changing the name of his wares to ‘Rice and Dried Meat Filled Lung’. People who were ignorant of the situation bought and ate all of it.

Had it not been for this period of wild behaviour, that scholar would never have made this ‘payment’, and brought such a day of trade!

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.71 (Tale 123):

米脯灌肺

杭州舊有賣灌肺湯者,每於入夜,夯擔出街,旋行調和。一夕,有太學士人乘醉到擔頭,忽然漚酒入於鍋內,賣者不敢言,即滅燈火挑入小巷內,拭括加料而後復出。視之嘔中尚有飯糝,遂插標改其名曰「米脯灌肺」,不知者皆買食之。否則一時喧鬨,士人未必有償,而一日之經紀休矣!

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

The Living Avenge Unjust Death 生報死冤

In Jianyang County there was a woman of the Liu family who because of an illicit relationship with a passing traveller, one Yu Er. Yu therefore, when she later buried her husband, exhausted all his property, giving it to the woman for her expenses. When she took up with someone else, Yu felt deeply hurt and whipped the woman, after which she hung herself. Her son covered up the matter and buried her. The woman was then reincarnated in the family of Wang Qianliu in Jiankang, remaining as his daughter. Her birth took place on the same year, month and day as the woman’s suicide.

Yu returned to seeking books and literature, and travelled to Jiankang, happening to visit Wang Qianliu’s house. Wang and Yu were aware that the girl’s birth tallied with the death of the adultress, so raised her as an adopted child. On reaching thirteen or fourteen, the girl formed an illicit attachment with the youthful son of a neighbour, but Yu prohibited this and declared it unacceptable. One day, Yu Zhai, who was serving as Grand Military Commissioner, was travelling by sedan chair and followed Yu to the second entrance, when he came across the girl weeping and crying in an upper storey, saying that her father and Yu had forced her into adultery. Yu was terrified at being questioned by the military commission about these strange events, and, falling into a panic, hung himself and died. The next year, the girl married the neighbour’s young son.

The adulterer died in Min (Fujian), but the retribution of this matter took place several thousand li away. It can clearly be seen that injustice inevitably faces retribution, like an echo following a sound. Matters of uneasy conscience can never be endured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126 (Tale 220):

生報死冤

In 建陽縣有劉家一婦,因與衢客余二者私通,余因此婦喪夫,遂罄其財本,以給此婦用度。此婦復通他人,余痛箠之,婦自縊而死。其子匿其事葬之。此婦乃託生於建康王千六家,仍為女子。所生之日,乃此婦之自縊年月日時也。余復營求文籍,往建康販賣,遇於王千六家。王與余心知女生年與姦婦死日符合,遂就王螟蛉為女看養。年及十三四歲,此女遂私與鄰之少年子通,余禁之不可。一日,裕齋為制置使,行轎從余二門首,遇此女在樓上狂叫,謂其父余二強逼之姦私。余恐制司怪問,被此一嚇,自經而死。後年,其女嫁鄰之少年子為妻。姦婦死於閩,乃責報於數千里外,信知冤必有報,如響隨聲,虧心之事,斷斷乎不可為已。

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).

Slaughtered Eels Take a Life 殺鱔取命

The Buddhist priest Zhang Daolong of the Guangxiao Temple had been addicted to eating eel since birth, claiming that the warm flesh could provide additional warmth, and the bones and blood be fed to hens. This continued for several years. One day, he bought a tub of eels, planning to kill them the following morning. That night he dreamt that there were several hundred eels in the tub and among them two grew to be very large, suddenly taking on human form, standing up before him and saying: “Our people have long filled your belly; now we demand your life.” Zhang hacked off their heads with a blade and awoke with a start, his whole body bathed in cold sweat, and spent the whole day in a miserable daze, entirely unaware of his disciples’ words. Two months later, hearing a rumour that the cavalry of the Pacification and Control Commissioner Zhao were approaching, the monks fled together, Zhang hanging back alone to cook and eat his eels before following. His soup was only just ready when the horsemen arrived, and Zhang was taken prisoner. Tortured, beaten and facing demands for silver and gold, he had nothing to give, so the cavalry force-fed him the boiling soup, killing him.

The priests of the He Temple use this to warn people not to eat eels. These eels may be very small things that look like worms, but at midnight they can raise their heads and face the north. Because the people of the world desire a tasty mouthful and a full stomach, these will be slaughtered in restaurants on any given day, the numbers of lives harmed reaching untold tens of thousands. The deliciousness and flavour in this world is boundless, what bitterness in their consumption! If we can be aware of this warning, and better still encourage its spread, then the lives of many things will be preserved and our own lifespan extended too; this is truly a greatly laudable act, and should be taken seriously and never forgotten.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.99 (Tale 170):

殺鱔取命

光孝宮道人章道隆,生平嗜食鱔魚,謂肉暖可以資補,骨血可以餧雞。如是數載。一日,買鱔一盆,方欲次早殺之。夜夢盆中鱔魚數百條,中有兩條至大,忽化人形,立於其前,曰:「我輩久飽爾腹,今就爾索命。」章用刀砍其頭而驚覺,遍身冷汗,終日恍惚以不樂,以言其徒弟,俱不之悟。越二日,傳聞趙招討軍馬到來,道衆皆避,獨章欲俟煮鱔喫,後走。煮湯方沸而軍馬亦到,章為所獲。拷掠需索金銀,無可應付,為軍人以煮鱔湯灌口而死。自是合宮道士戒不食鱔。夫鱔至微之物,其形如蟲,夜半尚能矯首朝北。世人慾一甘口飽腹,與夫食肆一日所殺,不知所害幾萬命矣。世間珍味無限,何苦而食之!若能知戒,更加廣勸,則物得活命,而我壽亦延,實一大美事,宜信之毋忘。

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 Dead Servant Sells Geese 死僕賣鵝

The Li household of Anqing Fu had a servant named Hu Baiwu, who had died several years ago. One day, setting off for the capital, Li saw someone in the street resembling him, at which he exclaimed and questioned the seller. He said: “Your humble servant is actually a ghost; not originally fated to die yet, my ethereal soul could not submit to authority, and has no option but to drift through the mortal world.” Questioned about the things he sold, he said: “These are items from this (mortal) world; every day I bring the travelling pedlar’s stall, and the money I use is also of this world.” Questioned as to his accommodation, he said: “At night I rest at the roadside, on a butcher’s board, where the guards on patrol don’t see me; those trading like this are very many, and are of course ghosts.”

It can therefore be seen that mixed among the floating population (huhai) are ghostly people; even grasping their fingers and pointing none would see this truly.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.240 (Tale 433):

死僕賣鵝

安慶府李家有僕胡百五,已死數年。一日如京,於街上見賣炙鵝者似之,呼而問。曰:「某實鬼也,本未當死,魂無歸附,未免混凡。」詰其所賣之物,曰:「即世間物,每日就鋪家行販來,所用之錢即世間錢也。」詰其止宿之地,曰:「夜則泊於街旁肉案上,巡更軍吏皆不得見,經紀買賣如某輩甚多,固鬼也。」 以是見湖海之內,人鬼混淆,持指示數人,皆不識耳。

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)

Fox Spirits Present Cases 妖狐陳狀

Zhou Ju’an of Ancheng passed the civil examinations when very young, and was first employed as registrar and constable of Songzi in Jiangling. One night within a few months of taking up the post, his father Zhou Hongbo dreamt that the sage protector Zhenwu addressed him, saying: “Your son began his official career very young, but in recent days fox spirits have transformed into seven women bringing complaints in order to turn his head; you should deal with the matter.” As soon as he awoke, he told his son about the dream. Ju’an waited until dawn to see to the matter, first, having already summoned military officers to the government office, he waited for them to arrive. Suddenly, when he had started to judge cases, seven women came to make speeches presenting their complaints, and the constable-registrar judged the cases with composure. Before long the hubbub and noise became extreme, at which he shouted to the soldiers, who shackled and jailed them, although two had already slipped away. The five people all changed into foxes, but said: “You should not kill us, killing us would not be auspicious.” The registrar-constable did not answer, but eventually had them flogged to death, reporting the matter to the government office.

At that time the Vice Grand Councilor Bie was a prominent judge in Jiangling, and was especially pleased to receive his report, soon writing a proclamation that he would come and commend Constable-Registrar Zhou at his office. The Zhous, father and son, on receiving this proclamation, were more than a little surprised, and wondered whether there might be some other reason behind it. On his arrival, Vice Grand Councilor Bie, seeing them, said: “Your Honour passed the civil examination very young, at a similar age to your servant. Your servant too, on first taking office, had fox spirits come having transformed themselves into women, and immediately had them executed. Your killing them, sir, was entirely fitting.” He then proclaimed that [Zhou] serve as a judge among his subordinates. When the time came for the constable to set out and take up this post, he prepared his cap and clothing and said farewell to his ancestral temple. Suddenly he saw, in front of him as he walked, an elderly fox sitting upright with some dignity in the hall. It spoke: “The gentleman has killed five of our people, and ought to be killed for this; as the gentleman is moving away, the rich and powerful of near and far must order the taking of five people from the gentleman’s family.” The constable was angry, and struck out at the old fox with the tablet he was holding, at which it died.

Within two years, his two younger brothers died, his two younger sisters died, his father died, and people said this was the fox spirit’s vengeance. Why? One’s life and death is a matter of fate; how could a fox spirit [252] wrest this away? This was merely chance. Ju’an later rose to the seventh grade in Nanxiong, and eventually died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.251-52 (Tale 453):

妖狐陳狀

安成周居安,少年登科,初任江陵松滋簿尉。之任未數月,乃父周洪伯夜夢所事佑聖真武告之曰:「汝子初仕少年,來日有妖狐化作七婦人告狀,以惑汝子,可治之。」翌早,洪伯以所夢告其子。居安待旦視事,先已約束兵使在衙,待其來矣。方判事間,忽有婦女七人來陳狀詞,簿尉判事自若。未幾喧嘩之甚,遂喝兵使縛之,枷鎖入獄,已失其二。五人盡變為狐,卻云:「不可殺我,殺我不祥。」簿尉不答,竟杖死之,以其事申府。時別參政之傑判江陵,得申狀極喜,尋檄周簿尉過本府稟儀。周之父子當被檄之時,不無驚訝,疑有異故。及至,別參政見之,乃云:「足下少年登科,與某登科年相若也。某之初任亦有妖狐化婦而來者,當即殺之。君殺之甚宜。」遂檄為椽屬。尉捧檄啟行之時,具冠裳辭家廟,忽見前所走之老狐踞坐公廳云:「公殺我五人,本合殺公以去,富貴方遠,必公家取五人之命。」尉怒,以所執手版擊之,老狐隨斃。二年之內,二弟死,二妹死,其父死,或曰「曰」原作「者」,據明刻本改。妖狐之報也。吁!夫人死生有命,豈妖狐所 [252] 能奪也,第偶然爾。居安後得七秩南雄而終。

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 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).