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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Zhang Baocang Achieves Eminence Through Medicine 張寶藏因醫致貴

During the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), Zhang Baocang was returning to Yueyang after ending his duty as Chief Secretary to the Imperial Guard, when he encountered a youth hunting and eating fresh meat in the wilds. Leaning against a tree he let out a long sigh and said: “Zhang Baocang is aged seventy and has never once had meat and wine like this; what a shame!” By his side there was a monk, who pointed and said: “Within sixty days, you will ascend to the third official grade; how is this something to sigh over?” When he finished speaking, he vanished. Baocang marvelled at this, and immediately returned to the capital. At that time Taizong (r. 626-49 CE) was suffering terribly with dysentery, and a crowd of physicians had no effect, so a decree was promulgated asking whether anyone in the court or retinue had the ability to treat the illness, promising them a rich reward. Baocang had once suffered from the same disease, so prepared a memorial to the throne in answer to the decree, prescribing beans simmered in milk. The emperor took it, and recovered instantly. A decree was passed down to the minister of state appointing him to the fifth official grade. Wei Wei obstructed this, so for more than a month he did not advance any plans. The emperor’s illness recurred, and he asked his retinue: “I previously took beans simmered in milk and this was effective.” He again ordered them to bring him forward, and after a single sip was cured once more. The emperor asked: “I had ordered to award him advancement to grade five, but have not seen him accept the post; why is this?” Wei was afraid, and said: “At the time the decree was issued, it was not clear whether this would be a military or civil branch of the clerks.” The emperor grew angry: “For governing we require a chancellor; we might as well appoint him to the third grade. I am the Son of Heaven; how can this not be up to me?” He therefore said in a loud voice: “Granted civil office in the third grade!” He stood and was appointed Minister for Protocol, and that was exactly sixty days later.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 74):

張寶藏因醫致貴

唐貞觀中,張寶藏為金吾長史嘗因下直歸櫟陽,路逢少年畋獵,割鮮野食。倚樹長歎曰:「張寶藏身年七十,未嘗得一食酒肉如此者,可悲哉!」傍有一僧,指曰:「六十日內,官登三品,何足歎也。」言訖不見。寶藏異之,即時還京。時太宗苦病痢疾,衆醫不效,即下詔問殿廷左右,有能治此疾者,當重賞之。寶藏曾困此疾,即具疏答詔,以乳煎蓽方進。上服之,立瘥。宣下宰臣:與五品官。魏微難之,逾月不進擬。上疾復作,問左右曰:「吾前服乳煎蓽茇有效。」復令進之,一啜又平復。上問曰:「嘗令與進方人五品官,不見除授,何也?」徵懼曰:「奉詔之際,未知文武二吏。」上怒曰:「治得宰相,不妨授三品;我天子也,豈不及汝邪?」乃厲聲曰:「與三品文官!」立授鴻臚卿,時正六十日矣。

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)

Bian Hu’s Strange Corpse 卞壺屍異

Director of the Jin Department for State Affairs Bian Hu died during the Su Jun affair, and was buried in Shangyuan County.[1] Later, when thieves opened his tomb, they saw that Hu was greying at the temples, but he appeared to be alive, his two hands curled into fists, and the armour at the back of both hands pierced through. The Emperor An (r. 396-419 CE) granted ten thousand cash and ordered he be reburied.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.12 (Tale 71):

卞壺屍異

晉尚書令卞壺死蘇峻之難,葬在上元縣。後盗發其墓,見壺鬢髮蒼白,面色如生,兩手皆拳,甲穿於手背。安帝賜錢十萬,令改葬焉。

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] On Bian Hu 卞壺 (courtesy name Wangzhi 望之, 281-328 CE), a senior official at the Jin court who died in battle resisting the revolt led by Su Jun 蘇峻 (d. 328CE). See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8D%9E%E5%A3%BC, and on the revolt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su_Jun.

Liu Pi Requests Divination 劉闢求卦

Soon after Liu Pi[1] of the Tang had passed the imperial examinations, he visited a diviner to confirm, by means of casting yarrow from a calabash, that he would certainly receive an official salary. The gourd released a blind pair, and when the diviner was finished, he spoke to Pi: “Twenty years from now, you will be appointed in the southwest, and it will not end well.” Pi left rolls of silk as a gift. Afterwards, he ‘threw off his commoner’s clothes’, following Secretariat Chief Wei to Xichuan and rising to serve as Imperial Censor and Superior Administrator of the Army On Campaign. After twenty years, Wei passed away, sending Pi to court to report this, requesting advancement to Dongchuan. The decree did not permit this. Pi therefore dressed in simple clothes and rode alone back to the calabash diviner. Using the yarrow, when the stalks had aligned and the divination was complete, they addressed Pi: “Twenty years ago I once made a divination for someone and received the result ‘Mishap to follow’. Now we get the same reading again; is this not the virtue of the ancients?” Pi then submitted in agreement. The calabash diviner said: “If you ask other people about this, catastrophe will reach you.” Pi did not entirely trust him. He returned to Shu, and indeed rebelled. Emperor Xianzong (r. 805-20 CE) caught him and executed him on Gao Street.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.11 (Tale 67):

劉闢求卦

唐劉闢初登第,詣卜者葫蘆生筮得一卦,以定官祿。葫蘆生雙瞽,卦成,謂闢曰:「自此二十年,祿在西南,不得善終。」闢留束素與之。其後脫褐,從韋令公西川,官至御史大夫,為行軍司馬。既二十年,韋病薨,使闢入奏,請益東川。詔未允。闢乃微服單騎,復詣葫蘆生。筮之,揲蓍成卦,謂闢曰:「吾二十年前常與一人曾卜得『無妄之隨』,今復得此卦,非曩昔賢乎?」闢即依阿唯諾。葫蘆生曰:「若審其人,禍將至矣。」闢不甚信。乃歸蜀,果叛。憲宗皇帝擒之,戮之藁街。

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] On Liu Pi 劉闢 (d. 806 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Pi_(official).

Murong Chui 慕容垂

Tang Taizong (r. 626-49 CE) was campaigning in Liao and when he reached Dingzhou there was a spirit by the roadside, dressed in white robes and standing tall atop a tomb, its spirited demeanour especially distinctive. When Taizong sent people to question it, it replied: “Our long-ago defeated the lord’s long-ago; the lord’s present defeats our present. Glory and splendour differ in each age; what use is the bitterness of chasing and seeking them?” Its speech being complete, it vanished. On further questioning, the tomb turned out to be that of Murong Chui.[1]

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, 327.2601

慕容垂

唐太宗征遼,行至定州,路側有一鬼,衣黃衣,立高冢上,神彩特異。太宗遣使問之,答曰:「我昔勝君昔,君今勝我今。榮華各異代,何用苦追尋。」言訖不見,問之,乃慕容垂墓。(出《靈怪集》)

[1] Murong Chui 慕容垂 (326-96 CE), a controversial figure, famously both betrayed and betrayer in struggles for power. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murong_Chui.

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).

The Great Serpent Of Chengdu 成都長蛇

In the Xianchun era, on the sixth day of the fourth month in the yichou year (23 April, 1265), the clerk Xia Yingchen of the Tanzhou government office made a report in an imperial bulletin, and one section within it read:

In Shenwenjiang County, Chengdu Prefecture, there was a mottled yellow snake, more than a hundred zhang (a zhang is about 3.3m) in length, a spirit radiance extending more than three hundred paces around, its mouth spitting out a fragrance of pepper and plum flowers, its vapour scorching more than twenty li; those people and animals killed by it are innumerable. On the third day of the seventh month last year (27 July, 1264), this prefecture gathered more than two thousand five hundred soldiers to apprehend it, but the serpent used its tail to turn and sweep the troops away. More than five hundred were drowned, and the rest all fled in terror. The emperor decreed that the Daoist Masters of Shu use their powers to deal with the matter; they have just slain it, and its bones are like mountains.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259 (Tale 470):

成都長蛇

咸淳乙丑四月六日,潭州書局夏應辰錄邸報從遞來,內一項云:「成都府申溫江縣有黃花斑蛇一條,長百餘丈,神光照三百餘步,口吐椒梅花香,薰灼二十餘里,殺人畜無數。去年七月三日,本府差甲士二千五百餘人收捕,蛇用尾掉卷軍士,溺死者五百餘人,餘皆驚遁。上旨命天師蜀中有法之士治之,方戮死,骨如山。」

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).