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).

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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).

A Monkey Becomes A Temple Spirit 猿為廟神

The Song emperor Lizong (Zhao Yun, r. 1224-64) summoned the thirty-fifth Daoist Heavenly Master to court, and as the tide was ebbing, he passed by the side of the Liuhe Pagoda, where he noticed that there were newly built temple wings to it, so stopped his sedan chair and asked its neighbours: “To what spirit is this dedicated? To misfortune or to fortune?” The commoners said: “A spirit of prosperity. The populace have just constructed this temple.” The Heavenly Master said: “Were it to have been one of misfortune, I would have exorcised it.” The commoners asked: “What for?” The Heavenly Master replied: “This is a white ape from Longhu Peak; it has taken many things, and I had not expected to see it treated as a spirit here.” He brandished his sword and rebuked it: “If you bring fortune to the populace, my punishment will not reach you; if you do not, you will be reported and face the consequences.” The temple stands to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.253 (Tale 457):

猿為廟神

宋理宗朝召三十五代天師赴京,退潮,道經六和塔側,見新廟翼然,停轎問其鄰曰:「此為何神?為禍為福?」民曰:「福神也。民方創此廟。」天師曰:「苟或為禍,吾將除之。」民曰:「何如?」天師謂:「此龍虎山一白猿,失去多載,不圖今日為神於此。」仗劍叱曰:「既福民,罰乃不及,苟或反是,必將奏誅。」至今廟猶在。

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 Brightly-Coloured Dragon Emblem 龍章五色

[3] The childhood name of Song Wudi, Liu Yu (356-422 CE) was Jinu. On the first evening after his birth, a splendid auspicious light penetrated the chamber. In his days of poverty and hardship, he arrived at the Zhulin Temple in Jingkou, lying down in the classroom, where there appeared the imperial dragon emblem in bright colours; the monks of the temple were astonished by it. Where the emperor halted and resided, people often saw a pair of small dragons, like the yi bird[1] in appearance. Later, when he attacked Dixinzhou, there was a huge serpent, several zhang (c.3.33m) in length, and the emperor shot and wounded it. The following day, on returning there, he suddenly heard a sound like a mortar and pestle, and the emperor went to observe this, seeing several youths all dressed in (servants’) dark robes, pounding medicine among the thick vegetation. The emperor questioned them, and a youth said: “Our king turned into a snake and went out, but was shot by Liu Jinu, so we are preparing medicine to help him.” The emperor said: “The king can then be immortal, why did he not kill?” The youth said: “The king Jinu cannot be killed. He is marked by the Heavenly Mandate; how can he be killed?” The emperor shouted at them, and all fled. He took all the medicine and returned, using it to treat wounds from metal, and none so treated did not recover. Now the Bencao calls this Liu Jinu, and this name is taken from Wudi.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.2-3 (Tale 2):

龍章五色

[3] 宋武帝劉裕,小字寄奴。始生之夕,祥光燦爛,洞燭一室。微時游京口竹林寺,臥於講堂上,有五色龍章,寺僧見而驚異之。帝所居止,常見有二小龍如附翼狀。後伐荻新洲,有大蛇長數丈,帝射傷之。明日復至,俄聞杵臼聲,帝往覘之,見數童子皆衣青衣,擣藥榛莽中。帝詢之,童子曰:「我王化為蛇而出,為劉寄奴所射,故為合藥傅之。」帝曰:「王果能神,何不殺之?」童子曰:「寄奴王者不死。天之所命,豈可殺也!」帝叱之,皆逸。盡收其藥而返,以傅金瘡,無不愈者。今《本草》稱劉寄奴,蓋以武帝而得名也。

[1] Here yi 翼 refers to a bird described in Shanhaijing, which, having a single wing, can only fly in pairs.

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).

Taking A Pill And Catching Fire 服丹自焚

Zhu, known as Dingguan, served as Palace Superintendent at the end of the Zhenghe era (1111-18). He was twenty-eight at the time, and entertained himself with food and wine. One day, received a sudden summons to the inner palace, and the emperor (Huizong, 1100-25) addressed him: “We have recently gained an extraordinary person, able to produce cinnabar pills, which if taken increase longevity. We have observed the long smelting process, and a year having passed they are finished, coloured like the finest gold; my minister will try them.” Dingguan leapt for joy as he humbly accepted [104] the decree, then took the medicine. Immediately after swallowing, he felt a great agitation within his chest. Soon after, smoke began to pour from his mouth. Urgently carried out, he was already beyond help. After he had been laid out, a knocking sound was heard from the coffin, and nobody could work out what caused it. Before long, flames emerged from within, and within the blink of an eye it was completely ablaze, and the chamber was gutted. The Kaifeng authorities rushed to the scene, but the fire spread to burn more than a hundred households, leaving only skeletons among the ashes. This is truly something to marvel at.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103-4 (Tale 179):

服丹自焚

主稱定觀者,政和末為殿中監,時年二十八,酒食自娛。一日,忽宣召入禁中,上云:「朕近得一異人,能製丹砂,服之可以長生。久視煉冶,經歲而成,色如紫金,卿為試之。」定觀欣躍拜 [104] 命,即取服之。才下咽,覺胸中煩躁之甚。俄頃,煙從〔口〕(據元刻本補。)中出。急扶歸,已不救。既殮之後,但聞棺中剝啄之聲,莫測所以。已而,火出其內,頃刻之間,遂成烈焰,室廬盡焚。開封府急救之,延燒數百餘家,但得枯骨於餘燼,深可怪也。

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).

A Magic Monk Boils The Seas 幻僧煮海

Heavenly Master Ye, whose taboo name was Fashan, was descended from a family dedicated to Daoism, all of whom practiced secret arts of hidden merit and helping people, subduing demons by summoning practices to save people and things. Initially the master lived for several years to the east of Mount Tiantai, below Siming, but it happened that on the first day of the fifth moon an elderly man came to him, weeping and wailing and asking for relief from an illness. The master received and questioned him, and he said: “Your humble visitor is the dragon of the eastern sea; the Heavenly Emperor decreed that the holder of the treasure of the eight seas should change their role every thousand years, and those without fault would rise up to the level of immortals. Your humble servant was already 970 years old, and only the tiniest step from success. There was a Brahman who, flaunting his magical skills, lived atop a mountain peak amid the sea, and made incantations without pause whether day or night, amassing over thirty years. As his power neared completion, the seawater turned into clouds, rising to cover half the heavens, and by the fifth day of the fifth moon, the ocean was almost used up! Gathering the treasure of the heavenly garrisons of the sea, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that the spiritual beings must be taken by the magic monk, and so to this day we beg that you come to our rescue with the imperial seal.” When the master flew to rescue them with the imperial order, the waters of the eastern sea were as they had been, and the northern monk was left ashamed of his inferiority and gasping in admiration; he plunged into the ocean and died. The next day the imperial carriage came with rare treasures in recompense, but the master declined these and would not accept anything. Moreover, he said that, among the woods and the wilds, in those places of contemplation and discipline, it was not only such precious treasures that were not thought valuable, but other things also were not to be taken. He therefore addressed the dragon: “On top of this stone cliff, so far from water, I would request only a clear spring of water as a kindness.” That night he heard the sound of wind and rain. When dawn came, running around the four sides of the mountain chamber there grew up a stone channel, with spring water cascading along it, unending even in winter; this is now known as the Heavenly Master Channel.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.90 (Tale 154):

幻僧煮海

葉天師諱法善,家世好修道,皆以陰功密行及劾召之術救物濟人。初師居四明之下天台之東數年,忽於五月一日,有老叟詣問,號泣求救,謂其有疾也。師引而問之,曰:「某東海龍也,大帝有敕,主八海之寶,一千年一更其任,無過者起證仙品。某已九百七十年,微績垂成。有婆羅門逞其幻法,住於海峰,晝夜禁咒,積三十年,其法將成,海水如雲,起在半天,五月五日,海將竭矣!統天鎮海之寶,上帝制靈之物,必為幻僧取,至日乞以丹符相救。」至期,師敕符飛往救,東海水仍舊,胡僧愧歎,赴海而死。明日龍輦寶貨珍奇來謝報,師卻之不受,且曰:林野之中,棲神之所,非惟珠璣寶貨不以為意,而他物皆一無所取。因謂龍曰:「此崖石之上,去水且遠,但致一清泉即為惠也。」是夕聞風雨之聲。及明,繞山齋四面,成一道石渠,泉水流注,經冬不竭,是今謂之天師渠。

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 ‘Horse-Headed Maiden’ 馬頭娘子

Long ago in Shu lived the Can Cong Emperor. Also, in the time of the Gao Xin Emperor, there lived a Lady Can; her family name is not known. When her father was robbed by some people, leaving only the horse on which she rode, she felt for her father and his inability to find food. Her mother therefore made an oath before the multitude: “If someone returns her father, they will be married to this girl.” The horse, hearing this speech, leapt up in alarm and shook itself with great haste, snapping its hobble and setting off. After several days the father was then able to ride back on the horse. From then on the horse neighed and neighed and would not accept the bit. The girl’s mother told her father about her oath, and he said: “Oaths to people are not promises to horses. How can a person be married to a different species? Having been able to solve our difficulties, its merit is indeed great, but the words of this oath cannot be put into practice.” The horse then bolted. The father grew angry and wanted to kill it, and when it ran further away, he shot it dead, drying its skin in the courtyard. The skin then kicked itself upright, wrapping up the girl and flying away. For ten nights the skin perched up a mulberry tree, and the girl transformed into a silkworm, eating mulberry leaves, making silk cocoons for human clothes and bedding. One day, the silkworm girl climbed the clouds and rose the horse, addressing her parents: “The Most High, because I did not neglect righteousness in either body or soul, has appointed me immortal attendant to the Nine Palaces. There is no return, but I will always cherish your memory.” It is customary in Shu that all Daoist temples sculpt a female figure draped in a horse skin, calling it the ‘Horse-head Maiden’, as a way of making offerings for silk production.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.76 (Tale 133):

馬頭娘子

蜀之先有蠶叢帝。又高辛時蜀有蠶女,不知姓氏,父為人所掠,惟所乘馬在。女念父不食。其母因誓於衆曰:「有得父還者,以此女嫁之。」馬聞其言,驚躍振迅,絕其物絆而去,數日父乃乘馬而歸。自此馬嘶鳴不肯齕。母以誓衆之言告父,父曰:「誓於人不誓於馬,安有人而偶非類乎?能脫我之難,功亦大矣!【所誓之言,不可行也。】(上八字據元刻本補。)」馬跑,父怒欲殺之,馬愈跑,父射殺之,曝其皮於庭。皮蹶然而起,卷女飛去。旬日皮寢棲於桑上,女化為蠶,食桑葉,吐絲成繭,以衣被於人間。一日,蠶女乘雲駕此馬,謂父母曰:「太上以我身心不忘義,授以九宮(「宮」原作「公」,據元刻本改。)仙嬪矣,無復憶念也。」蜀之風俗,宮觀諸處塑女像披馬皮,謂之「馬頭娘」,以祈蠶焉。

 

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).

This tale again involves the line between human and animal natures. The somewhat incoherent state of the Huhai telling, especially when compared to the Soushenji version, is notable. So is the Huhai version’s shift of responsibility and sympathy between parents (including the addition of the mother) and daughter. The more coherent, much earlier version in the Soushenji (abbreviated slightly- the last section of cross-references to horses and silk is omitted):

Gan Bao, Kenneth J. DeWoskin and J.L. Crump, Jr. (trans), In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 165-66:

Horse into Silkworm (14,350)

There is an old story which tells that in ancient times a man went on a long journey leaving no one at home save his daughter and a stallion which she had reared herself. Living in straitened circumstances and in a secluded place, she missed her father so much that she said to the stallion in jest: “If you find my father and bring him back for me, I’ll marry you!”

Immediately on hearing these words, that horse broke its tether and galloped off to where her father was. When the latter saw the horse, he was surprised and pleased and took him by the halter to mount him. The horse kept gazing back in the direction from whence he had come, whinnying in distress.

“Nothing has happened to this horse to make him behave so strangely. I wonder if things are not well at home?”

With that he mounted in haste and rode back. He began to take special care of the horse, which had shown such intelligence; he offered it extra fodder, which the horse refused to eat. However, every time the stallion saw the man’s daughter moving about, it would become excited and animated and rear and paw the earth. This happened many times and made the man so curious that he questioned his daughter in secret. She told him what she had said to the horse, adding, “This must be the reason.”

“Never speak of it again,” cried he, “for it will bring shame upon our family!” And you had best not go on and out as you were wont to do.” So saying, he secretly took his crossbow, slew the beast, skinned it, and hung the hide in his courtyard.

When he went a-journeying again, his daughter and a neighbor girl were playing with the hide. The daughter kicked it, crying, “You were nothing but a beast of burden, yet you thought to wed a human! You brought this death upon yourself, so you should feel no resentment!”

As she spoke, the hide rose up, wrapped itself around the daughter and galloped off. The neighbor girl was so frightened she could not lift a hand to help her friend, but fled and told the girl’s father. He returned to seek traces of the pair, but they had already disappeared.

[166]

After several days the girl and the horsehide were found bound together among the limbs of a tree where they had become a silkworm spinning itself a cocoon. This cocoon was large in diameter and length– very different from the ordinary kind. The women of the neighborhood gathered this kind of chrysalis and reared the worms to gain many times the profit they turned before.

Because of this story, people named the tree on which the girl and the horsehide were found, the sang tree [mulberry] because sang means lost. Everyone now cultivates this kind of tree, and the silkworm of today is descended from that first ancient cocoon.

Gan Bao 干寶, Soushenji 搜神記 (In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 14.172-73 (350):

舊說,太古之時,有大人遠征,家無餘人,唯有一女。牡馬一匹,女親養之。窮居幽處,思念其父,乃戲馬曰:「爾能為我迎得父還,吾將嫁汝。」馬既承此言,乃絕韁而去,徑至父所。父見馬驚喜,因取而乘之。馬望所自來,悲鳴不已。父曰:「此馬無事如此,我家得無有姑乎?」亟乘以歸。為畜生有非常之情,故厚加芻養。馬不肯食。每見女出入,輒喜怒奮擊。如此非一。父怪之,密以問女。女具以告父,必為是姑。父曰:「勿言,恐辱家門。且莫出入。」於是伏弩射殺之,暴皮于庭。父行,女與鄰女於皮所戲,以足蹙之曰:「汝是畜 [173] 生,而欲取人為婦耶?招此屠剥,如何自苦?」言未及竟,馬皮蹷然而起,卷女以行。隣女忙怕,不敢救之。走告其父。父還,求索,已出失之。後經數日,得於大樹枝間,女及馬皮,盡化為蠶,而績於樹上。其蠒綸理厚大,異於常蠶。鄰婦取而養之,其收數倍。因名其樹曰「桑」。桑者,喪也。由斯百姓競種之,今世所養是也。言桑蠶者,是古蠶之餘類也。

Another version of the story can also be found here: https://widowcranky.com/2017/11/19/chinese-unicorn-artist-unknown/, described as ‘the silkworm girl’. The tale is analysed in detail in Miller, Alan L., ‘The Woman Who Married a Horse: Five Ways of Looking at a Chinese Folktale’, Asian Folklore Studies, 54 (1995): 275-305 (available via JSTOR here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1178945).