The Xiao of Geshan 閣山𤡔

In the xinmao year of the Gandao era (1171 CE), no rain fell in Raozhou for a very long time, and the rivers’ flow was blocked. Three fishermen of Geshan Route went empty-handed to the Fan River to catch fish. Two went ahead, but one of them felt his two thighs suddenly turn cold as ice, feeling a slight trace of saliva, and, terrified lest there be the lair of a xiao beneath him, scrambled out urgently.[1] One person alone did not see this and, having told his family he would provide for them, stayed to return at dusk. Two days later, his corpse floated some five li distant, with a fist-sized hole below the left thigh, the whole body entirely white, that being due to a xiao having curled around it and sucked his blood. In shape the xiao is just like an eel, eight or nine chi in length (c.2.7m), and is a kind of flood dragon. Among the Geshan populace, one Li Shi once caught one of these.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙17.509

閣山𤡔

亁道辛卯歲,饒州久不雨,江流皆澁。閣山道漁者三人,空手入番江捕魚。二人先出,其一覺兩股忽冷如冰,微有涎沫,懼𤡔穴其下,故急出。獨一人不見,告其家守之,至暮而還。後二日,尸浮於五里外,左股下一穴如拳大,舉體皆白,蓋為𤡔所繞而吮其血也。𤡔狀全與鰻鱺魚同,長至八九尺,亦蛟類也。閣山民李十嘗捕得之。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

[1] The character xiao 𤡔 is treated by the MOE dictionary of character variants as a variation on xiao 梟 ‘owl’, but this story clearly indicates a rather interesting and different aquatic nature for the creature in question. See http://dict2.variants.moe.edu.tw/yitia/fra/fra01951.htm.

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A Spirit Uses Human Speech 神作人言

In the Song era, in a county belonging to Tanzhou there was a pawnbroker called Zhang Yong, who cut down a vertical post from the shrine to a spirit to reinforce the framework of a residence. The beam was finished but not yet painted. When Zhang and his dependents entered the house to look, they would often hear somebody answering them; if they asked for tea, it would say “Tea is coming.” If they asked for wine, it would say “Wine is coming.” There was nobody to be seen, but a voice could be heard. The population said this must be the spirit of the temple who had come to take the wood and secretly occupied the house, and if they could have an official of good fortune to calm and control it, they could later gradually move in successfully.

At that time a registrar called Zhao was travelling to his post, and, before entering the government hostel, stayed there for several days, and the voice temporarily stopped. Zhang then moved into the residence, but suddenly heard someone speaking again: “You had an official intimidate me, and will undergo imprisonment and come to meet me.” After that it fell silent. More than a year had passed when Zhang was summoned by a messenger from his superior and placed in charge of a prison, where he died one day, his body turning blue-black all over. When an official was appointed to investigate this, Zhang’s servant reported: “In the early morning I brought his meal, so I cooked an eel carp and sent it to him. He had only just finished eating when he tried to lie down and he died. [221] My sister-in-law once said that eel carp heads could treat illness, so the head has been preserved.” It was demanded that the head be examined, and the fish turned out to have four eyes. From this Zhang’s family understood that this must be a haunting by the spirit of the temple, and that this had cost him his life, so they decided to drop further legal proceedings.

It is well-known that four-eyed fish can kill people.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220-21 (Tale 391):

神作人言

宋朝潭之屬縣有典押張永者,伐神廟木豎一居稍壯,構架已畢,但未粉飾。張與其眷屬入內觀看,常有人應答,如喚茶,則曰「茶來」,如索酒,則曰「酒來」,不見有人,但聞有聲。衆謂此必廟神來取木而陰據此屋,若先得官員福氣鎮壓,然後徐徐遷入為好。適有趙主簿赴任,未入官舍,先寓數日,則其聲頓失。張遂遷入屋,忽又聞有云:「你令官員嚇我,候過獄中來與你相會。」自爾寂然。越一年餘,張為上司專人追呼,置司存(上三字原作「存置司」,據明刻本改。)於獄,一日死,而遍身青黑,委官究問,則其僕供云:「早晨送飯,乃煮一鰻鯉來與押,才喫未久,求卧而死。 [221] 其嫂曾云,鰻鯉魚頭可以醫瘵,今此頭尚存。」索至看驗,魚乃四目。其眷屬自知此必廟神為祟,以戕其性命,甘願息訟。信知四目魚能殺人者也。

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).

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).

Repentance for Killing Eels 殺鱔悔悟

Long ago a person named Wang something had an eating house and was a very skilled cook, specialising in killing eels. A Buddhist priest arrived at the restaurant and bought a bowl of eel for ten copper cash. When it arrived, he pressed his hands together and prostrated himself in greeting, and did not eat but left instead. This happened for several days. Shopkeeper Wang thought this strange and questioned him, at which the priest said: “You have mastered the preparation of eel but not yet attained the way, and therefore I do not eat. I will come again tomorrow; if you can sell a bowl of perfectly straight eel, I will repay double your money without hesitation.” Wang so-and-so said: “How can one make it straight?” The priest said: “You need to hold the eel with your hands, [99] right up until the stock boils, and then you can make them straight.” Wang laughed and said: “Won’t that hurt my hands?” The priest said: “Your two hands will know pain; what of the tens of thousands of eels’ lives?” Wang so-and-so then achieved a sudden enlightenment, abandoning his livelihood and never again opening his shop. Restricting himself to a vegetarian diet and chanting the name of the Buddha, he lived little more than a month before passing away.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.98-99 (tale 168):

殺鱔悔悟

昔有食店王某,善於庖饌,專殺鱔魚。有一道人至店,以銅錢十文買鱔一碗。及至,則合掌頂禮,不食而去。如是數日。王店怪而問之,道人曰:「你修事鱔魚尚未得法,所以不食。我明日再來,你賣一碗條直鱔魚,倍還你錢不妨。」王某曰:「何策得其條直?」道人曰:「你須以手握鱔, [99] 致之沸湯,即能條直。」王笑曰:「如手痛何?」道人曰:「爾雙手知痛,況鱔魚數萬命乎?」王某即頓悟,捨業不復開店,持素念佛,不逾月而亡。

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).