Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

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Tang Taizong’s Curly Whiskers 唐太宗虬髯

Emperor Taizong of the Tang (r. 626-49 CE) had curly whiskers from which a bow could be hung.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.19 (Tale 97):

唐太宗虬髯

唐太宗皇帝虬髯,可以掛弓。

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)

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)

 

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.